Tuesday, 23 January 2018

ARTS AND CULTURE

Libya scored three minutes into stoppage time to edge Rwanda 1-0 Tuesday and snatch an African Nations Championship (CHAN) quarter-finals place behind Group C winners Nigeria. 

Relentless Libyan pressure in northern Moroccan city Tangiers finally paid off when substitute Elmutasem Abushnaf swept a low cross into the roof of the net.

Nigeria topped the table with seven points, Libya had six, Rwanda four and Equatorial Guinea finished pointless.

While the “Mediterranean Knights” danced and sang when the final whistle blew, many Rwandan “Wasps” cried after coming so close to finishing runners-up.

A draw would have taken Rwanda through at the expense of Libya and having survived so many goalmouth scares, it looked like the central Africans were going to make it.

But justice was done when dominant Libya scored and they will travel south to Agadir and prepare for a last-eight showdown Sunday against the Group D winners, currently Congo Brazzaville.

Nigeria got a fright before beating Equatorial Guinea 3-1 in Atlantic city Agadir with 37-year-old Rabiu Ali wrapping up the victory by converting an 83rd-minute penalty.

Equatorial Guinea took a shock lead on 40 minutes through Secundino Eyama Nsi and stayed ahead until just before the hour when Anthony Okpotu equalised through a header.

Ekundayo Ojo put the Nigerians ahead on 69 minutes with a candidate for the best goal of the tournament as his thunderbolt shot from outside the box flew into the net.

As Equatorial Guinea faded, Nigeria stretched the lead when Ali — the second oldest player at the tournament after 38-year-old Congo goalkeeper Barel Mouko — netted.

Nigeria return to Tangiers for a quarter-final against the Group D runners-up, a position Angola occupy ahead of a Wednesday clash with Congo.

Although the biennial Nations Championship is restricted to home-based footballers, matches carry full international status and count toward the monthly FIFA rankings.

• Taraba village alarmed over ‘helicopter loaded with arms’
• Herdsmen raze Falae’s farm in Ondo State
• Fayose threatens leader of Ekiti cattlemen

A group, Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), is operational in North Central and South South Nigeria. It deploys foreign terrorists that unleash mayhem on communities, with a view to exacerbating ethnic and religious tensions.

This disclosure was made in a report presented to President Muhammadu Buhari.

The report was described as the result of findings by security operatives, including the Department of State Services (DSS).

A presidency source, at the weekend, said the discovery of the ISWA network followed the arrest of suspected attackers consisting of Fulani herdsmen, government-sponsored militias, militants and other miscreants in Benue State.

The source noted that many of the persons in custody spoke only the French language, unable to communicate in any of the Nigerian dialects.

This is the first time security officials have confirmed the activities of ISWA.

The source disclosed that a “good number” of the terrorists have been arrested, not only in the Benue valley, but also in towns in Edo State, specifically Akoko-Edo, Okpella and Benin, and Okene, in Kogi State.

“It is understood that the cell, which has members in different parts of the country, concentrates on recruiting young men to fight for the Islamic State in West Africa by unleashing cold-blooded murder on innocent citizens.

“There was intelligence that they planned several attacks, here, before and during Christmas and New Year. Their bombing targets included fuel depots, foreign missions, police and military establishments.

“Their network is very wide. So much was achieved by the DSS, which made a significant number of arrests in the last two months that helped preempt the attacks. This saved Nigeria from the spate of major terrorist attacks witnessed elsewhere, syndicated by ISIS worldwide,” the source said.

The source added: “We are learning more and more about this complex and sophisticated network. This is the main reason the secret service is not parading those suspects so far arrested. It has become clear to us now that the challenge facing this country is a serious one.”

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, confirmed that Buhari has been receiving “report upon report on the situation in Benue and other states”.

He, however, said he had not been briefed on any of the reports.

This is coming barely three days after Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on Friday, inaugurated the Sanctions Committee charged with tracking and freezing funds for terrorist groups in Nigeria. 

The committee, headed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, consists of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; National Security Adviser, Babagana Mongunu; Director-General of DSS, Lawan Daura; and Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.

Also included are Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele; Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai; Director General of the National Intelligence Agency; and the Director General, Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit.

In Taraba State, meanwhile, a helicopter allegedly packed with arms and ammunition was said to have made a stop at Jibu village, Ibi Local Government Area.

In a statement, yesterday, spokesman for the state governor, Bala Dan-Abu, said the incident might be a plot to arm a militia preparing to attack communities in the state.

He said a similar sighting preceded an attack in Agatu last year and called on security agencies to unravel the mystery behind the craft.

Member representing the area in the state House of Assembly, Josiah Aji, said he was notified of the development, adding that the council chairman and relevant agencies have been alerted.

Some residents of the area told The Guardian via phone that armed security operatives have been deployed to investigate the matter.

Police spokesman, David Misal, however, described the report as a mere rumour.

But it was real in Ondo State yesterday when suspected herdsmen burnt down the farm of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Olu Falae. And in neighbouring Ekiti, Governor Ayodele Fayose, warned the leader of Fulani herdsmen, Muhammed Abashe, that he would be held responsible for any further attack in the state.

The governor was reacting to the recent killing by suspected herders of a Tiv woman at Orin Ekiti.

Fayose said Abashe failed to provide leadership by not stopping his kinsmen from destroying farms and attacking residents at the slightest provocation.

“If you still want to stay among us, you must accept the responsibility of ensuring that none of our peoples’ farms is destroyed by herdsmen any longer. None of our people must be killed by your men. If any killing or destruction of the farms of our people occurs again in that area, I will ensure that I use the law to fight you. This is the last warning I am giving you,” said Fayose.

New Liberian President George Weah has appointed the first members of his cabinet, all of them men, largely naming party allies but picking a foreign minister close to former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Ex-international footballer Weah was sworn in on Monday at a stadium surrounded by ecstatic supporters, and filled some key ministerial posts later the same day.

In his inaugural speech, Weah vowed to crack down on entrenched corruption and encourage the private sector.

But the picks from his party come from outside the establishment and do not have significant government experience, potentially setting up a struggle with entrenched interests in the national congress.

The lack of women so far in the cabinet may also raise eyebrows after 12 years under Sirleaf, who pushed for women to enter public life and strengthened protections against abuse and female genital mutilation as her final act in office.

Weah’s right-hand man is the chairman of his Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party, Nathaniel McGill, who becomes minister of state and chief of staff.

He guided the president through a bruising electoral campaign last year and was already his top aide.

Senior CDC figure Samuel Tweah becomes finance secretary, while Liberian lawyer Charles Gibson, a friend of Weah’s, becomes Justice Minister.

Sam Mannah, the president’s press aide from his years as a senator, becomes his press secretary.

Outgoing president Sirleaf has left her mark, however, with the appointment of former Unity Party senator Gbehzohngar Findley to the key post of foreign minister.

Findley began 2017’s presidential campaign supporting Sirleaf’s vice-president, Joseph Boakai, who lost to Weah in December.

But he switched allegiance in August, resigned from the party and began openly backing Weah as it became clear that Sirleaf would not campaign for Boakai.

Sirleaf faced accusations she secretly supported Weah, eventually leading to her expulsion from the Unity Party last month.

Elsewhere, the chief of staff of Liberia’s armed forces, Major General Daniel Ziankhan, becomes defence minister, while his deputy, Brigadier General Charles Johnson, succeeds him in the position.

Johnson captained the army team that played Weah’s veterans’ side in a friendly game on Saturday, when he told AFP that Weah was “already started to hear some of the challenges that we are experiencing.”

Meanwhile members of Sirleaf’s transition team including Information Minister Eugene Nagbe, Education Minister George Werner, Sirleaf’s stepson Varney Sirleaf, and the heads of the police and government services, remain in their posts for now.

The handover from Sirleaf to Weah represents Liberia’s first democratic transfer of power since 1944, and cements impressions Liberia has finally moved on from a war that killed around a quarter of a million people between 1989 and 2003.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018 19:48

Obasanjo to Buhari: Don’t contest in 2019

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has advised President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek re-election in 2019.
 
Obasanjo offered the advice in a special press statement issued in Abeokuta on Tuesday.
 
“Whatever may be the state of President Buhari’s health today, he should neither over-push his luck nor over-tax the patience and tolerance of Nigerians for him, no matter what his self-serving, so-called advisers, who would claim that they love him more than God loves him and that without him, there would be no Nigeria say.
 
“President Buhari needs a dignified and honourable dismount from the horse. He needs to have time to reflect, refurbish physically and recoup and after appropriate rest, once again, join the stock of Nigerian leaders whose experience, influence, wisdom and outreach can be deployed on the side line for the good of the country.
 
“His place in history is already assured.  Without impaired health and strain of age, running the affairs of Nigeria is a 25/7 affair, not 24/7,” Obasanjo stated.
 
Full text of the statement is reproduced below.
 
THE WAY OUT: A CLARION CALL FOR COALITION FOR NIGERIA MOVEMENT
Special Press Statement
By
​President Olusegun Obasanjo​
—————————— —————————— —————————— —-
Since we are still in the month of January, it is appropriate to wish all Nigerians Happy 2018.  I am constrained to issue this special statement at this time considering the situation of the country.  Some of you may be asking, “What has brought about this special occasion of Obasanjo issuing a Special Statement?” You will be right to ask such a question.  But there is a Yoruba saying that ‘when lice abound in your clothes, your fingernails will never be dried of blood’.
 
When I was in the village, to make sure that lice die, you put them between two fingernails and press hard to ensure they die and they always leave blood stains on the fingernails.  To ensure you do not have blood on your fingernails, you have to ensure that lice are not harboured anywhere within your vicinity.
 
The lice of poor performance in government – poverty, insecurity, poor economic management, nepotism, gross dereliction of duty, condonation of misdeed – if not outright encouragement of it, lack of progress and hope for the future, lack of national cohesion and poor management of internal political dynamics and widening inequality – are very much with us today. With such lice of general and specific poor performance and crying poverty with us, our fingers will not be dry of ‘blood’.
 
Four years ago when my PDP card was torn, I made it abundantly clear that I quit partisan politics for aye but my concern and interest in Nigeria, Africa and indeed in humanity would not wane.  Ever since, I have adhered strictly to that position.
 
Since that time, I have devoted quality time to the issue of zero hunger as contained in Goal No. 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN.  We have set the target that Nigeria with the participating States in the Zero Hunger Forum should reach Zero Hunger goal by 2025 – five years earlier than the UN target date.  I am involved in the issue of education in some States and generally in the issue of youth empowerment and employment.
 
I am involved in all these domestically and altruistically to give hope and future to the seemingly hopeless and those in despair.  I believe strongly that God has endowed Nigeria so adequately that no Nigerian should be either in want or in despair.
 
I believe in team work and collaborative efforts.  At the international level, we have worked with other world leaders to domicile the apparatus for monitoring and encouraging socio-economic progress in Africa in our Presidential Library.
 
The purpose of Africa Progress Group, which is the new name assumed by Africa Progress Panel (APP), is to point out where, when and what works need to be done for the progress of Africa separately and collectively by African leaders and their development partners.
 
I have also gladly accepted the invitation of the UN Secretary-General to be a member of his eighteen-member High-Level Board of Advisers on Mediation.
 There are other assignments I take up in other fora for Africa and for the international community.  For Africa to move forward, Nigeria must be one of the anchor countries, if not the leading anchor country.  It means that Nigeria must be good at home to be good outside.
 
No doubt, our situation in the last decade or so had shown that we are not good enough at home; hence we are invariably absent at the table that we should be abroad.
 
All these led me to take the unusual step of going against my own political Party, PDP, in the last general election to support the opposite side.  I saw that action as the best option for Nigeria.
 
As it has been revealed in the last three years or so, that decision and the subsequent collective decision of Nigerians to vote for a change was the right decision for the nation.  For me, there was nothing personal, it was all in the best interest of Nigeria and, indeed, in the best interest of Africa and humanity at large.
 
Even the horse rider then, with whom I maintain very cordial, happy and social relationship today has come to realise his mistakes and regretted it publicly and I admire his courage and forthrightness in this regard.
 
He has a role to play on the side line for the good of Nigeria, Africa and humanity and I will see him as a partner in playing such a role nationally and internationally, but not as a horse rider in Nigeria again.
 
The situation that made Nigerians to vote massively to get my brother Jonathan off the horse is playing itself out again.  First, I thought I knew the point where President Buhari is weak and I spoke and wrote about it even before Nigerians voted for him and I also did vote for him because at that time it was a matter of “any option but Jonathan” (aobj).  But my letter to President Jonathan titled: “Before It Is Too Late” was meant for him to act before it was too late.
 
He ignored it and it was too late for him and those who goaded him into ignoring the voice of caution.  I know that praise-singers and hired attackers may be raised up against me for verbal or even physical attack but if I can withstand undeserved imprisonment and was ready to shed my blood by standing for Nigeria, I will consider no sacrifice too great to make for the good of Nigeria at any time.  No human leader is expected to be personally strong or self-sufficient in all aspects of governance.
 
I knew President Buhari before he became President and said that he is weak in the knowledge and understanding of the economy but I thought that he could make use of good Nigerians in that area that could help.
 
Although, I know that you cannot give what you don’t have and that economy does not obey military order.  You have to give it what it takes in the short-, medium- and long-term.  Then, it would move.
 
I know his weakness in understanding and playing in the foreign affairs sector and again, there are many Nigerians that could be used in that area as well. They have knowledge and experience that could be deployed for the good of Nigeria.
 
  There were serious allegations of round-tripping against some inner caucus of the Presidency which would seem to have been condoned.  I wonder if such actions do not amount to corruption and financial crime, then what is it?  Culture of condonation and turning blind eye will cover up rather than clean up.  And going to justice must be with clean hands.
 
I thought President Buhari would fight corruption and insurgency and he must be given some credit for his achievement so far in these two areas although it is not yet uhuru!
 
The herdsmen/crop farmers issue is being wittingly or unwittingly allowed to turn sour and messy.  It is no credit to the Federal Government that the herdsmen rampage continues with careless abandon and without finding an effective solution to it.  And it is a sad symptom of insensitivity and callousness that some Governors, a day after 73 victims were being buried in a mass grave in Benue State without condolence, were jubilantly endorsing President Buhari for a second term!  The timing was most unfortunate.
 
The issue of herdsmen/crop farmers dichotomy should not be left on the political platform of blame game; the Federal Government must take the lead in bringing about solution that protects life and properties of herdsmen and crop farmers alike and for them to live amicably in the same community.
 
But there are three other areas where President Buhari has come out more glaringly than most of us thought we knew about him.  One is nepotic deployment bordering on clannishness and inability to bring discipline to bear on errant members of his nepotic court.  This has grave consequences on performance of his government to the detriment of the nation.
 
It would appear that national interest was being sacrificed on the altar of nepotic interest.  What does one make of a case like that of Maina: collusion, condonation, ineptitude, incompetence, dereliction of responsibility or kinship and friendship on the part of those who should have taken visible and deterrent disciplinary action?  How many similar cases are buried, ignored or covered up and not yet in the glare of the media and the public?  The second is his poor understanding of the dynamics of internal politics.
 
This has led to wittingly or unwittingly making the nation more divided and inequality has widened and become more pronounced.  It also has effect on general national security.  The third is passing the buck.  For instance, blaming the Governor of the Central Bank for devaluation of the naira by 70% or so and blaming past governments for it, is to say the least, not accepting one’s own responsibility.
 
Let nobody deceive us, economy feeds on politics and because our politics is depressing, our economy is even more depressing today.  If things were good, President Buhari would not need to come in.  He was voted to fix things that were bad and not engage in the blame game.
 
Our Constitution is very clear, one of the cardinal responsibilities of the President is the management of the economy of which the value of the naira forms an integral part. Kinship and friendship that place responsibility for governance in the hands of the unelected can only be deleterious to good government and to the nation.
 
President Buhari’s illness called for the sympathy, understanding, prayer and patience from every sane Nigerian.  It is part of our culture.  Most Nigerians prayed for him while he was away sick in London for over hundred days and he gave his Deputy sufficient leeway to carry on in his absence.
 
We all thanked God for President Buhari for coming back reasonably hale and hearty and progressing well in his recovery.  But whatever may be the state of President Buhari’s health today, he should neither over-push his luck nor over-tax the patience and tolerance of Nigerians for him, no matter what his self-serving, so-called advisers, who would claim that they love him more than God loves him and that without him, there would be no Nigeria say.
 
President Buhari needs a dignified and honourable dismount from the horse. He needs to have time to reflect, refurbish physically and recoup and after appropriate rest, once again, join the stock of Nigerian leaders whose experience, influence, wisdom and outreach can be deployed on the side line for the good of the country.  His place in history is already assured.  Without impaired health and strain of age, running the affairs of Nigeria is a 25/7 affair, not 24/7.
 
I only appeal to brother Buhari to consider a deserved rest at this point in time and at this age.  I continue to wish him robust health to enjoy his retirement from active public service.  President Buhari does not necessarily need to heed my advice.  But whether or not he heeds it, Nigeria needs to move on and move forward.
 
I have had occasion in the past to say that the two main political parties – APC and PDP – were wobbling.  I must reiterate that nothing has happened to convince me otherwise.
 
If anything, I am reinforced in my conviction.  The recent show of PDP must give grave and great concern to lovers of Nigeria.  To claim, as has been credited to the chief kingmaker of PDP, that for procuring the Supreme Court judgement for his faction of the Party, he must dictate the tune all the way and this is indeed fraught with danger.
 
If neither APC nor PDP is a worthy horse to ride to lead Nigeria at this crucial and critical time, what then do we do?  Remember Farooq Kperogi, an Associate Professor at the Kennesaw State University, Georgia, United States, calls it “a cruel Hobson’s choice; it’s like a choice between six and half a dozen, between evil and evil. Any selection or deflection would be a distinction without a difference.”  We cannot just sit down lamenting and wringing our hands desperately and hopelessly.
 
I believe the situation we are in today is akin to what and where we were in at the beginning of this democratic dispensation in 1999.  The nation was tottering.  People became hopeless and saw no bright future in the horizon.
 
It was all a dark cloud politically, economically and socially.  The price of oil at that time was nine dollars per barrel and we had a debt overhang of about $35 billion. Most people were confused with lack of direction in the country.
 
One of the factors that saved the situation was a near government of national unity that was put in place to navigate us through the dark cloud.  We had almost all hands on deck.
 
We used people at home and from the diaspora and we navigated through the dark cloud of those days.  At that time, most people were hopelessly groping in the dark.  They saw no choice, neither in the left nor in the right, and yet we were not bereft of people at home and from the diaspora that could come together to make Nigeria truly a land flowing with milk and honey.  Where we are is a matter of choice but we can choose differently to make a necessary and desirable change, once again.
 
Wherever I go, I hear Nigerians complaining, murmuring in anguish and anger.  But our anger should not be like the anger of the cripple.  We can collectively save ourselves from the position we find ourselves.
 
It will not come through self-pity, fruitless complaint or protest but through constructive and positive engagement and collective action for the good of our nation and ourselves and our children and their children. We need moral re-armament and engaging togetherness of people of like-mind and goodwill to come solidly together to lift Nigeria up.
 
This is no time for trading blames or embarking on futile argument and neither should we accept untenable excuses for non-performance.  Let us accept that the present administration has done what it can do to the limit of its ability, aptitude and understanding. Let the administration and its political party platform agree with the rest of us that what they have done and what they are capable of doing is not good enough for us.
 
They have given as best as they have and as best as they can give.  Nigeria deserves and urgently needs better than what they have given or what we know they are capable of giving.  To ask them to give more will be unrealistic and will only sentence Nigeria to a prison term of four years if not destroy it beyond the possibility of an early recovery and substantial growth. Einstein made it clear to us that doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the height of folly.
 
Already, Nigerians are committing suicide for the unbearable socio-economic situation they find themselves in.  And yet Nigerians love life.  We must not continue to reinforce failure and hope that all will be well.  It is self-deceit and self-defeat and another aspect of folly.
 
What has emerged from the opposition has shown no better promise from their antecedents.  As the leader of that Party for eight years as President of Nigeria, I can categorically say there is nothing to write home about in their new team.  We have only one choice left to take us out of Egypt to the promised land.
 
And that is the coalition of the concerned and the willing – ready for positive and drastic change, progress and involvement.  Change that will give hope and future to all our youth and dignity and full participation to all our women.
 
Our youth should be empowered to deploy their ability to learn, innovate and work energetically at ideas and concepts in which they can make their own original inputs.  Youth must be part of the action today and not relegated to leadership of tomorrow which may never come.
 
Change that will mean enhancement of living standard and progress for all.  A situation where the elected will accountably govern and every Nigerian will have equal opportunity not based on kinship and friendship but based on free citizenship.
 
Democracy is sustained and measured not by leaders doing extra-ordinary things, (invariably, leaders fail to do ordinary things very well), but by citizens rising up to do ordinary things extra-ordinarily well.  Our democracy, development and progress at this juncture require ordinary citizens of Nigeria to do the extra-ordinary things of changing the course and direction of our lackluster performance and development.
 
  If leadership fails, citizens must not fail and there lies the beauty and importance of democracy.  We are challenged by the current situation; we must neither adopt spirit of cowardice nor timidity let alone impotence but must be sustained by courage, determination and commitment to say and do and to persist until we achieve upliftment for Nigeria.
 
Nothing ventured, nothing gained and we believe that our venturing will not be in vain.  God of Nigeria has endowed this country adequately and our non-performance cannot be blamed on God but on leadership.  God, who has given us what we need and which is potentially there, will give us leadership enablement to actualize our potentiality.
 
The development and modernization of our country and society must be anchored and sustained on dynamic Nigerian culture, enduring values and an enchanting Nigerian dream.  We must have abiding faith in our country and its role and place within the comity of nations.
 
Today, Nigeria needs all hands on deck.  All hands of men and women of goodwill must be on deck.  We need all hands to move our country forward.
 
We need a Coalition for Nigeria, CN. Such a Movement  at this juncture needs not be a political party but one to which all well-meaning Nigerians can belong.  That Movement must be a coalition for democracy, good governance, social and economic well-being and progress.
 
Coalition to salvage and redeem our country.  You can count me with such a Movement.  Last time, we asked, prayed and worked for change and God granted our request.  This time, we must ask, pray and work for change with unity, security and progress. And God will again grant us.
 
Of course, nothing should stop such a Movement from satisfying conditions for fielding candidates for elections.  But if at any stage the Movement wishes to metamorphose into candidate-sponsoring Movement for elections, I will bow out of the Movement because I will continue to maintain my non-partisan position.  Coalition for Nigeria must have its headquarters in Abuja.
 
This Coalition for Nigeria will be a Movement that will drive Nigeria up and forward.  It must have a pride of place for all Nigerians, particularly for our youth and our women.
 
It is a coalition of hope for all Nigerians for speedy, quality and equal development, security, unity, prosperity and progress.  It is a coalition to banish poverty, insecurity and despair.  Our country must not be oblivious to concomitant danger around, outside and ahead.
 
Coalition for Nigeria must be a Movement to break new ground in building a united country, a socially-cohesive and moderately prosperous society with equity, equality of opportunity, justice and a dynamic and progressive economy that is self-reliant and takes active part in global division of labour and international decision-making.
 
The Movement must work out the path of development and the trajectory of development in speed, quality and equality in the short- medium- and long-term for Nigeria on the basis of sustainability, stability, predictability, credibility, security, cooperation and prosperity with diminishing inequality.
 
What is called for is love, commitment and interest in our country, not in self, friends and kinship alone but particularly love, compassion and interest in the poor, underprivileged and downtrodden.  It is our human duty and responsibility so to do.  Failure to do this will amount to a sin against God and a crime against humanity.
 
Some may ask, what does Obasanjo want again?  Obasanjo has wanted nothing other than the best for Nigeria and Nigerians and he will continue to want nothing less.  And if we have the best, we will be contented whether where we live is described as palaces or huts by others and we will always give thanks to God.
 
I, therefore, will gladly join such a Movement when one is established as Coalition for Nigeria, CN, taking Nigeria to the height God has created it to be.  From now on, the Nigeria eagle must continue to soar and fly high.
 
CN, as a Movement, will be new, green, transparent and must remain clean and always active, selflessly so.  Members must be ready to make sacrifice for the nation and pay the price of being pioneers and good Nigerians for our country to play the God-assigned role for itself, for its neighbours, for its sub-region of West Africa, for its continent and for humanity in general.
 
For me, the strength and sustainable success of CN will derive largely from the strong commitment of a population that is constantly mobilized to the rallying platform of the fact that going forward together is our best option for building a nation that will occupy its deserved place in the global community.  May God continue to lead, guide and protect us.  Amen.

A Nigerian in the United States, Osa Alohaneke, faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in jail, after he was convicted by a court in Fort Bend County, Houston for the 2015 stabbing to death of his fiancée, a Cameroonian.

After deliberating for some 13 hours, a jury late Friday afternoon convicted 59-year-old Osa Alohaneke in the slaying of Evelyne Ebane Epiepang, 52.

Alohaneke looked down and showed no emotion when the verdict was read in court.

Prosecutors alleged that Alohaneke used a kitchen knife to attack Epiepang, his fiancée, and her friend, Veronica Taku.

Alohaneke, who was living at the time in a section of southwest Houston that lies in Fort Bend County, was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Jurors acquitted Alohaneke of the assault charges.

Epiepang was stabbed more than 30 times and died as she called 911 operators for help. Screams echoed in the courtroom for more than four minutes when prosecutors played the 911 call for jurors last week.

When police arrived, Alohaneke was on the phone with an attorney, his hands covered in blood. Blood was splatted on his arms up to his elbows, Assistant District Attorney Amanda Bolin told jurors during her closing arguments.

“His mission was pain and devastation and he accomplished his mission,” Bolin said.

Defense attorney Eric Ashford pointed to what he said were weaknesses in the case against Alohaneke, many of which he alleged were caused by a haphazard investigation by the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office.

“Was this case taken seriously by investigators? They didn’t even do the forensic analysis needed to determine the murder weapon,” Ashford told jurors.

Ashford told jurors that detectives took several knives from the scene but that no testing was done to figure out which was used in the killing. In addition, the attorney said, detectives took Alahoneke’s clothes when he was arrested but never tested them for blood or DNA. Neither were fingernail scrapings were taken from the victim. Also, he noted that detectives took Alahoneke’s phone but that jurors were never shown text messages as proof he was involved in the attack.

Ashford also attacked the credibility of Taku, the only witness to the killing. She had testified she saw Alohaneke “turn white like a ghost after the murder”.

“This could have been a hallucination,” Ashford told jurors. “But did detectives investigate Taku’s mental status? No, during testimony they said they didn’t think it was important.”

Jurors now begin the penalty phase. Alohaneke faces a sentence of up to life in prison.

 

Sergio Aguero scored a hat-trick as Manchester City restored their 12-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 win at home to Newcastle United on Saturday.

City’s 30-match unbeaten run in the league came to a dramatic end with a 4-3 defeat by Liverpool at Anfield last week and their advantage at the top of the table was cut to single figures, for a few hours at least, when second-placed Manchester United beat Burnley 1-0 earlier on Saturday.

But normal service for Pep Guardiola’s men resumed in Saturday’s late kick-off, with Aguero glancing in Kevin De Bruyne’s cross in the 34th minute to open the scoring at the Etihad.

The Argentina striker then converted a 63rd-minute penalty awarded after Raheem Sterling tumbled in the box following a tug by Javier Manquillo.

But struggling Newcastle scored against the run of play four minutes later when a mistake by Oleksandr Zinchenko allowed Jacob Murphy to sprint through and finish in composed fashion.

Aguero, however, put the result beyond doubt when City’s all-time leading goalscorer completed his 11th hat-trick for the club seven minutes from time following a superb run and pass from Leroy Sane.

Meanwhile Arsenal showed there was plenty of life after Alexis Sanchez as they beat Crystal Palace 4-1 without the United-bound Chilean forward.

With Sanchez moving slowly but surely towards a £35 million (39.6 million euros, $48.5 million) transfer to United rather than City, Gunners manager Arsene Wenger left him out of his matchday squad.

Any fears Arsenal might falter up front without him proved groundless as they surged into a 4-0 lead inside 22 minutes at the Emirates Stadium thanks to goals from Nacho Monreal, Alex Iwobi, Laurent Koscielny, Alex Iwobi and Alexandre Lacazette before Luka Milivojevic pulled one back for Palace 12 minutes from time.

Arsenal remain outside the top four but heartened manager Wenger said: “We played our real game in the first half, real pace and real combination.”

– United ‘so close’ to Sanchez –

At Turf Moor, it took until the 54th minute for United striker Anthony Martial to break the deadlock with his third league goal in as many matches.

Jose Mourinho left midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the proposed makeweight in the Sanchez deal, out of his matchday squad and afterwards the United manager indicated the transfer saga was nearing an end.

“Expect soon or never,” said Mourinho regarding his prospects of signing Sanchez. “So close, so close, so close…I know my people are doing absolutely everything they can.”

But Wenger warned: “Sanchez will only happen if Mkhitaryan comes here, that will be decided in the next 48 hours.”

Chelsea won 4-0 away to Brighton as the reigning English champions leapfrogged Liverpool into third place, 48 hours before the Reds play Swansea City.

The Blues’ first win of 2018 saw Eden Hazard score twice, his opener and a goal from Willian making it 2-0 inside six minutes before Hazard and Victor Moses sealed victory after the break.

On a day when all Premier League fixtures were preceded by a minute’s applause in memory of the former West Bromwich Albion and England forward Cyrille Regis, a trailblazer for black players who died aged 59 last week, the Baggies drew 1-1 with Everton.

Jay Rodriguez gave West Brom an early lead before Theo Walcott, on his Everton debut following a midweek move from Arsenal, laid on an equaliser for Oumar Niasse in the 70th minute.

But the sight of Toffees midfielder James McCarthy going off with a broken leg after blocking a Salomon Rondon shot cast a shadow over Everton boss Sam Allardyce’s 1,000th game as a manager.

New Stoke City manager Paul Lambert won his first game in charge of the Potters as they beat Huddersfield Town 2-0 with second-half goals from Joe Allen and Mame Biram Diouf to climb out of the relegation zone.

Leicester City beat Watford 2-0 while West Ham and Bournemouth shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw.Tottenham Hotspur continue their quest for a Champions League place on Sunday when manager Mauricio Pochettino returns to former club Southampton.

 
Saturday, 20 January 2018 22:19

Feyenoord to unveil Robin van Persie Monday

Robin van Persie will officially sign for Feyenoord on Monday after agreeing to rejoin his boyhood club.

The former Arsenal striker has sealed a move back to where his senior career began after Turkish side Fenerbache allowed him to terminate his contract, which was set to expire in June 2019.

Feyenoord announced the Van Persie deal in style, by posting a video on their Twitter page of the striker’s best moments for the club

Van Persie joined Eredivisie outfit Feyenoord back in 1999 when he was just 16, going on to make 78 appearances for the first team before signing for Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal in 2004.

The Dutch striker has enjoyed a fine career since leaving Feyenoord, netting 132 goals in 278 appearances for the Gunners before making the unfamiliar move to rivals Manchester United, where he won the Premier League in his first season.

However, since leaving the English top flight to join Fenerbahce, Van Persie’s career has failed to reach the same heights.

The 34-year-old failed to win any silverware in Turkey and has fallen down the pecking order at Fenerbahce.

But now, the former Premier League man has been given another chance to showcase his abilities once again with Feyenoord.

The reigning Eredivisie champions will be hoping that the return of Van Persie, Holland’s all-time top goalscorer, can revitalise their season after a disappointing campaign to date.

Former Super Eagles captain Nwankwo Kanu has alerted to plans to take over his Hardley Suites on Victoria Island, Lagos.

He said although the matter is in court, an agency is about to “forcibly seize” the property.

A statement yesterday by Kanu, the initiator of the Kanu Heart Foundation, lamented that the property, which is a growing concern in the hospitality industry, was put under the temporary possession of the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) by an ex-parte order on account of a purported indebtedness which is yet to be proved. The statement claimed that there were plans to sell the hotel under a secret arrangement.”

Kanu said: “While I remain resolute in my decision to respect the sanctity of our law courts, I am however constrained to issue this statement to call on well-meaning Nigerians and all men/women of good conscience around the globe to prevail on AMCON to do same. This has become necessary in the light of some bizarre actions of self-help embarked upon by AMCON in vandalising/stripping the assets, under the guise of renovations, but ostensibly with a clandestine design to brazenly sell or hand it to a third party under secret terms and thus complicate/further stall this matter.”

Kanu said he felt pained that his prized possession was at the risk of being taken away. He said funding for surgery and treatment of many heart victims by the Kanu Heart Foundation had come from his earnings at the Hardley Apartments.

The matter will come up for hearing before a Federal High Court on February 14.

Two Americans and two Canadians have been kidnapped in an ambush in Kaduna state, northern Nigeria, police said on Wednesday, in the latest abduction targeting foreigners.

State police spokesman Mukhtar Aliyu said “unknown armed men” seized the four on the road to Abuja at 7:00 pm (1800 GMT) on Tuesday.

“They engaged in a fierce gun battle with the two police escorts attached to the expatriates, who unfortunately lost their lives,” he added.

No further details were given and Aliyu said “every possible means” were being employed to rescue the four abductees and arrest the kidnappers.

A spokesman for the US Embassy in Abuja said he had no comment to make when contacted by AFP while there was no immediate response from the Canadian High Commission.

Kidnapping has long been a problem in Nigeria’s southern states, where high-profile individuals, including the families of prominent politicians, are regularly seized.

Victims are usually released after several days once a ransom is paid.

In recent years the crime has spread across the country as the economy has stalled. A crackdown on cattle rustling has been blamed for rising numbers of abductions in the north.

In October last year, an armed gang seized four British missionaries working for a medical charity in the oil-rich but impoverished state of Delta in the south.

One of the hostages was killed while the three other hostages were later released.

Also in October, the Vatican said an Italian priest was kidnapped near Benin City, the capital of Edo state, which borders Delta state to the north. He was also later released.

Last February, two German archaeologists from the Goethe University in Frankfurt were kidnapped from an excavation site in Kaduna state.

The site was off the main road linking the airport north of the state capital Kaduna city with Abuja, some 220 kilometres (137 miles) away.

The pair were freed after several days.

Safety on the Kaduna-Abuja road came under intense scrutiny last year when the federal government announced the closure of the capital’s only airport for essential runway repairs.

Many foreign missions and companies advised staff to limit their travel during the closure period, as all domestic and some international flights were switched to Abuja.

In July 2016, Sierra Leone’s defence attaché to Nigeria was kidnapped by men in military fatigues armed with AK-47 rifles at a fake checkpoint on the Abuja-Kaduna road.

Thursday, 18 January 2018 04:14

Kogi governor endorses cattle colony

Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State says the cattle colony concept of the Federal Government is wrongly being perceived by segments of the society, noting that it would benefit farmers, herdsmen and the citizenry.

He reiterated his administration’s commitment to the proposal due to what he described as its immense benefits to the citizens.In a statement yesterday in Lokoja by his Chief Press Secretary, Petra Akinti Onyegbule, the governor said the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was taking the measure to urgently curb the incessant bloody clashes between farmers and herdsmen across the federation.

“This move will also enhance the security of lives and property of the people of Kogi State,” he added.Bello allayed the fears of residents on communal ownership of land, saying the policy is not an indirect attempt by the Federal Government to hand over their hereditary to herdsmen.

He continued: “To ensure that everyone is carried along, Kogi State through the Ministry of Agriculture will soon be embarking on a series of stakeholders’ engagements to sensitise the people, farmers, cattle breeders and other stakeholders on the implementation of the new policy.

“Traditional rulers, leaders of various communities, opinion leaders, religious leaders and the entire citizens will be carried along in the course of the engagement, so that we can collectively study the merits and demerits of the policy.

“The insinuations and speculations from various quarters nationwide that the Federal Government is conspiring to take over communal land and give it to herdsmen are far from truth.

“The planned cattle colonies are for the interest of our people.”Bello pledged to ensure the safety of lives and property of the citizens through implementation of viable policies and programmes.

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