Posts Tagged ‘Boko Haram’

4 killed in suspected Boko Haram extremist attack in Nigeria

June 23, 2018

Police say four people have been killed in an attack by suspected Boko Haram extremists in northern Nigeria.

A member of a civilian self-defense group, Maina Shettima, tells The Associated Press that the bodies were found Saturday morning in Tungushe village just outside Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State and the birthplace of Boko Haram. He says six people were injured and homes and vehicles were burned.

Image result for Boko haram, photos

File Photo

The Borno State police spokesman says gunmen attacked, but resident Umar Ibrahim says a suicide bomber detonated his explosives shortly after midnight near people sleeping outside their homes in the heat.

Nigeria more than once has claimed victory over Boko Haram but the group continues to carry out suicide bombings and kidnappings in the region.

The Associated Press

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Boko Haram Terrorist’s Mom expresses sadness that her son “brought many problems to many people”

June 17, 2018

he mother of Nigeria’s Boko Haram leader, the most wanted terrorist in the west African nation, Abubakar Shekau, has reportedly criticised her son saying he has “brought many problems to many people” and she has not seen him in at least 15 years.

According to Voice of America, villagers of Shekau – the insurgent group leader’s home town – in Yobe state confirmed that Falmata Abubakar was the mother of Nigeria’s most wanted man.

Shekau’s father was a local district imam before passing away a few years ago.

Falmata had never spoken to reporters before, and said she was praying to God to show her notorious son the good way.

A screengrab from a video released by the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram and obtained by AFP shows the leader of the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau delivering a speech. (Boko Haram, AFP)

A screengrab from a video released by the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram and obtained by AFP shows the leader of the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau delivering a speech. (Boko Haram, AFP)

She said her son left the village as a young man to study Islam in Maiduguri – the epicentre of the group’s insurgent – where he met Boko Haram’s founding leader Muhammed Yusuf, who ensured that he did not return home.

‘For 15 years I haven’t seen him’

“I don’t know if he’s alive or dead. I don’t know. It’s only God who knows. For 15 years I haven’t seen him. Since Shekau met with Mohammed Yusuf, I didn’t see him again. Yes, he’s my son and every mother loves her son, but we have different characters,” Falmata was quoted as saying.

“He brought a lot of problem too many people. Where can I meet him to tell him that these things he is doing are very bad? He brought many problems to many people, but I am praying for God to show him the good way,”

According to BBC, Boko Haram was one of the most deadly terror groups that was formed to fight against Nigeria’s government in 2009, with the aim of establishing an Islamic caliphate in west Africa.

The group was mainly focused in north-eastern Nigeria, the Lake Chad region and has reportedly left more than 20 000 people dead, with some two million displaced.

Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group (ISIS) in March 2015.

In August 2016, the group apparently split, with an ISIS video announcing that Shekau had been replaced by Abu Musab al-Barnawi the son of Boko Haram’s founder.

Nigeria wants to stop being lax about tax

May 27, 2018

Paying income tax used to be a joke in Nigeria which, no wonder, has the worst tax to GDP ratio in sub-Saharan Africa.

As one banking executive put it: “In Nigeria, the government pretends to tax people and people pretend to pay. That’s the Nigerian social contract.”

But these days it’s no laughing matter, as an ambitious government scheme designed to make the executive class pay up draws to a close.

Millions of people for the first time are now coughing up taxes as President Muhammadu Buhari’s government conducts one of the country’s most vigorous collection drives in years.

The money is desperately needed. Widening Nigeria’s tax base will help boost non-oil revenue in Africa’s largest economy, which is limping out of its worst recession in 25 years.

© AFP / by Stephanie FINDLAY | A man wearing a t-shirt that says “Pay Your Tax” in Nigeria, where tax is no longer a laughing matter

And Nigeria has a long way to go. Its current tax-to-gross domestic product ratio is just 5.9 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund.

In Lagos alone, there are 6,800 millionaires and 360 multi-millionaires, according to a 2017 report by AfrAsia Bank. But top earners hardly lead by example.

In 2016, just 241 people paid more than 20 million naira ($55,600, 47,400 euros) in personal income taxes, the Nigerian finance ministry reported.

– Plug leaks –

It’s not hard to see why Nigerians would be reluctant to pay tax to fund public services, when there has been no visible return.

Infrastructure in most cities is disintegrating. Roads between states are crumbling. People pay for their own electricity and water.

Endemic corruption is partly to blame, said the Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II, one of Nigeria’s leading Islamic figures who served as central bank governor in the previous administration.

“Improving transparency and public financial management is critical to improving revenues,” he said this week at a meeting of the African Development Bank Group in South Korea.

“Make sure the taxes actually get into the government’s pockets and you don’t have all these leakages.”

Though difficult, tax reform isn’t impossible in Nigeria.

Lagos state, home to the country’s commercial capital, has successfully mobilised a tax base whose contributions represent over a third of internally generated revenue collected in all Nigeria’s 36 states, said transparency organisation BudgIT.

That has allowed it to finance a growing number of projects, including a cable-stayed bridge linking the upmarket neighbourhoods of Ikoyi and Lekki that is now a city landmark.

– Tax awareness –

Buhari, who is seeking re-election at polls next February, wants to double the tax-to-GDP ratio by 2020.

To do that, his finance minister Kemi Adeosun has followed in the footsteps of Turkey and Indonesia and launched a tax amnesty programme.

The Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) has a two-part strategy.

First, it offers Nigerians a period of grace to regularise their tax affairs or else face a prison term of up to five years, financial penalties and possible forfeiture of assets.

Second, it uses data to link land registry records and tax receipts to root out defaulters.

The government enlisted the help of international asset recovery firm Kroll to troll bureau de change networks, WikiLeaks and even the Panama Papers to identify negligent high net worth individuals.

The programme was launched in June last year, with the government declaring every Thursday “tax awareness day”.

Tax officers were stationed at airports and a massive digital billboard advertising of the scheme flashed over the Lekki bridge toll gate in Lagos — a not-so-subtle threat to the denizens of the affluent suburb.

In May, Adeosun — a former chartered accountant and auditor with PricewaterhouseCoopers in London — said Nigeria’s tax base had risen from 14 million people in 2016 to 19 million in 2018.

– ‘Name and shame’ –

But Adeosun’s promise to “name, shame and prosecute” defaulters lost some bite after the government pushed back the closing date by three months, from March 31 to June 30.

Still, those familiar with the programme say that it is well on track to deliver on its target of more than one billion dollars.

That amount may be modest but it’s a step in the right direction, said Yomi Olugbenro, West Africa tax specialist at Deloitte in Lagos.

There’s something to be said for launching the scheme, which “definitely has more people talking about taxation”, he said.

The key is to make sure the amnesty programme is built upon in the future and isn’t just a once-off windfall. Otherwise Nigerians will revert to old habits.

“It’s a chicken and egg thing,” Olugbenro said. “The government will tell you, ‘We need the money to provide all things that aren’t there’.

“Taxpayers are saying, ‘I need to be convinced’.”

by Stephanie FINDLAY
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Amnesty accuses Nigerian troops of raping women rescued from Boko Haram

May 26, 2018

Displaced women in a camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria's Borno State on 22 February 2018.

Story highlights

  • Amnesty International: Five women allegedly raped by soldiers in Bama displacement camp between 2014 and 2015
  • Nigerian military says it hasn’t deployed troops to displacement camps

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) — Women and girls who have fled terrorist group Boko Haram are being raped by Nigerian soldiers, starved and forced to exchange food for sex, according to claims in a new report by human rights group Amnesty International.

Thousands of these women have died because of lack of food in camps for internally displaced people in Nigeria’s northeast after they were rescued from Boko Haram, Amnesty says.
In the report titled “They betrayed us,” it is alleged that five women said they were raped by soldiers in late 2015 and early 2016 in a displacement camp in Bama, Borno state.

‘Boko Haram wives’

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Women interviewed by Amnesty said they were beaten and called “Boko Haram wives” by security officials whenever they complained about their treatment.
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The report says that members of the Nigerian military and a local vigilante group Civilian Joint Task Force (Civilian JTF) “separated women from their husbands and confined them in remote ‘satellite camps’ where they were raped, sometimes in exchange for food.”
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Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses, hat and closeup

Muhammadu Buhari — Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari was the first president from sub-Saharan Africa to visit Donald Trump’s White House

Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

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Ten women in the Bama camp told Amnesty they were forced to date security officials to get food. One woman said a member of the JTF vigilante group raped her after he brought her food, telling her: “I gave you these things, if you want them, we have to be husband and wife.”
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“Sex in these highly coercive circumstances is always rape, even when physical force is not used, and Nigerian soldiers and civilian JTF members have been getting away it,” Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria said.
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“They act like they don’t risk sanction, but the perpetrators and their superiors who have allowed this to go unchallenged have committed crimes under international law and must be held to account.”
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Deadly terror group

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Boko Haram, described as the third deadliest terror group by the Global Terrorism Index, has unleashed waves of brutal attacks across parts of northern Nigeria, bombing schools, churches and mosques and kidnapping women and children in a conflict that spans nearly a decade.
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The conflict has killed thousands of people and also internally displaced two million people, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
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However, the Nigerian army claims it has technically defeated Boko Haram and retaken territories seized by the militant group in the northeast.
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Members of its troops recently rescued 1,000 hostages, mostly women and children, from the militant’s camps in Borno State, it said.
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Hundreds of women along with their children have been held in overcrowded centers in northern Nigeria since 2015.
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Amnesty said it had collected evidence that thousands of people have starved to death in displacement camps since 2015.
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In the report, the women alleged that 15 to 30 people died each day between 2015 and 2016 due to lack of food in these camps.
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The human rights group said satellite images of an expanding graveyard in one of the camps during the time confirmed their testimonies.
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In a 2016 report, another rights group, Human Rights Watch, said it had documented 43 cases of sexual violence against women by soldiers in displacement camps in northern Nigeria, forcing the Nigeria government to investigate.
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Propaganda

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Nigerian army spokesman John Agim denied the allegations in the Amnesty report, branding them “propaganda.”
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He said the army hasn’t been deployed to displacement camps, which he said are run by the police, local vigilante groups and NGOs. “I wonder where Amnesty interviewed women who said they saw soldiers in these camps hoarding food and raping women?” Agim asked.
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Agim accused the human rights group of republishing claims that had been investigated by the Nigerian government and had been found to be false.
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“Amnesty wrote the same allegations in a report in 2015 and it was investigated then and found not to be true. Why are they presenting them in 2018 after investigations? It is all propaganda and when they continue to propagate these reports, it assumes the property of truth when its not refuted,” Agim told CNN.
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“Amnesty does not want our war against terrorism to finish; the Nigerian military maintains this position,” he said. “Their reports on human right violations is to stop the selling of weapons to the Nigerian military by the American government and others and that approach is not working.”
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“The Nigerian army just rescued 1,000 Boko Haram captives, that is a good development, why is it not reflected in the report if they are being fair?” Agim added.
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Broken promises

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For it’s part, Amnesty said there has been “no tangible action to address the problem and no one appeared to have been brought to justice,” despite promises by the Nigerian government to investigate reports of alleged abuse in these camps since 2015.
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“It is absolutely shocking that people who had already suffered so much under Boko Haram have been condemned to further horrendous abuse by the Nigerian military,” Amnesty’s Ojigho, said.
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The organization called on the Nigerian government to make public the findings from a panel investigating the military’s compliance with human rights provisions set up by Vice President Yemi Osibanjo.
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Many women had testified before the panel whose report was submitted to Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari in February, the human rights group said.
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“Now is the time for President Buhari to demonstrate his frequently expressed commitment to protect the human rights of displaced people in north-east Nigeria. The only way to end these horrific violations is by ending the climate of impunity in the region and ensuring that no one can get away with rape or murder,” Ojigho added.
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“The Nigerian authorities must investigate or make public their previous investigations on war crimes and crimes against humanity in the northeast,” she added.
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‘Lacking credibility’

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The Nigerian government told CNN the military had found cases of abuse in these camps during the period mentioned in Amnesty’s report in 2015, countering the army spokesman’s claims that the allegations were investigated and found not to be true.
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“Over this period of time, the Nigerian military had indeed established cases of abuse and punishments meted out from orderly room trials and court martials that included the losses of rank, dismissals, and trials and convictions by civil courts,” Garba Shehu, a spokesman for the president, told CNN.
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However, Shehu echoed the Army spokesman’s claims and accused Amnesty of “recycling” claims from a previous report.
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Amnesty’s report lacked “credibility, falling vehemently short of evidential narration,” from victims by failing to address mechanisms put in place by the military and the president’s panel after similar allegations were published in 2015, he said.
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The Nigerian government was committed to investigating “all documented cases of human rights abuses,” Shehu added.
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BBC News
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How Trump stirred controversy in Nigeria

  • 1 May 2018

Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari

Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari became the first president from sub-Saharan Africa to visit Donald Trump’s White House on Monday. But even after they neatly avoided Mr Trump’s alleged comments about “shithole” African countries, the US president managed to stir controversy in Nigeria, writes the BBC’s Stephanie Hegarty from Lagos.

Perhaps warning bells rang when Mr Trump started off asking Mr Buhari how he was getting on with “that Boca Haram”, a reference to militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

But then again, maybe that slip of the tongue was predictable.

Less so was what he said next, as the former reality television star weighed in on the conflict between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria’s Middle Belt – or the way in which he would frame it.

“We have had very serious problems with Christians who are being murdered in Nigeria,” Mr Trump said. “We are going to be working on that problem very, very hard because we cannot allow that to happen.”

‘Genocide’?

The US president showed little understanding of a very complicated and intensely politicised crisis – one which has a battle between nomadic cattle herders and settled farmer over access to land and grazing rights at its centre.

But perhaps it should not come as any surprise. Mr Trump has always been quick to jump to the defence of Christians in conflicts such as Syria and Iraq and comments like this play well to his base among Evangelical Christians in the US.

But his point of view also plays into popular feeling among some Nigerian Christian groups.

Coffins arrive at Ibrahim Babanginda Square in the Benue State capital Makurdi, on January 11, 2018Image copyright AFP
Deadly clashes between herdsmen and farmers have raised tensions in Nigeria

It is a widely touted refrain that the conflict between farmers and herdsmen constitutes a “genocide against Christians”.

It is hard to support this claim with any fact: there have been many killings on both sides in this conflict.

But the recent attack on a Catholic church by suspected Fulani herdsmen and the murder of 17 people, including two priests, have added fuel to the flames of those who want to frame the conflict in this way.

After that attack a priest in the area told the BBC he was doing what he could do prevent young Christian men from his parish launching random reprisal attacks on Muslims. Clearly then, Mr Trump’s words then make for dangerous rhetoric.

But many Christian leaders have taken to mainstream and social media to push this narrative, jumping upon Mr Trump’s comments as a kind of vindication of their own claims.

In response, Nigerian Muslim advocacy groups have criticised his comments.

In a statement, the director of the Muslim Rights Concern, Ishaq Akintola, said they were “prejudiced, parochial and unpresidential” and claimed that Mr Trump “is luring Nigerian Christians into bolder confrontation with Muslims”.

With elections due in February 2019, there is an intensely political side to all of this. President Buhari has announced his intention to re-run for office. He is a Muslim and a Hausa-Fulani.

Much of the conversation on this crisis falls along these ethnic and political lines – Christian vs Muslim; Hausa-Fulani vs everyone else. In reality, the conflict falls along lines that are much less easily defined.

US President Donald Trump and Nigeria"s President Muhammadu Buhari take part in a joint press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 30, 2018 in Washington, DC.Image copyright  AFP
President Muhammadu Buhari thanked Mr Trump for inviting him to the White House

During the press conference, Mr Buhari was quick to deflect the Christian comment.

He immediately reframed the question to address a conflict between farmers and herdsmen, saying: “The problem of cattle herders is a very long historical problem. Before now, cattle herders were known to carry sticks and machetes… but these ones are carrying AK-47s.”

As he has in the past, he went on to explain what is happening as a consequence of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s arming of “mercenaries”.

Mr Buhari claimed they are now returning to West Africa and causing trouble.

Whether Gaddafi’s former soldiers are responsible for this crisis or not, there is a point to be made here. Since the crisis in Libya began, guns have been flooding into West Africa through the Sahel – just as migrants have been rushing in the other direction.

Last year, the Director of UN’s Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Africa said 70% of the illegal small arms imported to West Africa end up in Nigeria, according to PRI Nigeria.

But if Mr Buhari felt any exasperation at Mr Trump’s unexpected comments, it was quickly brushed under the carpet.

Despite the rhetoric which does little to promote peace in Nigeria’s central region, the two leaders came across as firm friends.

Instead, in true Trump style, the two men patted each other on the back over a recent “deal”: the sale of 12 US military aircraft to Nigeria.

And another bone of contention was artfully avoided – Mr Trump’s allegedly ungracious comments in January comparing African countries to a toilet.

While many Nigerians had hoped their president would take Mr Trump to task, Mr Buhari admitted he did not bring it up.

Instead, Mr Buhari, standing in the Rose Garden, reiterated his deep appreciation for the invitation. He seemed to shrink into the background as Mr Trump took centre stage, complimenting Nigeria as a beautiful country and professing his desire to visit Africa’s most populous state.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-43964932

Boko Haram: Security fears keep kidnapped schoolgirls at home

May 22, 2018

Hundreds of girls have refused to return to their school in northeast Nigeria because of security fears following a mass kidnapping by Boko Haram jihadists, parents and teachers said on Tuesday.

Jihadists stormed the Government Girls Technical College in Dapchi on February 19, seizing 111 schoolgirls in a carbon copy of the abduction in Chibok in 2014 that caused global outrage.

All but six of the Dapchi girls were returned to the school just over a month later. Five died in captivity while the only Christian among them is still being held.

Image result for Boko Haram girls, photos

The school re-opened on April 30 but one teacher, who asked not to be identified for fear of official sanctions, said most pupils have stayed away because they were still afraid.

“We have a total student population of 989, and out of that number only 314 have resumed after we reopened. Of the 314 that returned, 299 are writing their final examinations and will be leaving school in July,” he said.

“So, technically, we can say only 15 students have resumed, who will be continuing their education here.”

Bashir Manzo, who headed the abducted girls’ parents association, said children were being kept at home because of a lack of security personnel.

“There are only a handful of soldiers and vigilantes guarding the school, not more than 25 in all, a number grossly inadequate to protect our daughters,” he told AFP.

“We believe even the 15 girls that returned will go back home once their seniors finish their examinations and leave.”

The education commissioner for Yobe state, Mohammed Lamin, angrily dismissed parents’ concerns and said “everything humanly possible” had been done to make the school safe.

“We deployed soldiers, police, civil defence paramilitary and vigilantes to the school providing security 24 hours,” he said.

“How can they say security is inadequate? Do they have such level of security in their homes?”

– Lax security –

Security has been an issue in Dapchi since it emerged that soldiers had been withdrawn before the kidnapping and claims that warnings about Boko Haram’s arrival went unheeded.

Some children who escaped the abduction vowed never to return.

Another parent, Kachalla Bukar, said there were now even fewer troops in the remote town, which lies some 100 kilometres (62.5 miles) north of the state capital, Damaturu.

“The route through which the kidnappers came in and out of the town is still without military or police presence,” he said. “This route leads up to Chad.”

The state government’s failure to show sympathy and provide moral support to families of the abducted schoolgirls had not inspired confidence, he added.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari had visited the town but as yet, there had been no condolences sent from the state government to the families of the girls who died or support for the remaining girl in captivity, he alleged.

Parents had expected improved security measures, including raising the school’s low perimeter wall, said Bukar.

– Married off –

The Boko Haram conflict has destroyed schools across northeast Nigeria, which had poor levels of education even before the conflict began in 2009, particularly among girls.

Last September, the UN children’s charity UNICEF said more than 2,295 teachers had been killed and 19,000 displaced while nearly 1,4000 schools have been destroyed.

Manzo said UNICEF secured admission for 20 of the abducted girls into Tulip International College, a Turkish-run private school.

Parents of the other girls were left to try to get them admission into other public secondary schools in the state but without success.

Bukar said parents were losing faith with the authorities.

“This leaves many parents with no option but to marry off their daughters because they have no means of taking them to schools outside the state,” he said

“From reports at our disposal six girls have so far being married off because their parents have lost interest in sending them to school,” Manzo said.

Four of the students writing their final examinations who refused to return to the school could also be joining them, he indicated.

(AFP)

Tackle Lake Chad environment to stop Boko Haram: experts

May 9, 2018

Revitalising Lake Chad will stop Boko Haram from gaining a long-term foothold in the region, experts said on Wednesday, as four countries wrapped up talks aimed at ending in the conflict.

© AFP/File / by Aminu ABUBAKAR | An aerial picture of Lake Chad, around 200kms from Chad capital city N’Djamena in 2016

AFP

The insurgency began in 2009 and has killed at least 20,000 in northeast Nigeria alone, spreading to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, prompting a regional military response.

But 11 governors from four countries surrounding the lake plus local and international aid agencies were told that fighting alone would not stop the conflict.

“The whole of the Boko Haram problem has its roots in the drying of the lake, which has left millions with no means of livelihood,” said Mamman Nuhu, executive secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Development Commission.

“Poverty has no frontier, the people around Lake Chad face the same challenges,” he told AFP on the sidelines of the Lake Chad Governors’ Forum in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria.

“Once the lake is restored, the Boko Haram problem will permanently be taken care of.”

Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for West Africa and the Sahel, said the shrinking of most of the lake’s surface was one of the main causes of poverty.

“It is a major factor for the lack of jobs and other employment opportunities for young people, which makes the region a fertile recruitment ground for terrorists,” he added.

– ‘Huge task’ –

The freshwater lake and its fertile hinterland once provided a living for fishermen and farmers but in the last 40 years has seen a staggering 90 percent of its surface area shrink.

Climate change and mismanagement have been blamed.

Loss of employment opportunities, a lack of access to education, poor governance and corruption has fostered resentment, anger and a desire to fight back.

Boko Haram tapped into such disaffection with the promise of financial rewards in a largely lawless region where drugs and arms flowed through porous borders.

In February, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria met in Abuja to discuss with international experts and development agencies how to salvage the lake.

One plan mooted was the revival of a project to dig a 2,600-kilometre (1,600 mile) canal from the Democratic Republic of Congo across the Central African Republic.

The canal would meet the Chari River that feeds into the lake.

Proponents say it also could attract back cattle herders whose migration further south because of desertification has led to clashes with farmers.

The flow of migrants from Africa to Europe could also slow, they argued.

Some estimates put the cost of the project as much as $14 billion (12 billion euros) but the governor of Niger’s Diffa region, Bakabe Mahamadou, said there was a lack of funds.

“We don’t have the money to execute this project, it is a huge task that will take years to accomplish,” he added.

– Security concerns –

Efforts to tackle the source of radicalisation in the northeast have been floated before, not least in 2014 at the height of the insurgency under president Goodluck Jonathan.

Then, the government proposed a “soft-power” plan to encourage local communities to shun extremism as well as “de-radicalise” suspected militants.

The plan, widely praised by analysts tracking the conflict, was seen as a recognition that military might alone was not enough, particularly against Boko Haram’s guerilla tactics.

As the conference opened on Tuesday, two female suicide bombers were shot dead in a botched attack on a mosque in the Jiddari Polo area of Maiduguri.

But even if funding was not an issue, implementation of any environmental scheme for Lake Chad would have to take a back seat initially to security operations.

According to the commander of the Multi-National Joint Task Force, Major-General Lucky Irabor, military action was targeting Boko Haram on the islands of Lake Chad.

“The security situation within the Lake Chad basin is improving… we want to return civil authority to the area so that we can bring concrete development to the people,” he said.

by Aminu ABUBAKAR

Nigeria military rescues 1,000 Boko Haram hostages

May 8, 2018

More than 1,000 people held captive by the militant group Boko Haram have been freed, according to Nigeria’s military. Most were women and children, although some men who were forced to be fighters were also rescued.

    
Nigerian soldiers man a checkpoint in Gwoza, Nigeria in April 2015 (picture-alliance/dpa)

Over 1,000 Boko Haram hostages in northeastern Nigeria have been freed, military spokesman Brigadier General Texas Chukwu said on Monday.

Although Nigeria’s military has attempted to rescue captives of the jihadist group before, many remain missing — including some of the school girls abducted from Chibok in 2014.

Read moreBoko Haram has abducted over 1,000 kids since 2013: UN

What we know

  • Mostly women and children were rescued, but some men who had been forced to fight for Boko Haram were rescued as well.
  • The rescues were carried out in four villages in the Bama area of Nigeria’s northeastern Borno State.
  • The military spokesman did not say when the rescues took place or over what period of time.
  • Nigeria’s military and the Multinational Joint Task Force — comprised of troops from Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin — took part in the rescues.

Read moreNigeria fails to protect schools from Boko Haram’s attacks

What is Boko Haram? The extremist group’s name roughly translates to “Western education is forbidden.” They are mostly active in northeastern Nigeria where they carry out kidnappings and suicide bomb attacks. Over 20,000 people have been killed during the group’s nine-year insurgency and 2.5 million people have fled the region.

Missing schoolgirls: In 2014,Boko Haram militants kidnapped 200 school girls from the town of Chibok, prompting international condemnation. Although some of the girls have been rescued, other victims remain missing. In February, around 110 girls in the town of Dapchi were kidnapped by Boko Haram but most were later released. The Nigerian government denies paying a ransom in exchange for the missing girls.

President under pressure: Despite repeatedly declaring that Boko Haram has been defeated, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is facing increasing pressure over the group’s ongoing attacks and abductions. Buhari vowed to combat the Islamic extremist group prior to his 2015 election win. He’s up for re-election next year.

rs/kms (AP, dpa)

Nigeria: Suicide bombers kill dozens in blasts at Mubi mosque

May 2, 2018

Police say dozens of people were killed in an attack on a mosque in northern Nigeria. Many are blaming the extremist group Boko Haram, though police have not formally speculated as to the motive for the attack.

Nigerian army in Mubi

Dozens of people died on Tuesday when two suicide bombers detonated their explosives at a mosque and a market in Mubi, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) by road from Yola in northeast Nigeria.

Abdullahi Yerima, police commissioner in Adamawa state, said a suicide bomber had struck at the mosque shortly after 1 p.m. (1200 UTC) and a second attacker detonated a device about 200 meters (660 feet) away as worshippers fled. Bomb squads and security personnel have cordoned off the scene.

Nigeria

Striking health workers returned to the hospital to attend to the victims. “We have evacuated dozens of dead and injured people to the hospital,” Habu Saleh, who was volunteering in the aftermath of the explosion, told the news agency AFP. “And the rescue operation is still ongoing.”

Read more: Fighting Boko Haram with bows and arrows

Boko Haram, which briefly held control of Mubi in 2014 as part of its nine-year insurgency, has repeatedly targeted the town with deadly attacks. The fighting has left more than 20,000 people dead and forced about 2 million to flee their homes nationwide. On Thursday, the group carried out an attack in Maiduguri, the capital of the neighboring Borno state, that killed four people.

On November 21, a suicide bomber killed at least 50 people in a mosque during early morning prayers in the Unguwar Shuwa area of Mubi. In 2014, about 40 football supporters died in a bomb attack after a match in the Kabang area of the town. At least 40 people died in a 2012 attack on student housing in Mubi widely blamed on Boko Haram.

mkg/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP)

Nigeria bans codeine cough syrups over addiction fears

May 2, 2018

Nigeria has banned cough syrups containing the painkiller codeine because of concern about misuse and addiction, the government said.

Health Minister Isaac Adewole said the ban was introduced because of “the gross abuse codeine usage has been subjected to in the country.”

AFP

The announcement late on Tuesday followed a BBC investigation into the illicit sale of the medicine to young people and the dangers of addiction.

But Adewole said in a statement the new measures were the result of recommendations by a working committee set up in January to look into the misuse of prescription drugs.

 

Security personnel keep watch as fire guts hard drugs seized by Nigeria’s anti-narcotics agency on December 6, 2013. Drug abuse has been on the rise in recent years, with the use of codeine-laced cough syrups and other more unconventional drugs such as solvents has been attributed to poverty and other social issues in the African country. (AFP)

The ban applies to all “sales of codeine containing cough syrup without prescription across the country,” he said.

No new import permits for codeine as an ingredient for cough syrups will be issued, and new applications for and renewals of licenses of syrups containing it have been scrapped, he said.

“Codeine-containing cough syrups should be replaced with dextromethorphan which is less addictive,” Adewole said in the directive.

He also ordered government agencies to increase vigilance around abuse of other medication such as tramadol, a powerful pain killer popular with jihadists such as Boko Haram.

Nigerian customs officers have made a number of seizures of the drug in recent months, after a UN Office on Drugs and Crime warning that non-medical use of the synthetic opioid was rising.

Increased use of codeine-laced cough syrups and other more unconventional drugs such as solvents has been attributed to poverty and other social issues, including high unemployment.

Boko Haram Offshoot Winning “Hearts and Minds” in Nigeria — Islamic State in West Africa Is On The Rise

April 30, 2018

Digging wells, giving out seeds and fertilizer and providing safe pasture for herders are among the inducements offered by Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), which split from Nigeria’s Boko Haram in 2016.

Image may contain: people sitting, tree, outdoor, water and nature

FILE PHOTO: Men on camels cross the water as a woman washes clothes in Lake Chad in Ngouboua, January 19, 2015. REUTERS/Emmanuel Braun/File PhotoREUTERS

BY PAUL CARSTEN AND Ahmed Kingimi

ABUJA/MAIDUGURI (Reuters) – From the shores of Lake Chad, Islamic State’s West African ally is on a mission: winning over the local people.

Digging wells, giving out seeds and fertilizer and providing safe pasture for herders are among the inducements offered by Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), which split from Nigeria’s Boko Haram in 2016.

“If you are a herder, driver or trader, they won’t touch you – just follow their rules and regulations governing the territory,” said a herder, who moves cattle in and out of ISWA territory and whose identity Reuters is withholding for his safety. “They don’t touch civilians, just security personnel.”

The campaign, which has created an economy for ISWA to tax, is part of the armed insurgent group’s push to control territory in northeastern Nigeria and in Niger.

ISWA stretches farther and is more entrenched than officials have acknowledged, according to witnesses, people familiar with the insurgency, researchers and Western diplomats who have for the first time provided details of the group’s growing efforts to establish a form of administration in the Lake Chad area.

A map produced by the U.S. development agency in February and seen by Reuters shows how ISWA territory extends more than 100 miles into the northeastern Nigerian states of Borno and Yobe, where government has in many areas all but vanished after a decade of conflict.

The Islamists have not been defeated, as Nigeria says, and researchers say ISWA, less extreme than Boko Haram, has evolved into the dominant group. The U.S. map paints a similar picture, with ISWA operating in much of Borno.

“Islamic State has a terrible reputation for being so brutal around the world, and people can’t imagine an Islamic State faction could be more moderate (than Boko Haram),” said Jacob Zenn, of The Jamestown Foundation in Washington D.C.

The Lake Chad countries – Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon – have long neglected the region, allowing ISWA to create a stronghold from which to launch attacks. Its gains contrast with setbacks for Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

It makes sense for ISWA to organize the local economy and raise taxes, said Vincent Foucher, who studies Boko Haram at the French National Centre for Science Research.

“It opens the longer game of trying to create a connection to people,” he said, adding that if ISWA succeeds it may become a greater threat than Boko Haram.

In 2015, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to finish off Boko Haram. Officials maintain this has been achieved, although the conflict continues into its tenth year. A presidency spokesman declined to comment for this story.

“THEY ARE NOT A GOVERNMENT”

Analysts estimate that ISWA has 3,000-5,000 fighters, about double Boko Haram’s strength. But ISWA’s territory is not completely secure. The Nigerian air force often bombs, and troops from Lake Chad countries attack the insurgents’ domain around its shores and islands.

Nigeria’s armed forces “just see them as Boko Haram,” said Brigadier General John Agim, spokesman for the Nigerian military, at a briefing. “We are not interested in the faction, what has that got to do with it?”

“They are not a government, they kidnap girls from schools,” Agim told Reuters in a separate interview.

The military has announced an operation “to totally destroy Boko Haram locations in the Lake Chad Basin” – ISWA’s domain – and end the insurgency within four months.

But ISWA has so far proven intractable in its Lake Chad bases, where troops have been unable to make effective inroads, according to a Western diplomat who follows the group. The Nigerian military had “completely lost the initiative against the insurgency,” they said.

The diplomat said ISWA was ready to cede less important areas because the military cannot hold them. “However, they maintain absolute control over the islands and immediate areas near them where they train, live, etc.”

The U.S., British and French militaries are helping regional governments with intelligence and training. Western officials declined, or did not respond to, requests for comment.

ISWA protects locals from Boko Haram, something Nigeria’s army cannot always do. That, according to one of the people with knowledge of the insurgency, has won the group local backing and eroded support for the military.

ISWA is led by Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the son of Boko Haram’s founder, Muhammed Yusuf, whose killing by police in 2009 sparked an Islamist insurgency in Nigeria that, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, has so far cost more than 34,000 lives.

ISWA’s leaders are low-profile, not appearing in videos or claiming responsibility for attacks, possibly to avoid the international media, and the ire of regional governments. Reuters was unable to contact the group for comment.

This contrasts with the wholesale violence of Boko Haram under the publicity-hungry Abubakar Shekau, who has executed even close lieutenants. His group has strapped suicide bombs to women and children to attack civilians in mosques, markets and refugee camps.

SPIES EVERYWHERE

Boko Haram and ISWA are bloody rivals, but some travelers in ISWA territory feel safer than elsewhere in Nigeria’s northeast.

“They have checkpoints for stop and search, and if you are a regular visitor they know you,” said a second herder, adding that ISWA has spies everywhere, including informers who alert them to military attacks.

He described seeing Islamic State’s black flags and said preachers were used to win people over.

Under ISWA, men must wear long beards, night-time movements are restricted, and prayers are compulsory, the herder said. Offenders can get 40 lashes.

The herders said ISWA provides safe grazing for about 2,500 naira ($8) a cow and 1,500 naira ($5) for smaller animals. ISWA also runs slaughterhouses for the cattle, taking a cut for each animal, as well as from other activities like gathering firewood.

SUPPLY AND DEMAND

Maiduguri is the biggest city in Nigeria’s northeast, the center of the military’s fight against Boko Haram.

But rural areas largely remain no-go zones for the authorities. It is there that ISWA is making its mark, offering people protection, particularly from Boko Haram.

“Al-Barnawi is sending people into IDP (displaced persons) camps to encourage people to return and farm, and the people are,” said a person with knowledge of ISWA’s activities.

The person said Nigeria’s military plays into the insurgents’ hands by shutting down markets to deny supplies to the group, while ISWA encourages business.

“They are friendly and nice to those who come to the area, while they indoctrinate other people and sometimes they bring motorcycles for those who want to join them,” a charcoal maker said.

DISTANT RELATIONS

Despite its name, experts believe ISWA’s ties to Islamic State in the Middle East are limited.

“What’s clear from ISWA primary source documents is that ISWA has asked IS for theological guidance on who it is lawful to attack,” said Zenn. Daily activities, including military operations, are left to its own leaders, he said.

Others say the insurgency lacks the broader appeal of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“ISWA is the largest IS affiliate, but it’s very much a Nigerian organization. It doesn’t have foreign fighters coming, it’s hard to get to this place,” said the Western diplomat.

What fighters it does have can carry out targeted attacks, including the February kidnapping of 100 schoolgirls from the town of Dapchi, most later released without explanation, and a deadly raid on a Nigerian military base in March.

But ISWA faces a dilemma: while wooing the population, it has harshly punished those who resist it, for example massacring dozens of fishermen last August, and this could hurt its standing with local people.

“It’s important not to paint too rosy a picture,” said Foucher, the researcher.

For graphic on Islamist insugencies in Nigeria, click: https://tmsnrt.rs/2HJIbje

(Reporting by Paul Carsten in Abuja and Ahmed Kingimi in Maiduguri; Additional reporting by Ola Lanre in Maiduguri; Editing by Giles Elgood)