Drama at National Economic management meeting as Oteh takes DG SEC’s seat

A mild drama ensued on Tuesday at the Presidential villa as the recently suspended Director General of the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), Arunma Oteh attempted to attend the Economic Management Meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Ms Oteh was a member of the economic management team by virtue of her former position as the DG SEC.

However, with her suspension, it is expected that she would cease to be a member and give way to the acting DG, Ibrahim Bello, to take over her membership.

Ms Oteh made a dramatic appearance at the venue of the meeting at about 1.30pm on Tuesday.

She was still settling down on the seat reserved for DG SEC when a female protocol official approached her and engaged her in a discussion.

Immediately after the short discussion, Ms Oteh, holding tenaciously to her two handbags, and the protocol official left the council chambers. They both headed towards the president’s office.

Five minutes later, the female official returned without the former SEC DG. But no sooner had the official returned than Ms Oteh re-appeared at the venue.

She placed her handbags beside her seat and walked to the other side of the hall to hold consultation with the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

After the consultation, Ms Oteh left the venue with her two bags and again headed towards the president’s office.

She again returned to the venue a few minutes after and took her seat.

Shortly after her final return, President Goodluck Jonathan arrived the venue and the meeting commenced.

AUDIO: Telephone conversation between Farouk Lawan and Femi Otedola – Part 2

Channels Television has obtained the Part 2 of the audio recording purported to be the conversation between Honorable Farouk Lawan and Femi Otedola over the $3million bribery allegation scandal.

Here is the audio recording:

Transcript of the audio recording

Lawan: it wasn’t like my brother talking. That’s one. Secondly, please this thing that we are doing, keep it to yourself otherwise you will make it difficult for us …

Otedola: Ok, ok. I am na

Lawan: Because somebody called me now and said that we said we are going to address it.

Otedola: address what?

Lawan: Yea. Because if it is already out that we are going to do something, when we do it, people will think that we are doing it because we have been compromised. And you know that is something that errrrr… And if my colleagues get to hear about it, I wouldn’t be able to convince them. So keep it to yourself.

Otedola: ok

Lawan: Let it not be like anybody is aware of what is happening. If anybody ask you, simply explain that this thing, you know from your records. You have all records and you have made a case to the committee. You have sent your documents to the committee

Otedola: Yea, Yea

Lawan: Yea. It’s left for the committee… it’s left for the committee to decide what to do. Please keep it that way.

Otedola:  Yea. God bless you. God bless you

Lawan: Yea. Because the moment it gets out now we are going to correct it. Then it means we have already Haaa… so let it be …

Otedola: Ok, Ok

Lawan: I want to spring a surprise on the floor and only that is the only credible way I can do this. So please, please.

Otedola: God bless you. God bless you my brother. I have been crying. Anytime I hear your voice

Lawan: Yes. You know your sector is small. Everybody knows… and people are already saying … Somebody just called now and said Femi has gotten his way around you guys and he has already succeeded.

Otedola: That is not true. But let me also tell you one thing ….

Lawan: No, no, no, no. I am saying it because this is what I heard

Otedola: But my brother, let me also tell you one thing. You know me as a person

Lawan: It doesn’t have… I know… I don’t want

Otedola: People just get up

Lawan: I know. That makes it difficult. Just, just whoever… you know… no. I didn’t do this. I’m sure it must have been a mistake from the committee but I have sent a letter to set the record right

Otedola: ok

Lawan: That’s all

Otedola: Ok my brother

Lawan: Yea. Yea

Otedola: Ok. Great, Ok

Lawan: Yea

Otedola: thank you

 

 

Nigeria does not support impunity, Jonathan tells ICC prosecutor

President Goodluck Jonathan has said Nigeria will support the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its efforts to check impunity.

The president was speaking to the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, during a courtesy call at State House, Tuesday.

The President said, “Nigeria does not encourage impunity, and will cooperate with the ICC to check it.”

President Jonathan said, ‘we are open to you and have nothing to hide’, adding that he had directed the Attorney-General and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to ‘ensure that the ICC Chief Prosecutor receives all the support and cooperation required to make her visit to Nigeria a fruitful one’.

He drew Mrs Bensouda’s attention to the ICC’s involvement in five situations in Africa, with the attendant criticism from the continent, and called on the Chief Prosecutor to use her experience in the Court to resolve potential areas of conflict or disagreement.

The President said while the African Union’s Constitutive Instruments do not condone impunity, greater engagement by the ICC with the AU should create the enabling environment for cooperation towards the realization of the Court’s laudable objectives.

Earlier, the ICC Chief Prosecutor, Mrs Bensouda, told President Jonathan she was in Nigeria on the invitation of the Government to discuss cooperation and the Court’s work in the country over the past five years.

Mrs Bensouda said Nigeria was not under any investigation, as the Government had responsibility for investigating and prosecuting any crimes in the country, and expressed appreciation that this was already being done.

The ICC Chief Prosecutor said the Court was not targeting Africa, but all cases in the continent, apart from Kenya, were originated by Africans, adding that this was good for the victims of such crimes.

$3 million bribery: Otedola refuses to speak to Reps, insists hearing on allegations must be public

The Chairman of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited, Femi Otedola, on Tuesday honoured the invitation of the House of Representatives Ethics and Privileges Committee probing his alleged $620,000 bribe to the suspended Chairman of the ad-hoc committee, Farouk Lawan which probed the management of the fuel subsidy fund.

The committee then went into a closed door session. However, Mr Otedola requested the hearing should be conducted in public.

“I strongly believe that the interest of the public will not be best served if this investigation is held in-camera,” he said.

The committee had invited the billionaire businessman to explain allegations that he gave $620,000 bribe to Mr Lawan, and the erstwhile secretary, Boniface Emenalo, to get his companies off the list of firms indicted for the alleged mismanagement of oil subsidy funds.

Read Mr Otedola speech here.

BBA: Who will Africa save in this week’s eviction battle?

From the nominations announced, Lady May was leading with five votes followed by Kyla with three votes, Goldie, Prezzo, Junia and Keagan had two votes each while Keitta, Alex, Malonza and Jannette had one vote each

The housemates gathered in the lounge waiting for Big Brother to reveal who will be put up for eviction. In alphabetical order, Biggie mentioned Goldie, Junia, Keagan, Kyle, Lady May and Prezzo.

The head of the house has to save one housemate from eviction, but being part of the housemates put on the eviction list, Keagan (this week’s head of the house) had to replace himself.

Keagan found himself in a dilemma when asked to name the housemate he wished to replace him. He started by calling names already on the eviction list but had to later settle for Malonza.

The battle in this week’s eviction is between Goldie, Junia, Kyle, Lady May, Malonza and Prezzo… who will Africa save?

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Attacks on Kenyan churches kill 17

Masked attackers killed at least 17 people on Sunday in gun and grenade attacks on churches in a Kenyan town used as a base for operations against al Qaeda-linked insurgents in Somalia.

Policeman walks from the scene of an explosion after a grenade attack at a church in Nairobi

At least 45 people were wounded in the simultaneous attacks on Garissa, in the north of the East African country which has suffered a series of blasts since sending troops into Somalia last October to crush Somalia’s al Shabaab militants.

“We have 17 bodies at the mortuary so far,” regional medical officer Abdikadir Sheikh told Reuters.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Police said they suspected the attacks could have been the work of al Shabaab sympathisers or bandits, but it was too early to say. Inside Somalia, al Shabaab declined comment.

“The goons were clad in balaclavas,” regional deputy police chief Philip Ndolo told Reuters from Garissa.

He said a total of seven attackers hurled grenades inside the Catholic Church and the African Inland Church and then opened fire with guns. They struck the churches, which are 3 km (two miles) apart, at around 10.15 a.m. (0715 GMT)

Two policemen were among the dead.

They were the latest attacks on Christian worshippers in Kenya after two people were killed in grenade blasts in March and April.

But Sunday’s coordinated attacks on churches resembled the tactics of Nigeria’s Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which has killed hundreds of people on the other side of the continent.

Other blasts in Kenya have hit nightclubs and bus stations in the capital Nairobi, the coastal city of Mombasa and areas near the Somalia border.

Although a majority of Kenyans are Christian, Garissa is more heavily Muslim.

The town of around 150,000, a market centre for the trade in camels, donkeys, goats and cattle, is largely populated by ethnic Somalis.

“You can imagine for such a small town how the police and medical services have been stretched trying to deal with this,” the police’s Ndolo said.

Garissa is about 100 km (60 miles) from Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp, where gunmen kidnapped four aid workers and killed a driver on Friday before fleeing towards the border with Somalia.

Last Sunday, three people were killed in a grenade attack at a night club in the port city of Mombasa, a day after the U.S. embassy in Kenya warned of an imminent attack on the city.

REUTERS

UN wants Africa’s Kony hunters fully equipped by year-end

The United Nations wants an African Union force hunting fugitive warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to be fully equipped by December, according to a U.N. strategy due to be presented to the world body’s Security Council on Wednesday.

The AU force, which has U.S. backing, aims to have a full strength of 5,000 troops from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Uganda, but lacks equipment, training, food and transportation.

“These troops lack almost everything,” AU special envoy on the LRA Francisco Madeira told a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York on Tuesday.

“They lack boots, they lack uniforms, they lack food rations and sometimes they lack training. So there is a need for these things to be supplied.”

Abou Moussa, U.N. special envoy and head of the U.N. Regional Office for Central Africa, is slated to brief the 15-member U.N. Security Council on Wednesday on the U.N. regional strategy to address the threat and impact of the LRA.

The strategy, obtained by Reuters, requires U.N. countries and agencies to ensure the AU force is “adequately equipped, including with regard to air capabilities, communications, office and living accommodations, medical support, and fuel and rations, as soon as possible, and no later than December 2012.”

The Security Council is likely to release a statement endorsing the strategy on Wednesday, diplomats say.

Kony, accused of terrorizing northern Uganda for 20 years, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. His LRA is accused of abducting children to use as fighters and sex slaves, and of hacking off living victims’ limbs as a method of intimidation and revenge.

REUTERS

African Terrorism: US General says Boko Haram linking up with al Shabaab and Al Qaeda

Three of Africa’s largest extremist groups are sharing funds and swapping explosives in what could signal a dangerous escalation of security threats on the continent, the commander of the U.S. military’s Africa Command said on Monday.

General Carter F. Ham, commander of the U.S. military's Africa Command, attends a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Algiers June 1, 2011.

General Carter Ham said there are indications that Boko Haram, al Shabaab and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb – groups that he labeled as the continent’s most violent – are sharing money and explosive materials while training fighters together.

“Each of those three organizations is by itself a dangerous and worrisome threat,” Ham said at an African Center for Strategic Studies seminar for senior military and civilian officials from Africa, the United States and Europe.

“What really concerns me is the indications that the three organizations are seeking to coordinate and synchronize their efforts,” Ham said. “That is a real problem for us and for African security in general.”

The United States classified three of the alleged leaders of the Islamist sect Boko Haram, based in remote northeast Nigeria, as “foreign terrorist,” on June 20. But it declined to blacklist the entire organization to avoid elevating the group’s profile internationally. Police in Nigeria said members of the group seized a prison there Sunday and freed 40 inmates.

Islamist militant group al Shabaab is active in war-ravaged Somalia and has been blamed for attacks in Kenya. Last year it claimed responsibility for the death of Somali Interior Minister Abdi Shakur Sheikh Hassan.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an affiliate of al Qaeda based in North Africa, is mainly a criminal organization operating in the Sahel region. It kidnaps Westerners for ransom and aids Africa’s drug trade, according to intelligence officials.

MALI FEARS

U.S. and regional officials fear that a power vacuum in northern Mali following a military coup in March may open an expanded area of operations for Islamist militants. Some western diplomats talk of the country becoming a “West African Afghanistan.”

Ham said AQIM was now operating “essentially unconstrained” throughout a large portion of northern Mali, where Islamists have imposed a harsh version of Shariah law.

The group was a threat not only to the countries in the region, but also has “a desire and an intent to attack Americans as well. So that becomes a real problem,” Ham said.

Emphasizing that the U.S. military plays mainly a supporting role in Africa, Ham said the United States is providing intelligence and logistical help in the hunt for Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, whose Lord’s Resistance Army is accused of abducting children to use as fighters and hacking off limbs of civilians.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague indicted Kony for crimes against humanity in 2005, and his case hit the headlines in March when a video entitled “Kony 2012” put out by a U.S. activist group and calling for his arrest went viral across the Internet.

Ham said he was confident that Kony would ultimately be apprehended by African troops.

“This is an African-led effort,” Ham said. “It is the African Union increasingly taking a leadership role with a little bit of support from the United States military. We think that is the right approach.”

REUTERS

Africa’s growth not enough to reduce poverty: World Bank

Africa may have enviable economic growth rates by global standards, but they are still not enough to pull its growing population out of poverty, the World Bank said on Thursday.

Addressing the media during a visit to Nigeria’s commercial hub of Lagos, Marcelo Giugale, World Bank Director of Economic Policy and Poverty Reduction Programmes for Africa, was asked if the continent was growing fast enough to fight dire poverty.

“The short answer is ‘No’. It’s not enough to reduce poverty, not by enough,” he said, adding that the reasons were complex and varied.

The IMF this month revised down its growth forecasts for Africa in 2012 to 5.4 percent, lower than previous forecasts.

Africa’s growth has remained above 5 percent in the last eight years, underpinned by strong prices for its natural resources, better governance and growing disposable incomes, but poverty is not falling anywhere near as fast.

“We have specific targets that are in reach. Child mortality has fallen fast in many countries. But at the same time, poverty is going down very slowly,” Giugale said.

The World Bank estimated on its website in March that the percentage of poor Africans fell from 58 percent in 1999 to 47.5 percent in 2008, a decline of about one percentage point a year.

“You certainly need much more than the GDP numbers going up. The translation from growth to employment is complex: It depends on labour market, skills, infrastructure, the quality of the business environment. Growth can be very fast and you still don’t see poverty reduction,” Giugale said.

REUTERS

Mali Junta accepts interim leader’s extension – Chief Negotiator

The chief negotiator for the West African regional bloc says the junta in Mali has accepted that the current interim president will stay in office until new elections can be held.

A group of middle ranking soldiers toppled Mali’s democratically elected president on March 21. Since then West African leaders have been pressuring the junta to exit the political scene and return to their barracks.

Djibrill Bassole, the foreign minister of Burkina Faso, told reporters late Saturday that the junta and ECOWAS were in full agreement on the matter.

The junta in Mali had been resisting the extended presidency of Dioncounda Traore who took over as interim president on April 12 for an initial period of 40 days.

Bassole did not say how long the transition would last.

Nigerian drug cartel busted in Spain, 15 arrested

A Nigerian drug cartel responsible for smuggling of cocaine and other drugs into Spain and other European countries from the Latinos and Africa has reportedly been busted by Spanish police officials with 15 members arrested.

The group, based in the Madrid suburb of Alcala de Henares, use drug mules who injest pellets filled with drugs and avoid detection at airports, the police said in a statement.

Police seized about 18 pounds of cocaine and 17,000 euros in cash as part of their investigation, which began in September 2011.

The majority of those arrested were Nigerian citizens.

Police carried out their first arrest as part of the operation in October 2011 at the airport at Palma de Majorca of a man who had swallowed 77 pellets of cocaine.

Later that month police detained another man at the same airport who had swallowed 68 pellets of cocaine.

“These people had been sent by the organisation to Madrid to collect cocaine from other members of the ring which based in Alcala de Henares. From there they would also send mules to South America and Africa to collect the drug,” a police statement said.

Spain’s proximity to North Africa, a key source of hashish, and its close ties with its former colonies in Latin America, a major cocaine producing region, have made it a major gateway into Europe for drug traffickers.

 

Mali rebels declare independence in north

Mali’s desert Tuaregs proclaimed independence for what they call the state of Azawad on Friday after capturing key towns this week in an advance that caught the newly-installed junta off guard.

Malians, who originate from the north, pump their fists in the air during a meeting in Bamako

Nomadic Tuaregs have nurtured the dream of secession since Mali’s own independence from France in 1960 but have little international support for a move which neighbours fear could encourage other separatist movements elsewhere.

This week’s seizure of Mali’s north – a desert zone bigger than France – came with the help of arms and men spilling out of Libya’s conflict. It was backed by Islamists with ties to al Qaeda, triggering fears of the emergence of a new rogue state.

“The Executive Committee of the MNLA calls on the entire international community to immediately recognise, in a spirit of justice and peace, the independent state of Azawad,” Billal Ag Acherif, secretary-general of the Tuareg-led MNLA rebel group MNLA said on its www.mnlamov.net home page.

The statement, which listed decades of Tuareg grievances over their treatment by the distant southern capital Bamako, said the group recognised borders with neighbouring states and pledged to create a democratic state based on the principles of the United Nations charter.

It was datelined in the town of Gao, which along with the ancient trading post of Timbuktu and other northern towns fell to rebels in a matter of 72 hours this week as soldiers in Mali’s army either defected to the rebellion or fled.

The advance capitalised on confusion in Bamako after a March 22 coup by mid-ranking officers whose main goal had ironically been to beef up efforts to quash the rebellion.

Mali’s worried neighbours see the handover of power back to civilians as a precondition for moves to help stabilise the country and have imposed economic and diplomatic sanctions aimed at forcing junta leader Captain Amadou Sanogo to step down.

On Thursday a team of mediators said they were hopeful Sanogo would soon announce steps that would allow them to drop the sanctions on Africa’s third largest gold miner, which include the closure of borders and the suspension of its account at the regional central bank.

“We are going to do everything so that these sanctions are not only suspended but completely removed. We are getting there,” Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibril Bassole told Malian television after talks with Sanogo.

“I can assure you that the captain is aware and taking measures. He will soon make some announcements in that direction,” added Bassole, whose country represents the 15-state ECOWAS regional grouping as a mediator in the crisis.

There was no immediate response from the junta.

Separately, ECOWAS military planners prepared the mandate for a force of up to 3,000 soldiers which could be deployed in Mali with the dual aim of securing the return to constitutional order and halting any further rebel advance.

Ivory Coast General Soumaila Bakayoko said after the talks in the Ivorian economic capital Abidjan there was a “clear will” of all ECOWAS states to address the crisis in Mali, but gave no details on troop commitments or a deployment timetable.