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Sunday, 15 January 2012


Today is January 15th. 45 years ago a group of young officers led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu attempted to overthrow the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, killing the Prime Minister and several politicians. This event was the catalyst of a chain of events that led to a counter coup, massacres of tens of thousands of Nigerians and the civil war. The situation and circumstances that led to the coup are evident today in a manner that could have been incomprehensible to Major Nzeogwu and co. A country with no pretence of governance, no pretence at the rule of law, where the corrupt are not only untouchable they are so untouchable that it is deemed better to inflict hardships on the nation than to touch them. Let there be no mistake the issues in Nigeria currently do not in any way make any sense if you look at them through an ideological prism, or even through a religious prism. There is no battle currently between those who want state intervention in the means or production or those who wish to promote the free market. There is no battle between those who wish a particular religion to prevail over the polity, there is no battle between the interests of the North or the interests of the South. The only way anything that is going on in Nigeria makes sense is if it is looked at purely through the prism of organised crime. Nigerians are essentially the grass upon which the cabalistic elephants are fighting. In the last elections we had several battles, Jonathon vs ‘the Northern consensus candidate’, Jonathon vs Buhari, Buhari vs Ribadu etc. In none of these battles was a single policy position used as the basis of argument. The Northern consensus candidate did not put forth a platform for the North, there was no mention of the North of Nigeria’s development needs, any mention of its issues or problems merely we should be there because it’s our turn as per ‘the zoning agreement’. In Jonathon’s case he did not put forward a case for better governance merely his was a nice story, ‘the Nigerian Dream’ as it were so we should vote for him. When the elections were concluded, by hook or by crook one section of the cabal had lost out. And in terms of losing out this did not mean stripped of their wealth or status or businesses. It simply meant their hands were a little bit further from the cookie jar than before, this led to the opening of the 2nd front in this war-Boko Haram.
That there was a Salafist Islamic movement called Boko Haram, there is no doubt. That it rose up in rebellion is in no doubt, that it was brutally crushed with numerous extra judicial killings is no doubt, however what is dubious is how this movement metamorphed from a poorly armed fringe group to a terror group capable of carrying out complex attacks just in time for the elections. There is most likely a genuine jihad movement operating in Nigeria, but in essence what we have is one element of the cabal attacking another element of the cabal through proxies. In essence putting sand in the others gari. The original aims of the Boko Haram movement were to return the Northern states of Nigeria to a purer form of Sharia. Now considering Sharia is already the supposed law in most Northern states this is an eminently achievable goal and if Boko Haram had stood for elections or campaigned on that basis maybe they would have succeeded. Boko Haram also asked for an amnesty and compensation for those killed by the security forces in 2010. The government rejected this. When the resurgent Boko Haram reappeared, the Northern Governors shamelessly went grovelling and begging offering exactly the same terms as before with increased cash payouts, but Boko Haram refused, they also expanded their goals to Sharia all over Nigeria. Now even in the minds of the most insane zealot, this is not going to happen so why adopt an non negotiable position and launch attacks deliberately targeting Igbo Christians in their places of worship on one of their holiest days. Non of these acts make any sense as the perpetrators are the ones least likely to gain from this if you look at it from a religious/ tribal point of view, but if you look at it from a gangsters point of view it makes perfect sense. No attempts have been made to target political figures who would be more legitimate targets and maybe more logical if you want to effect a change of government, yet the massive state of insecurity that has been generated has led to N921.91 billion or 20% of the national budget being devoted to security the majority of which is devoted to purchases. Now the 2 most corrupt fields in the world are defence and oil. Defence spending is subject to so many security and confidentially clauses that no one actually knows how much anything costs, who is being paid and by whom, the Col Mohammed Buba Marwa/ Raj Bhojwani case is evidence of this. In all this massive insecurity no one has questioned the utility of the CCTV in Abuja a city without constant electricity or efficient telecoms, or the utility of bomb detection kits. No one has asked how much these vehicles, planes, helicopters cost are they brand new or second hand? Of course our NSA and others are desperate to paint Boko Haram as the new Al Qaeda, with the helpful video released by the alleged spokesman so as to get military aid and diplomatic cover from the US and EU. So we have the perfect storm, an intractable group that has attacked mainly the general public and security services and an international body, a terrified and panicked public and a blank cheque to go on a spending spree for new equipment to solve an old problem. In other words its a protection racket, one set of gangsters attacks the people and appropriates billions to protect themselves. Now lets take the fuel subsidy issue certain elements of the cabal have been getting fat of this slush fund and other members are getting jealous, as they are too powerful to face directly the best way to attack them and divert the funds they been siphoning is take away one of their feeding bowls. Note that in this entire saga the only people who lose out financially are the Nigerian people. The fuel importers are free to sell at whatever price they see fit (compensating them for the loss of the alleged ‘subsidy’), the government ‘saves’ the money it pays, but the Nigerian people face 110% increase in cost of living. It defies logic that a government would inflict this on a traumatised people subject to high unemployment and terror attacks but if your entire focus is on how to defeat your fellow gangsters then everything else becomes blurred. This comes down to the final question of who is the cabal? We Nigerians will descend into an orgy of blame, cursing the Hausas, Yoruba’s, Igbo’s, Ijaw’s, Fulani, Muslims, Christians and so on. It couldn’t be further from the truth. The religious problems in Nigeria are manufactured, not to say there is no tension between tribes and religions but this is the natural tension that exists between siblings living together in the same house or compound. Virtually all religious/ ethnic crisis have a political/ economic motive and have been sponsored or so, even Jerry Useni admitted it when discussing the origins of Boko Haram. The cabal are not just Nigerians, there are many foreigners, mainly Lebanese, involved as well, while we scream and shout about Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Muslim, Christian, North, South. This tiny minority of Nigerians and foreigners get richer and fatter off the chaos they are causing. But maybe just maybe they miscalculated, maybe the lessons of the Arab Spring passed them by, maybe they have not realised that Nigerians have woken up. From Lagos to Kano to Port Harcourt to Minna to London to Washington, Nigerians have woken up.

“Our enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 percent; those that seek to keep the country divided permanently so that they can remain in office as ministers or VIPs at least, the tribalists, the nepotists, those that make the country look big for nothing before international circles, those that have corrupted our society and put the Nigerian political calendar back by their words and deeds.” Major Nzeogwu January 15th 1966
Beware the Ides of January

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Something happened on the way to heaven

Today is October 1st so I guess its time to take stock of Nigeria’s 51 years and see where we are. The title is taken from a Phil Collins song and came to mind as I attended a book launch under the auspices of the Royal Africa Society at UCL for a book entitled ‘It happened on the way to war’ by ex US Marine Officer Rye Barcott, but more on that later. I guess we all know Nigeria is not working. I guess we all know things seem to be taking a strange turn to the worse. What none of us seem to know are the whys and the wherefores. In this post I’m going to try and put across what I think are the reasons for Nigeria’s current state, its current violent travails and the most Nigeria is essentially a gangster state with a gangster economy. It is run by gangsters for gangsters. This is true from its foundation in 1914 by Lord Lugard to its current existence under President Goodluck Jonathon. The only difference I can see is that a more organised and professional gangsters were supplanted by a more amateurish and rapacious bunch. The gangsters of pre 1960 had a clear unambiguous objective of producing and extracting wealth for themselves and the mother country, in order to do that they needed a basis of administration and arbitration, they needed a transport infrastructure, they needed a police and military presence to enforce the system of administration and arbitration. They needed a small educated workforce to operate the lower echelons of the administration. All of these they set out efficiently and with this unified common purpose in mind. In order for the pre 1960 set of gangsters to justify their existence they ensured these rudiments of order worked and that the system was seen to work. This made sense in that they could not fulfil their objectives without co-opting the native populace, both in mind and in deed. It is instructive that the Royal West African Frontier Force that campaigned so ably as part of the British 14th Army consisted in the main of 2 Nigerian dominated divisions and that every single African was a volunteer fighting for a ‘King Joji’ they had never seen, had no comprehension of and who was barely aware of their existence. Yet the same government of King Joji extracted tin from Jos using save labour and taxed the colonies in extremis to fund its war effort. Now I mention these as an illustration of how an entity formed and maintained solely for the purpose of extracting its wealth can run and function efficiently with the captive constituents not just working for the entity but voluntarily putting themselves in harms way to protect that entities interests even when the outcomes are in no way beneficial or even relevant to them. Post independence another set of gangsters took over. As the years progressed the gangsters threw off all pretence of governance for the wholesale extraction and looting of wealth until we got to nadir of Abacha, where kleptocracy coupled with out and out brutality sunk the nation to the lowest levels of gangster rapacity. So what has all of this led to? Its taken us to our current ‘democratic’ disposition with the highest paid lawmakers in the world with the least legislative activity, no oversight activities, a supine opposition and one party states all passing supplications up the chain. In a situation where winner literally takes all, the systems and structures of power and more importantly power seeking have become so warped that the inevitable has happened and the crocodile has begun to eat its own tail. In the Delta what evolved to become MEND through the various cultist groups were a direct off shoot of the gangs formed for rigging by the south south gangster governors like Odili, Alameishia etc. These gangs after having been cut loose turned on their former masters and eventually led to the MEND phenomenon, which led to kidnapping for political reasons which has spread now to kidnapping for pecuniary reasons. In the North the chickens of the vast culture and climate of patronage and poverty built up by gangsters of the North have finally come home to roost. By destroying their own power and finance base of agriculture, either by omission or commission the Northern gangsters created a new phenomenon of al Majiris or uneducated, unskilled men, sent to ‘learn the Koran’ with uneducated unskilled and unregulated teachers. All these boys ever seemed to do was beg for food and money and would reach their teenage years with no discernible skill, however they were useful for rigging elections or periodic pogroms as and when needed. The organisation colloquially known as Boko Haram again is a manifestation of a group that was set up for political purposes, to promote the candidacy of certain people who in true Nigerian gangster politician fashion promptly abandoned them upon gaining power. Boko Haram was attacked and crushed in a campaign of completely disproportionate force with mass extra judicial executions, most of which were televised, again a manifestation of a government or system of government that not only doesn’t govern, no longer even pretends to govern. It is instructive that there is no discernible pattern or consistency to the attacks in Northern Nigeria, some have been overt political assassinations or attacks on symbols of the state others have been terror attacks against churches and beer parlours. To my mind there is a clear distinction between the actions of Boko Haram and what I would call the actions of opportunistic elements seeking to hide under that cloak to create conditions whereby they will take back what they consider to be rightfully theirs, i.e. political control of the entity called Nigeria. In essence the phenomenon of urban terror is a civil war within the gangster cabal. Not even North vs South or Christian vs Muslim but faction vs faction. With innocent church goers, villagers, herdsmen, office workers, bar men and women and ordinary citizens as the expendable cannon fodder. There seems to be no logical political end to any of the insecurities and criminalities that exist in Nigeria but there are commercial ends. Just as refineries are run down so as to favour oil importers, fuel subsidies benefit fuel lifters, congested ports benefit corrupt port officials, Niger Delta insurgency benefits oil bunkerers, power outages favour generator importers and importers of basic goods that used to be manufactured in Nigeria, a purported Islamic insurrection favours those who will go whispering to western diplomats (an alarming trend illustrated by Wikileaks) that they are the only ones who can control ‘the boys’, those who seek to make the country ungovernable, those who wish to precipitate revenge attacks so as to perpetuate their us and them narrative. What is even more incredulous is that the various gangster elements who have provided nothing for their alleged constituents except destroying their industrial and agricultural base should claim to be speaking for them and fighting for them. With the experience of the last election in mind where these elites were attacked by mobs they seek as ever to divert attention and turn the contest into a them and us contest, we the faithful against them the infidel, the productive against the parasites. The book launch mentioned earlier involved the life experiences of a young US Marine officer who prior to getting commissioned visited Kibera slum in Kenya and ended up setting up an NGO called Caroline for Kibera, he eventually deployed as. On his way to war he attempted to bring peace to the various tribal groups occupying a slum the size of Hyde Park. He ended up in Military Intelligence serving in Fallujah. Of the several key things that he mentioned one was the need for participatory solutions to the developing world’s problems and how early intervention tended to be require less resources than post conflict interventions. These are common sense truisms but in the case of Nigeria they are in fact our only keys to survival. It is impossible for a system by gangsters for gangsters to survive intact much longer. Something somewhere will have to give and the unfortunate thing is that the ‘give’ will be along the path of least resistance, i.e. tribal or sectarian lines. It will be bloody, brutal and inconclusive. No one can say what Nigeria will look like at 52, it has been said the GEJ is an intellectual who actually wishes to hear contrary arguments and analyse the situation, as good as that is, analysis without decision and action is a navel gazing luxury we can ill afford Nigeria needs its entire people to have an insight into the problem and the solution, and the solution is an early intervention to attend to the root causes of our problems, which essentially begin and end with corruption. None of the problems in Nigeria from power to petroleum to industry are difficult or particularly expensive but as long as there are people profiting from the misery they will be impossible. We the people must start to use the tools of democracy contacting our Representatives and Senators to ask the relevant questions, to query and show our disapproval using social media and the traditional media. For those in the diaspora to share information about corrupt officials and politicians and lobby foreign governments and their agencies. These interventions are no cost and pre emptive and do not bear the alternative. This is to the benefit of the gangsters as well as their victims, the lessons of Gbagbo, Assad and Ghaddafi should not be lost on them, but more importantly the lessons of Pablo Escobar. Pablo Escobar tried to avoid justice in Colombia by a campaign of urban terrorism and assassination. He ended up dead in the Medellin jungle. 51 years ago Nigeria was ahead of its peers now we lag behind Ghana and Gambia. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, so possibly all the bad intentions that litter Nigeria’s history from conception to present portend something.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

419 Reasons to Like Nigeria

For too long, Nigeria and Nigerians have been readily associated with the online scams, financial crime and impersonation - termed ‘419’. However, beyond the unfortunate stereotyping, there are several positive characteristics and cogent intriguing traits of the country, Nigeria and its people, some of which are highlighted below as part of the ‘419 Reasons to Like Nigeria’ campaign which enlisted 100 volunteers and bloggers to share reasons why they like Nigeria. These reasons echo the voices of Nigerians, with resonating similar themes. The campaign is being facilitated in partnership with ‘The 419Positive Project’.
The full list of ‘419 Reasons to Like Nigeria’ is available here (
The list of contributors to ‘419 Reasons to Like Nigeria’ is available here
If you would like to say something positive about Nigerians and Nigeria, please do so here.

 I like Nigeria because it is a land of endless opportunities and possibilities. Nigeria is one country I believe the world is yet to experience it true potentials. I believe Nigerians are sharp, brilliant and accommodating people. Giving the right enabling environment the world will marvel at what Nigeria will become.
 Nigeria is the most populous black nation - and a buying one at that. From a capitalist point of view, this makes for a great investment opportunities.
 The fact that Nigeria currently lags behind so much - in infrastructure and developmental terms - hints at the size of the potential for innovation and transformation, and at the huge number of vacancies that exist for 'transformers'. What I think this means is that the world will be hearing a lot about Nigeria and high-achieving Nigerians (in the public and private sectors) in the near future.

 The Nigerian Green and White flag is a notable national symbol. The green color symbolises agriculture, seeing that the country is endowed with masses of arable land, while the white colour signifies unity and peace. Other national symbols include the Nigerian Coat of Arms, which depicts an eagle on a black shield, tri-sected by two wavy silver bands, and supported on either side by two chargers. The national motto underlies the coat-of -arms: "Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress." Her national symbols convey great meaning to its people.
 The Nigerian accent is currently ranked by CNN Global Experiences as the 5th sexiest accent in the world.
 Nigeria is home to Nollywood, one of the world's biggest film industries.

 Something great to like about Nigeria is our cultural diversity. A strong affinity exists, despite our differences. Learning about other ethnic cultures in my country really helped me personally relate to other cultures when abroad.
 I think the food is tastier in Nigeria than that I have found in other countries.
 Nigerians live a communal life style. The extended family is part of the immediate family in a Nigerian home.

 Nigeria has produced many world class musicians. A notable mention in this regard is Fela Anikulapo Kuti. A Broadway show titled ‘FELA!’ was produced in 2009 depicting the life and times of the Afrobeat musician.
 Nigeria’s movie industry, Nollywood, is reputedly the 3rd largest film industry after Hollywood and Bollywood, and has grown gradually into a $250 million industry in more than 10 years.
 Nigerian indigenous musical instruments are unique, soulful and rhythmic. They comprise the popular Talking Drum, producing proverbial and storytelling sounds, the Shaker (shekere), the Udu drum, the Lute, the leg and arm Rattle, the Omele, the Ogene (Gong originating in Eastern Nigeria), the Ekwe drum and the Kakaki (A 4m metal trumpet popular in Northern Nigeria). Many of these instruments have been incorporated in South American music over the years

 Nigeria is a nation blessed with rich human and natural resources. As the 8th largest exporter of Oil in the world, with the 10th largest proven reserves, our blessings cannot be overemphasised. No earthquakes, no tsunamis, no droughts, an evergreen land. The rest of the world should live here.
 The beauty of the Nigerian state cannot but leave one in awe. Blessed with captivating physical features and abundant wild life. From the rolling hills to the vast plains in the North Central Nigeria and the forests in the South, the beautiful scenery of the country is more than breathtaking and with the wildlife spread all over the country; Nigeria is surely a beauty to behold and a tourist's delight all year round.
 Nigeria is blessed with tremendous agricultural resources. Cotton in the North, Cocoa & Oil palm in the south amongst many others. The flag is green for a reason

 Nigeria has the largest population of any country in Africa. Approximately 1 out of every 2 West Africans, 1 out of every 4 Africans, and 1 out of every 5 persons of African origin is a Nigerian.
 Nigeria is the largest contributor of troops to the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) and by extension, is the largest force for peace and stability in West Africa.
 A Nigerian will stand out anywhere you find him/her, from Libya to London, Tokyo to Timbuktu. Well known examples include Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets, USA), Olumide Oyedeji (Seattle Sonics), Tunde Baiyewu (Lighthouse Family), Sunday Adelaja (Ukraine), Chris Aire (US), etc.

 Nigerians are intelligent, brilliant minds who have proven their mettle in various fields - Wole Soyinka was the first African to win the much coveted Nobel Prize for literature in 1986. Chinua Achebe’s classic novel ‘Things Fall Apart’ was ranked as number 14 in a list of top 100 books in the world by Newsdesk in 2009. Others include Cyprian Ekwensi, Mabel Segun, Chimamanda Adichie and Helon Habila whose literary works have won both international and local awards at various times.
 We have budding fashion designers. Yes! It's a line every Bunmi, Amaka and Amina has decided to tow but to disregard the effort and originality of our Fashion Designers would be disrespectful. Tiffany Amber, Lanre Da Silva and Deola Sagoe are building world renowned brands, not to mention the legacy developed by the likes of Abba Folawiyo, Maureen Onigbanjo, Remi Lagos and Zizzi Cardow.
 Nigerians have excelled in the fields of economics and finance, managing well established global bodies. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, the current Minister of Finance, was until recently a Managing Director at The World Bank. Obiageli Ezekwisili is currently the Vice President for Africa at The World Bank. Mr Adebayo Ogunlesi is a first class graduate of Oxford, and Managing Partner of Global infrastructure Partner (GIP), a concessionaire of London’s Gatwick International Airport.
 We take technology and expand it in ways those who created it could not have imagined. For instance, take the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) which allows you to send broadcast messages to all addresses on your contacts list; Nigerians recently found a unique way of advertising the different businesses they do. Someone started a message highlighting the fact that many people in Nigeria are entrepreneurs or provide a service and included his BB PIN in the message and sent to all his contacts with the charge that they state the service they provide, include their PIN and send on to all their contacts too. This seemingly small campaign has gone “viral” with whole lists of entrepreneurs and their BB PINs being passed from phone to phone. This is a clear sign of the ingenuity of Nigerians!

 Nigeria is the 7th most populous nation in the world (over 160 million) and most populous in Africa - a gold mine of energetic, determined and talented people in each and every field. From Lagos to Aba to Kano, the Nigerian business spirit and desire to succeed is visible. It requires just proper harnessing of these human resources before Nigeria becomes the super power she was meant to be.
 Nigerians are passionate, friendly, welcoming, hospitable, and well cultured people. The average Nigerian reflects a combination of vivacity, intelligence, energy, talent, and resolution.
 We are a nation of people that can hardly hide their excitement at seeing family and friends. Some misconstrue this thinking we are loud but let's just say we are EXPRESSIVE! If you see us on the streets of New York making a big ruckus and hugging? No sweat. We are just happy to see each other.

 The Giant of Africa: Not ignoring the current challenges, eventually, when we get our acts right, we will reign supreme on the global scene. We have the potential and as is much touted by the Warri people - "Naija no dey carry last"
 The 'survivor-mentality' hard-wired into the DNA of Nigeria's people. The fact that against all the odds (and there are many of them), Nigerians continue to live, hustle and seek to triumph. It is not by mistake that Nigeria is regarded as one of the "happiest" countries in the world, despite its challenging economic and social conditions.
 We are hardy. The average Nigerian does business under circumstances that are unimaginable to people from other parts. In a place where there is no power, no credit, and scant regulation, people do business and do very well for themselves too. If you can make it in Nigeria, you can make it anywhere in the world.

 Nigeria is an amazing tourist haven and is home to the Obudu Cattle Ranch, located in Calabar. It is only 45 miles from the Cameroon border. The Obudu Plateau is spread over 40 sq. miles and is 5,200 feet above sea level. The Obudu resort features a Gorilla Camp where tourists may observe gorillas in their natural habitat.
 Nigeria has two UNESCO world heritage sites, the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove and the Sukur Cultural Landscape in Adamawa. UNESCO world heritage sites are places designated as being of cultural significance.
 Nigeria has produced great footballers like Teslim “Thunder” Balogun (the first Nigerian to play for an English Club – QPR), Segun Odegbami, Muda Lawal, Stephen Keshi, Rashidi Yekini (who scored Nigeria’s first ever goal at the World Cup), Nwankwo Kanu, Austin 'Jay Jay' Okocha, John Mikel Obi, Osaze Odemwingie, to mention but a few.
 Nigeria has excelled in athletics over the years, still holding continental records in the 100m men and women, 4x100m men and women, 400m men and women, among others. Over 100 skilled Nigerian professional footballers played in First Division leagues in different countries all over Europe in the 2010/2011 season, 9 in England; 8 each in Finland, Norway; 10 in Ukraine and 7 in Sweden.

 Nigerians, despite our diversity are a united people who always strive to help one another. With 774 local government areas, multi religious and ethnic affiliations, 36 States, and population of over 160 million, we still stand undeterred to move forward together.
 Even outside the country, Nigerians remain united. This gives a quiet assurance somewhat that you can get on a plane and go to any country of the world and find a Nigerian there who will not only make you feel welcome but will go out of their way to be of really good help. I have experienced this several times on my travels and each time it amazes me how all I need to be is a Nigerian, not Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa and once I run into another Nigerian, I will immediately feel at home.
 Our greatest strength lies in our diversity.

The 419 Reasons to Like Nigeria’ Campaign is in partnership with ‘The 419Positive Proj ect. http://

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Think Africa-Documentary

African Peoples Advocacy (APA) is seeking business people and philanthropists willing to participate in a documentary, which is filming APA staff’s attempts to convince business people and philanthropists to back their Think Africa project.
Think Africa is a project to transform APA into a think tank promoting ideas developed by African individuals, and ideas that have worked on the ground in Africa.
The number of participants is limited. So do get in touch as soon as possible if you would like to:

 Participate in the “Dragon’s Den” with an African twist
 Benefit from extensive media coverage all over the world
 Be granted exclusive access to VIP guests and investors

To express your interest and obtain more information, contact Ms Sylvie Aboa-Bradwell on (+44) (0) 1634 5736 19 or (+44) (0) 7717 0517 42; e-mail ; postal address 54 Belmont Road, Gillingham Kent, ME7 5JF, UK.
About African Peoples Advocacy (APA): APA was created in the UK in 2008 to provide a platform for the engagement and education of African communities worldwide. Charity registration no: 1131139. More information:

Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Niger Delta Amnesty: Sense and succesibilities

Another day another Nigerian functionary at Chatham House, in the past 3 months we have had Sanusi Lamido, Bukola Saraki, Buhari/ Bakare/ El Rufai and on 14th July it was the turn of Hon. Kingsley Kemebradigha Kuku, Special Adviser to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Niger Delta Affairs and Chairman of the Amnesty Committee. The event was oversubscribed according to Chatham House however there were sufficient empty seats for your reporter to sneak in despite having been initially turned away.
The event chaired by Bronwen Manby of the Open Society Foundation started a little bit late (or on time by Nigerian standards) due to a previous meeting Mr Kuku held with the press and oil and gas industry executives. Notwithstanding this delay he demonstrated an refreshing candour and strong grasp of the issues and statistics. Many interesting facts about the amnesty programme were mentioned which had troubled a lay man such as myself, namely that 22,192 militants respondents to the amnesty proclamation of whom 20,192 (including 882 women) registered and are currently going through the rehabilitation and reintegration program. According to Hon Kuku, 2009 weapons, 295, 000 rounds of ammunition and 18 gunboats were handed in and publicly destroyed on 25th May 2011 in Enugu.
Hon Kuku then elaborated on the benefits the amnesty had brought to Nigeria such as an increase in oil production, with production currently the highest on average since December 2007.
Of the ex militants he stated that 969 were in training in the USA, South Africa, Poland, Russia, Ghana, Malaysia to name a few places and that the oil and gas industry had volunteered to train 3000 ex militants with numbers from the second phase looking to rise to 26,358 persons.
He then expanded on the challenges that the programme faced, such as the lack of sustainability, and the need for funds from development and industry partners to set up training centres of excellence in the Niger Delta. He made the rather curious claim that the DDR programme in the Niger Delta was the most successful in the world as it had successfully completed all the stages from disarmament, demobilisation to rehabilitation and eventually reintegration. It remains to be seen.
He completed his presentation by decrying the United Kingdom’s failure to provide visas to the ex militants to attend training in the UK. He observed that the UK is a key ally and as the ex colonial power had a special place in the Nigerian psyche and it would be easier to administer the ex militants here than in the other far flung places mentioned.
After this presentation which significantly over ran its allotted time frame we came to the question and answer session. The first tranche of questions touched on Boko Haram and comparisons t o the Niger Delta issue. His response to this question was quite long but basically boiled down to the assertion that the two were fundamentally different and that an amnesty was not the answer to the Boko Haram issue and that comparisons were flawed as the Niger Delta activists have been agitating since pre independence having gone from dialogue to protest to violence.
Your reporter then asked how the programme could be considered sustainable if it only dealt with those who had taken up arms leaving the over 2 million peaceful youths uncatered for. The response was again quite frank in that he was limited by law to only deal with those who registered for the amnesty thus it was the responsibility of the Local and State Governments to do their jobs properly and address the underlying issues of under development and poor government. He made the curious statement that ‘The country is now lawful’ thus he could not go beyond his remit. The concept of a lawful Nigeria now or at any other time drew a lot of derisive guffaws from the audience.
Another member of the audience questioned the destruction of Ayakoromo, which he agreed was unnecessary, however he said the blame was to be shared between the Army and John Togo (whose claims of death he seemed to consider to be gross exaggerations!) had accepted amnesty and then gone back to the creeks to fight again. He stated that Jonathon had been angry (the phrase used was ‘Got Presidential’) and insisted the reconstruction of Ayakoromo would be by the Army from Army funds. Other questions touched on gas flaring (it was the Governments responsibility to enforce the laws), why the training seemed focussed on oil and gas (apparently this wasn’t the case, there was a contingent training in Israel who would return to take up a Rivers State government scheme) and whether processes and structures were in place to ensure the amnesty continues if he is removed.
The presentation was impressive in terms of Mr Kuku’s grasp of the fundamentals of the issues, knowledge of facts but more importantly his candour in stating the problems of the Niger Delta. Although the obligatory statements about the oil and gas industry were present most of the blame and venom was reserved for the lack of development that had been perpetrated by governments state and local in the Niger Delta.
While Mr kuku seems to be a straight shooter who has the confidence of the people one must question how much one straight shooter can do in a system as corrupt and rotten as Nigeria’s. The problems of the Niger Delta are not particularly complex, they boil down to greed, environmental degradation, corruption and under development. None of these problems are hard to fix but all require the political will to do so and the political interest to defeat the corrupt vested interests. When the President surrounds himself with such people as Diepreye Alamieyeseigha who along with the Odili’s, Ibori’s and co are the root cause of the militancy and the Anenihs and co who are directly responsible for the under development one wonders how exactly the political will or capital can be generated. In the same vein Mr Kuku lauds the appointment of Diezani Alison-Madueke as Minister of Petroleum and states the 7th NASS is capable of doing a good job, however neither the NASS or the Honourable Minister of Petroleum have shown any level of competence or capability at their jobs.
Throughout the presentation there were outbursts of clapping from the audience which had the slightly disconcerting effect of turning the event into a political rally which was reinforced by Mr Kuku constantly talking about the Presidents support, determination and electoral mandate etc. As has been said it is difficult to see how the President can bring a sustained peace to the Niger Delta when the primary architects of insecurity are his closest advisors and the key elements of legislation that should help resolve certain issues such as the PIB are in the hands of people of questionable integrity and competence such as Diezani Alison-Madueke.
While Mr Kuku appears to be a well liked man doing his best in his post, this presentation was interesting in what was said but also for what it implied. The 26,358 persons who managed to hold the country to ransom have been ‘rewarded’ with trips abroad and stipends, functionaries and ministers grow fat, bow and go in the senate, traverse the worlds and wax lyrical about the novel successes of the amnesty.
So if you are a young man or woman sitting in the scorched light of the gas flare next to your polluted creek, in your powerless, roadless, clinicless, schools, jobless state it doesn’t exactly take the brains of a Petroleum Minister to figure out what you need to do to get your slice of the pie.

Monday, 25 April 2011



Save Nigeria Group UK wishes to commend all Nigerians in particular the National Youth Service Corpers who did their duties and went and voted, counted, reported incidents, monitored and delivered one of Nigeria’s most credible elections of recent years. Whilst we recognise that the outcome of the Presidential election broadly reflects the wishes of the Nigerian people the irregular voting patterns in certain states where over 90% of the vote went to one candidate, as well as the prevalence of underage voters for a certain candidate in other states indicates that there are lessons to be learnt and appropriate actions taken to prevent this from happening again and make all future exercises a vast improvement upon this one.

We cannot however reflect upon this election without mentioning the completely unwarranted and heinous attacks upon innocent Nigerians merely on the basis of party affiliation, region, tribe or religion. This is a tragedy that stains our nation’s honour and endeavours. It is a pity that political leaders who hastened to condemn the conduct of the elections did not show the same level of haste to condemn the resultant violence. We are grateful it did not lead to a tit for tat vendetta in other parts of the country.

However it is the duty of the government to safeguard the citizens of this country and too often it has failed in this duty at the local, state and national level. The continuous nature of these ethnic crisis are due to the lack of vision, lack of probity and lack of justice exhibited by Nigerian leaders at all levels.
Not a single enquiry report from previous outrages has been published and acted upon, not a single ringleader or sponsor arrested or prosecuted.
It is thus ironic that these easily manipulated mobs have begun targeting the very elites that have ignored and misused them, maybe this time justice will be evident where before it was lacking.

It is imperative that all Nigerians stay focussed on the taking back our country from the criminals and looters of all parties, tribes and religions who have led us into this quagmire. When you got to the polls on Tuesday vote for individuals of good conscience and track records. Currently in the UK James Ibori a former governor will stand trial in London a mere 2 days after the people of his state vote for a governor on charges of stealing over £37 million whilst from Wikileaks we know he admitted to having over $3.4 billion.
Let our brothers in the North not forget Alhaji Yerima who other than introducing Sharia law had no impact on the daily life of the citizens of Zamfara state yet apparently has $100,000 to pay the dowry of a 14 year old foreign girl to be his wife.
Let our friends in Niger Delta not forget that the same Diepreye Alamieyeseigha who has metamorphed as the Presidents campaign advisor left them lingering in polluted, blighted lands while he stole from them to buy mansions at home and abroad
The point of these examples is to ask you to please vote with your conscience, take whatever bribe they offer you but vote for someone who will work hard for your benefit.

Look at the incumbents and see what they have done for you? Is it an International airport when there are no roads? Is it a stadium when there are no houses? Is it a conference centre or hotel when there are no hospitals?

We of SNG UK call upon the government of the President Good luck Jonathon to have the courage to break with the past and undertake the following
• Release the results of all previous boards of enquiry into ethnic and religious violence in Nigeria and act immediately on their recommendations
• Prosecute publicly and with immediate effect all those arrested for these crimes
• Identify and prosecute all the sponsors of these crimes
• Arrest and prosecute the Nigerian military and police officers responsible for extra judicial killings in Bauchi, the Niger Delta, Jos and other places with immediate effect
• Cooperate fully with all election petitions including those relating to campaign funding

And finally we enjoin all Nigerians to Analyse, Select and then Vote, do not let the labours of these fallen heroes to have been in vain.

Nigeria expects every person to do their duty

We give thanks for the lives of all the Youth Corpers who died for their country and pray their souls rest in perfect peace.

Monday, 26 April 2010


A trilogy in 4 parts

This essay involves 3 interesting and interconnected personalities, each of them is outstanding in their particular field, each of whom can be described in law enforcement speak as ’a person of interest’ and all three of them are linked to shady deals in shady places or concerned citizens. These 3 individuals are James Ibori, Sarosh Zaiwalla and Tony Baldry

Chief James Ibori was the governor of Delta State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, one of the key oil producing states in the Federation between 1999 and 2007.

Delta State produces 40% of Nigeria oil revenue and receives from the Federal Government 13% of the total annual revenue received from oil production.
With this massive wealth that is generated and then filtered back into the state it would be expected that this state would be one of the most developed in Nigeria.

Not so.

Ibori used his time in office to extract most of the wealth of that state using a network of family members, lawyers and associates and a large and complex network of companies to steal and launder the money into the UK, USA, South Africa, The British Virgin Islands, Switzerland and beyond.

Theft was not a new vocation for Ibori, between 1990 and 1992 he and his wife were thrice convicted for crimes of theft and dishonesty, in the Greater London area. In 1995 he was convicted in Bwari in Nigeria of criminal conduct and breach of trust.

So how does such a person become a Governor in the Federal Republic of Nigeria?

He initially came to the limelight as a candidate for the defunct National Republican Congress (NRC) for the Federal House of Representatives;
He lost and up to this point was just another petty criminal trying his hand in politics however in 1993 his luck changed, the June 12th Presidential elections were annulled, democracy such as it was, was extinguished and then Gen Sani Abacha came to power and began actively looking for people to assist him in his various nefarious deeds.

According to Ibori’s own website he served as a Special Adviser in public policy formulation between 1994 and 1997 (Abacha ruled from 1993 until his death in 1998)
A man who had lived off UK government charity and supplemented his income through petty crime up until then suddenly had the resources to open a Citibank account in Maryland, in the US in 1994, feeding in several large sums of money.

At the time Ibori, was registered as unemployed in London and claiming unemployment benefits and council housing from the UK, he was also (according to his website) working as a Special Adviser in Public Policy in Nigeria and according to his Citibank application was self employed, an ‘International Policy Analyst/ Consultant’.

Being a man of many capacities who simultaneously could be unemployed, self employed and employed he maintained a balance of $1000- $5000 in the account, until November 1996 where upon he deposited $1.5 million followed by $250,000. He followed this up with instructions to disperse these funds to various Swiss and Bahamian accounts.

The US government was not unnaturally a little bit suspicious of this and seized the funds. Subsequent investigations read like a passage from Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani’s award winning novel ‘I do not come to you by chance!’ as an almost textbook 419 type operation. First he gave the US officials 3 blatantly Nigerian phone numbers claiming he was in the Hyatt Hilton, London, and then he presented 2 US driving licences (Maryland and Virginia) with different dates of birth, all in all between November and December 1996 he received and disbursed over $1.75 million to accounts round the world.

So what was special about 1996 that an unemployed petty criminal was able to set himself up as a millionaire and International Policy Analyst?
Well in November 1995, the Abacha regime had hung the 9 Ogoni activists and was under increased international pressure from the international community, NADECO, the Nigeria Labour Congress, MKO Abiola and co.

Abacha was at this time promulgating his vision 2010, i.e. his plan to remain in power up until 2010 and beyond. To fund this he needed useful people to silence his critics and salt away sufficient funds to keep his family in luxury and pay off the various ‘interested parties’ in Nigeria

James Ibori was one of these useful people.

In 1996 Kudirat Abiola wife of imprisoned winner of the 1993 elections was murdered, Alex Ibru publisher of the Guardian was shot. Various Labour and civil liberties activists including Adams Oshimowole (current governor of Edo State, another state in the Niger Delta) were arrested and tortured. According to the Special Investigative Panel set up after the Abacha regime, Ibori was key to this repression using his old political contacts to gather information on the various activists and generating support for pro- Abacha groups

This is further reinforced by the fact that this unemployed, self employed, employed consultant managed to open a newspaper (Diet Newspapers) in October 1996. His business partner was Hadi Hamza, who is the brother of Major Hamza Al Mustapha, Abacha’s Chief Security Officer (currently in prison awaiting trial for the various murders above).

This newspaper was used solely to propagate Abacha must stay propaganda, to the point that it was no longer credible. To remedy this when Abacha manufactured a coup attempt against his regime in 1997 he not only arrested the alleged perpetrators but also the journalists who reported the case. Alongside pro democracy journalists was the editor of Ibori’s paper Niran Malaolu.

Of the 4 arrested journalists 3 were released on bail with the exception of Malaolu who was detained for over a year. Whether this was because he knew something incriminating about his boss or mere ruthlessness is unknown however it gave Ibori the breathing space to claim his paper was independent and was as much persecuted as the others, the pertinent thing is Malaolu an individual who is not known for any journalistic or literary ability, who has run at least 2 newspapers into dissolution ended up as Commissioner for Information in Ogun State under Governor Gbenga Daniels, (another fascinating individual) and now runs the only private radio station in the state. The Diet newspaper folded almost immediately the Abacha regime ended

Thus in 1996 Ibori was firmly ensconced in the bosom of Abacha’s murderous apparatus to the extent that when the US authorities wished to seize the mysterious $1.75 million, the Abacha regime manufactured several letters and documents to justify the payments, which were originally claimed as fees for services ‘from unknown sources’, were later claimed by the Abacha regime to US authorities to be payments recovered by Ibori on behalf of the Nigerian Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Petroleum Resources.

In 1998 Abacha died and his various boys scrambled to find their feet, some like Ibori were lucky and smoothly transitioned in the new political dispensation, using his wealth and contacts to form the Grassroots Democratic Movement which morphed into the Delta National Congress and then with other nascent parties into the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the current ruling party in Nigeria.

In the 1999 general election the three key Niger Delta states were all won by PDP. This victory was assured via the assiduous rigging and intimidation perpetrated by militants under the aegis of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC).
Therefore Ibori had increased his capacities agaib, he was no longer just a petty criminal, or claiming benefits in London, he was no longer unemployed, self employed or employed he was the Governor of the wealthiest state in the wealthiest country in West Africa

Upon entering office (despite the minor inconvenience of a court challenge by his opponent), there was a massive upsurge in ethnic violence in Delta State with the Ijaw, Urhobo and Itekiri’s involved in a tripartite violent armed struggle.
Coincidentally at the same time the Ijaw Youth Council splitting into the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force and the Niger Delta Volunteers.

You see at this point the three key Niger Delta governors Peter Odili (Rivers State), Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (Bayelsa State) and James Ibori (Delta State) had decided the had enough of being under the control of their godfather and founder of the IYC, Edwin Clark so decided to sponsor rival militant groups.

These groups derived funding through bunkering (stealing oil) and basically the ethnic violence was a turf war between the various splinter factions in order to secure the most lucrative bunkering routes. They also quite cheerfully took time out to kill and harass both PDP and non PDP rivals of these good fellows, unsurprisingly they were all re elected.

The capital of Rivers State, Port Harcourt and key port and oil city of Warri in Delta State turned into war zones as these rival groups and their various factions fought it out, thousands were killed (mainly innocent civilians) and tens of thousands displaced.

When President Obasanjo decided he wanted to amend the constitution to run for a 3rd term, Ibori was one of those to oppose him. Although those opposed to the 3rd term campaign were successful, the chickens came home to roods with corruption, as Obasanjo used his last days in office to unleash his attack dogs at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against them.

They obviously didn’t need to look far, Odili and Alamieyeseigha were quickly brought to heel charged and arrested. Although they got off with relatively light sentences the message was clear. Ibori was different, he had stolen so much and controlled such a powerful militant and bunkering network that his pockets were deeper and he was able to keep buying his way out of trouble.

Despite the charges and investigations hanging over him he reinvented himself as a power broker, once his 2 terms in office (and immunity from prosecution) had ended donating heavily to Umaru Yar Adua’s presidential campaign. Using his embezzled money, bunkering funds and his capacity as the godfather of a private militia he delivered the Niger Delta states for Yar Adua and PDP and helped bankroll the final Supreme Court judgement that brought Yar Adua to power to the tune of N30 million per judge

His reward when Yar Adua became President was to appoint his own people to key positions, i.e. Attorney General, Inspector General of Police, and to get his nemesis Nuhu Ribadu dismissed from the EFCC and in an added twist charged with corruption himself.

Thus our friend Ibori was no longer self employed or unemployed but decided to increase his capacities to warlord ($70 per fight, 7 times the Afghan Taliban’s going rate incidentally), illegal oil trader and then power broker, political sponsor and EFCC smasher. Quite a guy!

Unfortunately the change in EFCC’s direction didn’t come quickly enough for Ibori as the EFCC had been working closely with the UK Metropolitan Police, Proceeds of Corruption Unit and they had sufficient evidence to charge Ibori and a wide coterie of his associates with money laundering and various other fraudulent practices.
Ibori fortunately for him skipped out of the UK on time but his wife Theresa (Tessi) Ibori, mistress Udoamaka Okoronkwo (nee Onuigbo), sister Christine Omatie Ibori-Ibie, personal assistant Adebimpe Folayinmi Pogoson, lawyer Bhadresh Gohil, and financial advisers Daniel McCann and Lambertus De Boer were not so lucky and have been hauled before the UK criminal courts for money laundering and other associated financial crimes.

Iboris corruption is such as too be on par with Abacha, he used no less than 35 companies to launder his stolen money and execute bogus contracts.
One of his scams involved using Delta State Governments 820 million shares in Intercontinental bank as collateral to secure a N44billion loan from Intercontinental Bank Plc for Ascot Offshore (an unknown company owned by a close Ibori associate Henry Imaseka) in 2007 to purchase Wilbros International and oil servicing company.

Needless to say these toxic loans caused these banks to collapse in 2009.
Part of the evidence the Crown has against Christine Ibori- Ibie (Ibori’s sister) is a contract awarded to a company Onovin Ltd to supply running tracks for a stadium, although £300,000 was released to the company less than £100,000 was paid to the actual suppliers of the running track. The owner of the Onovin is Vincent Uduaghan, brother of current Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan.
Ibori’s known or suspected assets in the UK total £35 million, not bad for a man who was unemployed and then earned no more than £25,000 per annum during his time in office.

Thus in addition to his harem and lawyers being on trial in the UK, in Nigeria he was charged with 147 counts of corruption. The original trial was scheduled to hold in Kaduna, however was moved to Asaba, Delta State, where Ibori not only controlled the militants but as we have seen shared the wealth liberally with his successor Emmanuel Uduaghan

Needless to say this case went nowhere, there were several adjournments all of which coincided with attempts by the lawyers of those on trial in the UK to claim that the UK trial should be halted so they could return to stand trial in Nigeria. It even got to the ridiculous point that defence lawyers in the UK were making statements that could be construed as confirming Ibori criminally enriched himself, thus the Nigerian defendants had to go back to Nigeria to testify against him

“ Andrew Trollope QC, defence counsel to Christine Ibie-Ibori, read out the bundles of papers received from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), one of which stated that James Ibori defrauded Delta State along with his close associates and relatives through inflated contracts, including the supply of 271 vehicles to the government of Delta State and that virtually all the contracts awarded during his position as governor were to extract massive amounts of money from oil-rich state.

He also stated that Mrs. Pogoson established a company with the intention of removing money from Nigeria on behalf of James Ibori and keeping it in foreign accounts, thereby using foreign companies as receptacles for proceeds from laundered money.

Trollope QC affirmed that the EFCC had alleged that (Pogoson’s) MER-UK company assisted James Ibori to purchase choice properties in both United Kingdom and United States of America, and that Ibori was poor prior to the 1999 election that brought him to power. He, however, left office in 2007 with ‘sudden unexplained wealth’ which can be traced to unspecified crimes or illicit business activities.”

Fortunately the UK Judge was quite adamant and the trial went ahead, when Ibori realised he could not use ‘Nigerian style’ to get the cases against these peoples quashed, he then deployed his biggest gun yet using Sarosh Zaiwalla an extremely notorious lawyer with a very questionable reputation in the UK Asian legal community to pay a barrister Tony Baldry in September 2009 to write to the UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, copying in the Attorney-General, the Lord Chancellor, the Secretary of State for Justice and the Secretary of State for the Home Department allegedly stating that the trial of Iboris relatives and co conspirators threatens UK national security and energy security interest and allegedly endeavouring to get the trial halted.

The interesting thing is that Mr Baldry is a top member of the Conservative Party from the same region as the head of the Conservative Party David Cameron. He states that the letter was written in his capacity as a Barrister not as a Member of Parliament however James Ibori was not on trial, and all the defendants have solicitors and barristers, thus there is no logical reason for a barrister who is an MP would be writing to fellow MP’s and politicians other than to use that link to influence behaviour.

It is interesting that in the letter Mr Baldry allegedly stated that due to Ibori’s links with militants UK nationals and interests could be threatened if the case against him continued.

It is alleged that Mr Baldry visited Abuja in 2009 and met President Yar Adua (Mr Baldry is yet to deny this), Ibori’s chief backer and was convinced that Ibori’s trial was political persecution by people who wished to destroy the amnesty in the Niger Delta.

Obviously this tugged at Mr Baldry’s heart strings so for a mere £22,012.57 he wrote 5 pages of I presume high powered legal arguments to 5 political appointees in the UK government (in his capacity as a barrister of course), in reference to the case.
Unfortunately this ruse didn’t work and the case went ahead, James Ibori’s luck went from bad to worse as his patron Yar Adua was rushed to Saudi Arabia in a near vegetative state, knowing that the continuation of Yar Adua’s rule was his only protection, he invested heavily in the charade that surrounded the former President, sponsoring the various groups that were preventing the vice president from assuming executive powers.

Again Mr Ibori’s capacities failed him and his overt backing of the wrong horse snapped the patience of the government and his cases were re-activated, spurning several invitations to come to the EFCC he was declared wanted where upon he retired to his village Oghara, Delta State. The police team sent to arrest him was subsequently attacked by 1000 militants who blocked access to the town and forced them to pull back giving Ibori cover to run away into the creeks of the Niger Delta.
Thus in a full circle of capacities the petty criminal who became a governor using militants becomes a fugitive with those self same militants

The most fascinating aspect is that Mr Baldry in his capacity as a barrister was able to accurately predict that the man he interceded on behalf of who was on trial in his capacity as a thief would eventually turn to armed militants and militancy.

Next part: The many capacities if Tony Baldry, MP, Barrister, Businessman, debtor