Four sailors were kidnapped and a guard was shot and wounded when suspected pirates stormed an oil tanker off the coast of Togo on Monday, the country’s navy said.
In a statement the navy said “armed individuals” launched the overnight attack when the boat was some 10 nautical miles off the coast of the capital Lome.
Armed guards on board the ship tried to repel the raid, it said.
“A member of the armed guard was shot and wounded and the criminals managed to escape, taking four hostages among the crew members: two Filipinos, a Greek and a Georgian,” they said.
The navy did not reveal the extent of the armed security on board the ship.
An investigation has been opened into the kidnappings, with the Togolese government vowing to “make every effort to find these criminals”.
The latest attack in the Gulf of Guinea — stretching between Liberia and Angola — comes just days after nine Filipino sailors in a ship waiting in the harbour off the Beninese port of Cotonou, were abducted by suspected pirates on Saturday.
The West African waters have become one of the most dangerous maritime regions in the world.
Attacks on ships and the abductions of crew for ransom have become more frequent, especially along the Nigerian coast.
The pirates sometimes divert ships for several days, long enough to plunder the cargo and demand huge ransoms before freeing the crew.
Piracy has disrupted the operations of Nigeria and Angola, the two main oil producers in sub-Saharan Africa, and severely disrupted international maritime transport essential to the continent, costing billions of dollars.
The Home-based senior men national team, the Super Eagles B, have intensified preparations for Saturday’s second leg of the 2020 African Nations Championship qualifying battle with the Sparrow Hawks of Togo in Lagos.
Coach Imama Amapakabo and his team have been training at the FIFA Goal Project, National Stadium, Abuja since returning from the WAFU/FOX Cup of Nations in Senegal last week.
The former Enugu Rangers coach understands that they have a mountain to climb, having lost the first leg in Lome 4-1 and then overwhelmed by the same team at the WAFU/FOX Cup of Nations.
“We have a big job at hand, and I have been drumming it into the ears of the players that we cannot afford to fail. The Togolese won 4-1 on their home ground; nothing says we cannot do better on our own home ground.
“We have to be focused and determined. We must create chances and put them away because we cannot afford not to be at the African Nations Championship,” said Amapakabo.
The winner over two legs between Nigeria and Togo will book a slot at the 6th African Nations Championship finals scheduled for Cameroon in June 2020.
Nigeria finished as runner-up at the last edition of the African Nations Championship staged by Morocco last year.
The Nigeria Football Federation have confirmed that the delegation of the Sparrow Hawks for Saturday’s big match, which will hold at the Agege Stadium, Lagos from 4pm, will get into Lagos on Thursday, 16th October.
The Confederation of African Football has appointed officials from Niger Republic to officiate the match, with Abdoulaye Rhissa Al-Mustapha as the referee.
His compatriots Sadissou Idi, Abdoul Aziz Yacouba and Zakari Adamou Oumarou will serve as assistants and fourth official while Mr. Alim Konate Aboubacar, from Cameroon, will serve as match commissioner.
Togo on Sunday held its first local elections in 32 years, during which a single family has ruled the West African nation, with most opposition parties taking part after boycotting 2018 parliamentary polls.
The elections “mark a major advance in the establishment of democracy” in Togo, President Faure Gnassingbe said in a Facebook post.
Gnassingbe has been in power for nearly 15 years since succeeding his father Eyadema Gnassingbe, who ruled the country with an iron fist for 38 years.
He voted in his hometown of Pya, some 420 kilometres (260 miles) north of the capital Lome.
Turnout was low in Lome with the polling stations visited by AFP reporters showing an average abstention of 75 per cent.
“Participation is weak in Lome, because some young people in the opposition did not come out, they don’t know who to vote for, the leaders being divided,” said Evariste Gangigla, electoral commission representative at a Lome polling station.
Counting of the ballots began Sunday evening, sometimes without electricity, just by the light of a mobile phone, an AFP correspondent reported.
No date has yet been given for announcing the results.
‘A great step forward’
Voting took place without any major incidents reported, AFP correspondents said.
Casting his ballot, Atutu Lawson said he looked forward to “lots of changes in the neighbourhood,” noting it had no market and that many homes did not have indoor toilets.
Another voter, Issouf Moudji, told AFP: “Our country is taking a great step forward. Now we will have representatives in our neighbourhood whom we can discuss our needs with.”
The previous councillors elected in local elections in Togo governed for 14 years from 1987 — despite being elected to five-year terms.
Councillors were later replaced with “special delegations”, tasked with organising new elections, whose positions were often filled with figures handpicked by the government.
The country’s 3.4 million eligible voters were called to elect 1,527 municipal councillors to six-year terms, renewable twice, in 117 towns.
With the notable exception of the National Panafrican Party (PNP), which organised mass protests in April to call for a limit on presidential terms, all the main opposition parties fielded candidates in Sunday’s elections.
The PNP, whose leader Tikpi Atchadam lives in exile, is demanding the release of three activists who have been held since the April protests.
He was part of a coalition formed in mid-2017 that staged demonstrations in several cities seeking constitutional reforms and Gnassingbe’s resignation.
The movement has lost steam, and several opposition parties opted to field candidates in the local elections after boycotting legislative polls in December 2018 — leaving them without representation in parliament.
Now they hope to gain a presence at the municipal level.
The National Alliance for Change, a longstanding opposition party, criticised what it called the “muddled” organisation of Sunday’s vote.
Its spokesman Eric Dupuy alleged ballot-stuffing at a polling station in the Lome suburb of Baguida, adding local residents torched the fraudulent voting papers.
A joint statement released by the United States, European Union, France and Germany last Friday described the vote as an “important step in strengthening local democracy”.
It urged the government and political parties “to make every effort to collectively promote the holding of a free, peaceful and transparent election”.
Some 8,000 police and security forces voted on Friday so that they could be deployed for Sunday’s polling in the former French colony.
A man was shot dead Monday morning in Sokode, an opposition stronghold in central Togo, following days of violence between security forces and opposition supporters, sources said.
“This morning the military blocked all the streets and demanded the children to go home,” said Ouro Akpo Tchagnaou, a local politician from the opposition party ANC (National Alliance for Change).
“A young man was shot dead,” said Tchagnaou.
A witness at the scene told AFP that the man was shot in the street.
“The situation is really tense,” said the resident on condition of anonymity.
“Nothing is moving, the military are breaking up all the rallies and youths are setting up barricades in the streets to stop the military from coming to town,” he said.
A video of the shot man covered in blood on the ground went viral on social media, the opposition’s main tool to gather support.
“There was a death in Sokode” on Monday morning, Amnesty International’s representative for Togo Aime Adi told AFP.
“I confirm the death,” Adi said.
“Our colleague is there, the body was sent to the hospital and the prosecutor was contacted to have the body examined by a (forensic) doctor,” Adi said.
At least two other people have died in violence this weekend according to official accounts, while the opposition puts the death toll higher at three.
Four members of the security forces were injured and 28 protestors were arrested, said the government in a statement published on Saturday evening.
The protests come after a year of political crisis and failed negotiations between Togo’s government and the opposition, led by the regional bloc the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The coalition of 14 opposition parties is boycotting the upcoming legislative elections scheduled for December 20, denouncing “irregularities” in their preparation and calling for demonstrations to stop the vote.
These protests were banned by the government which warned of the “very high risk of serious disturbances to public order” as campaigning got underway last Tuesday.
The tiny West African country is going through a turmoil with massive protests calling for the resignation of President Faure Gnassingbe.
The president has been in office since 2005 when he took over from his father, who led Togo with an iron fist for 38 years.
“Physically I’m very weak but spiritually and mentally I am strong,” says Nicodeme Ayao Habia, president of an opposition party in Togo on Friday — day 10 of his hunger strike.
Habia lies on a mat in front of the Ghanaian embassy in Lome, where he is demanding the release of protesters who have been detained for months after demonstrating against the ruling regime.
“Doctors come every day, I get seen by them. The rest is up to me. If I can make this sacrifice for change in my country, I should do it.
“I don’t fear for my life, what’s important for me is the release of the prisoners,” he says.
“I’m here to show the world what’s happening in Togo.”
The West African bloc ECOWAS stepped in early this year to negotiate between Togo’s government and the opposition after months of protests with people calling for the resignation of President Faure Gnassingbe.
The opposition parties had obtained the release of about 40 people arrested in connection with protests and 10 others were released in early September.
But according to the leaders of the coalition of 14 opposition parties, there are still 44 people languishing in Togolese prisons who are yet to have their case heard in court.
The minister of justice maintains that their situation will be examined on a case-by-case basis.
“There are no members of my party who are still in jail but those who remain inside are still Togolese, innocent people suffering in our prisons,” said Habia.
“If they are released today, I will leave this place.”
Habia knows what it’s like to be a political prisoner.
He was arrested several times — in 1992 and 1994 — when Gnassingbe’s father was president and was “tortured for months by soldiers before being transferred to a prison in Lome”.
Faure Gnassingbe has been in power since 2005 after succeeding his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, who led the small West African country with an iron fist for 38 years.
He has opposed changes to the constitution that would put a limit on presidential terms, sparking the nationwide uprising.
Along with the release of the protesters, Habia has demanded that the government comply with an ECOWAS-approved roadmap and “implement the reforms the Togolese have been demanding for years”, including capping the number of presidential terms.
Lost 15 kg
By his side, Habia has a poster of the national flag, photos of four detainees and newspaper affiliated with the opposition, underneath a book with the fitting title “No easy day.”
Not far from him are stacks of candles.
“People come to put out candles every day,” said Achille Mensah, Habia’s spokesman.
“They say they want to call on the spirit of the Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo,” one of the two ECOWAS facilitators who helped mediate the crisis in Togo.
On Friday morning a crowd of about 50 people, many of them young, gathered in front of the embassy to support Habia.
“Some young people spend the night with him and early in the morning go home,” Mensah said, adding that Habia has already lost 15 kilograms (33 pounds), according to doctors.
A banner flies in the crowd showing the names of detained protesters: “Free Messenth, Joseph, Assibia… human rights and democracy activists arbitrarily arrested in Togo.”
So far, Habia has refused to break his fast, only drinking water to stay alive.
On Monday, he was visited by police. “When they arrived, they told me to get out quickly and knowing my rights, I resisted and turned back,” he said.
“I’m not here to hurt anyone. I’m here to call attention to the national and international community for the release of my compatriots.
President Muhammadu Buhari will depart Abuja for Lome, the Republic of Togo on Sunday where he will be participating in a Joint ECOWAS/ECCAS Summit.
On arrival, the President will have an interactive session at the Nigerian embassy with the Nigerian community-based in Togo after which he will attend the summit on Monday.
According to a statement signed on Saturday by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the summit will deliberate on common security threats to countries in West Africa and members of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), with a view to forging concerted strategies in tackling the menace of terrorism, trans-border crimes and other forms of violent extremism.
The President had pledged his support for the proposed ECOWAS/ECCAS Summit when he received the current Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo on June 29, 2018 in Katsina.
According to him, “terrorism now transcends international boundaries, and no country can combat the scourge alone.”
While in Lome, the Nigerian delegation will also participate in a meeting on a Single Currency for ECOWAS with the deadline of 2020.
On Tuesday, President Buhari will join other leaders of the sub-region for the 53rd Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government.
This session will be dominated by the political and security situations in Guinea Bissau, Mali and Togo; institutional reforms of the ECOWAS Commission to enhance its effectiveness; illegal migration of Africans to Europe; and the worrisome violent clashes between herders and farmers, among other issues.
At the end of the session, a new Chair of the ECOWAS Authority is expected to take over from the incumbent and host.
President Buhari will be accompanied by Governors Ben Ayade and Abubakar Bello of Cross River and Niger States respectively.
Others are Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali; Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun; Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Danbazau; and the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah.
The National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno; the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin; the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Abubakar; and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, are also in the President’s delegation.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday received the President of Togo H.E. Mr Faure Gnassingbe in Katsina State, his hometown.
President Gnassingbe was also received by the Governor of Katsina, Mr Aminu Bello Masari and his deputy, Mannir Yakubu.
During the meeting, both Presidents discussed the security situation in the West African region and possible solutions to the violence in member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).