Monthly Archives: July 2011
On 30 July, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) arrested three men in connection with the trafficking of hard drugs between Nigeria and Malaysia. The three men were arrested at Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, Nigeria’s largest business city.
Two of the men – Sylvester Henry Onovo and Onyedika Emmanuel Ufiri – were arrested while attempting to smuggle 2.575kg of methamphetamine to Malaysia.
Onovo 26, an auto parts dealer at Ladipo auto parts market, Lagos, had ingested 67 wraps of methamphetamine weighing 1.275kg. Ufiri, 36, a trader at the Trade Fair Complex, also in Lagos, ingested 77 wraps of methamphetamine weighing 1.300kg.
The third suspect, Nnamdi John Kingsley, 31, was nabbed at the Nigeria Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) shed section of the airport, while taking delivery of a 32-inch plasma television imported from Malaysia, which had 1.150kg of heroin concealed inside.
On how and why they got entangled in the narcotics web, each of the arrested persons had a story to tell. Onovo said: “This is my first time of trafficking in narcotics. I did not know the implications. I wanted to use the money to buy spare parts from Malaysia”. Nnamdi Kingsley, who operates a video club on Port Harcourt Road, Aba, Abia State, said his business partners in Malaysia sent the heroin to him because he needed money. In his words: “My business partners sent the drug to me inside the television. They told me to clear the television set and raise money after selling the drug”. The NDLEA officials knew those were obviously fairy tales.
Reacting to the arrests, the Chairman/Chief Executive of the NDLEA, Ahmadu Giade, said his agency was determined to sustain its relentess campaign against drug trafficking in the country, through diligent investigation, arrest, seizure and prosecution of suspects. He said: “We shall continue to arrest drug traffickers, seize their drugs and prosecute them. The Agency will also not relent in anti-drug enlightenment programmes to guide members of the public”.
On 30 July, the Chairperson/Chief Executive Officer of Josepdam Group of Companies, Mrs Josephine Kuteyi, was identified as one of the unfortunate casualties of the helicopter crash in Osun State the previous day, in which three people died.
According to Dr Harold Demuren, Director General of the National Civil Aviation Authority, Mrs Kuteyi, who was on a chartered flight from Lagos to Ilorin, died with her Personal Assistant, Mrs Adedoyin Ogunbanjo and the Filipino pilot of the aircraft.
Until her tragic death, Mrs Kuteyi, aged 57, was an astute businesswoman. She was presiding over the Lagos-based Josepdam Group of Companies, a diversified conglomerate with interests in port operations (including bulk and general cargo handling), real estate, logistics, agro-allied services as well as sugar manufacturing, refining, packaging and distribution.
In 2006, Josepdam successfully bidded for, and acquired, the moribund Nigerian Sugar Company (NISUCO), at a cost of about 40 million USD, giving birth to the group’s sugar company, Josepdam Sugar Company Limited, based in Bacita, Kwara State. Industry sources said Mrs Kuteyi’s business acumen transformed the old dying company, bringing it back to good health.
The cause of the crash is not yet known. Demuren said the aircraft, with registration 5N-BKA belonging to OAS Helicopter Services, was flying very low before it crashed into very high hills. Mr. Ishaya Isah Choloko, South West Zonal Coordinator, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said poor visibility in bad weather as well as the difficult terrain of the area might have contributed to the accident. The spokesman for the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Mr Tunji Oketunbi, said the bureau had commenced investigations and that the public would be updated in due course.
The Osun State governor, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, expressed deep regret and offered condolences to the families of the victims. The Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah-Ogiewonyi, also issued a statement expressing sadness over the incident and condoling with the victims’ families.
Reports said the remains of the victims had been collected by Mrs Kuteyi’s husband and taken to Lagos.
Mrs Kuteyi was, until her death, a senior pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). She was also a philanthropist, and one church member described her as “exuberant, with a heart that had room for everyone”.
[1. This is an updated version of our initial report, published shortly after the bodies were recovered].
2. See also our earlier report on the crash, titled: “Helicopter crash kills three in Osun State: Bodies recovered”, also published on this website].
On 29 July, a helicopter crashed killing three people, near Ife-Odan in Osun State. The three casualties were the male pilot and two women.
The aircraft, rented from OAS Helicopter Services Nigeria, a leading private charter services provider, was flying from Lagos to Ilorin, Kwara State. Yushau Shuaib, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said it crashed in a very hilly area, “on a hilltop more than 1,000 feet above sea level”. The cause of the crash is not yet known, but NEMA officials say they suspect poor visibility could have been a factor.
It took till early the next morning before rescue workers were able to reach the wreakage. The workers said their efforts were impeded by the difficulty of the terrain, as the crash site was inaccessible to emergency response vans or even motorcycles.
Shuaib said the search was further slowed by the fact that a device, the emergency locator beacon, which could have sent a distress signal to NEMA’s Mission Control Centre (MCC) had not been activated when the helicopter crashed. This is the second incident in which the device was not activated – in the first incident on 24 May, a Beechcraft crashed in Kaduna killing its two crew members.
Shuaib said NEMA’s Director General, Mr Mohammed Sani-Sidi, will be convening a meeting of all airline and aircraft operators to discuss the use of the device, next week.
[Please see also our follow-up report titled: Top businesswoman Josephine Kuteyi dies in helicopter crash, also on this website].
On 29 July, a group, Arrive Alive Road Safety Initiative, reported that over 12,000 people die in Nigeria every year, as a result of accidents related to motorcycle taxis, popularly known as Okada. That figure translates to about 33 people killed every day!
Speaking at a road safety campaign programme in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, the Coordinator of the group, Mr. Ike Okonkwo, disclosed that about 30,000 people are also seriously injured by such accidents annually, many of them left with permanent disabilities. He added that over 70,000 families and dependents are also indirectly affected by the accidents annually.
The campaign programme, organized under the theme: “Truck/Motorcycle Safety: A Time for Action”, was intended to sensitise all road users and stakeholders on the need to be cautious and more responsible in their use of roads. Sponsored by Chevron Nigerian Limited in collaboration with the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), it also included the presentation of over 1,000 safety helmets and other safety devices to commercial motorcyclists and motorists.
Urging commercial motorcycle operators to always wear safety helmets, Okonkwo said: “The helmets do not prevent accidents but help protect the Okada riders and passengers from sustaining head injuries that could lead to death”. One road safety consultant said several studies of brain injuries resulting from road accidents suggest that use of helmets could reduce such injuries by up to 85 per cent.
On 29 July, the Federal Government announced the establishment of a Presidential Committee on Security Challenges in the North-East of the country, to be chaired by Ambassador Usman Gaji Galtimari. Among the committee’s terms of reference is to “initiate negotiations” with the militant Islamist group, widely known as Boko Haram.
According to a statement from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), signed by Mr. Dominic Ojeme, the establishment of the Committee follows the meeting which President Goodluck Jonathan and other senior Federal Government officials held with Elders from Borno State and key leaders of the pan-Northern Nigeria organisation, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), on 20th July, 2011.
The chairman and 7 other members of the committee are as follows:
1. Ambassador Usman Gaji Galtimari – Chairman.
2. Alhaji Abdullahi B. Shehu (from Office of the Secretary to the Federal Government – Secretary.
3. Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume (Senator representing Borno South).
4. Mr. Joe-Kyari Gadzama (Legal Practitioner and Senior Advocate of Nigeria).
5. Col. Musa Shehu, Rtd (General Secretary of Arewa Consultative Forum).
6. Sen. Bala Mohammed (Minister of Federal Capital Territory).
7. Dr. Bello H. Mohammed (Minister for Defence).
8. Barr. Emeka Wogu (Minister for Labour and Productivity).
The statement said the Committee is “to look into the security challenges in the zone”. However, it also outlines the Committee’s 5-point Terms of Reference as follows:
a. To review all the issues of security challenges in the zone and proffer solutions/recommendations which would bring a speedy resolution of the crisis;
b. To serve as a liason between the Federal Government (State Government where necessary) and Boko Haram and to initiate negotiations with the sect;
c. To liaise with the National Security Adviser (NSA) to ensure that the security Services discharge their respective assignments with optimal professionalism;
d. To consult with stakeholders from time to time for suggestions and to ascertain the true state of affairs; and
e. To consider any other initiative that will serve to engender enduring peace and security in the area.
The Committee is to be inaugurated on Tuesday, 2 August 2011.
[A PROFILE OF THE COMMITTEE’S CHAIRMAN, AMBASSADOR USMAN GAJI GALTIMARI, IS ALSO PUBLISHED ON THIS WEBSITE]
PROFILE: Ambassador Usman Gaji Galtimari, Chairman, Presidential Committee on Security Challenges in the North-East
Ambassador Usman Gaji Galtimari, the man President Goodluck Jonathan has chosen to lead his government’s engagement with the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, was born in the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, in 1938; but his home base is Galtimari, formerly a village unit of Yerwa district, now a district of its own in the Maiduguri Metropolitan Area.
He started his elementary education in Yerwa Central Elementary School, Maiduguri, in 1947, and moved on Borno Middle School, Maiduguri, in 1951. In 1954, he proceeded to Government College, Maiduguri, where he obtained his West African School Certificate in 1959.
From 1960 to 1961, he was at the Institute of Administration, Zaria. In 1962, he gained admission into Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, to read for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Administration which he obtained in 1965. From 1966 to 1967, he was at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, where he further bagged a Master of Arts in Public and International Affairs (MPIA).
He started his civil service career in April 1960 as Assistant Executive Officer in Training, in the then Northern Nigeria Public Service. In July 1965, after he had obtained his first degree from ABU, he was promoted Administrative Officer Class IV. In the same month, he transferred his service to the Federal Civil Service and served there as an External Affairs Officer till May 1966 when he returned to the Northern Nigeria Civil Service and then proceeded to University of Pittsburgh, USA.
On his return to Nigeria in early 1968, Galtimari took up appointment as a lecturer at ABU. However, in April of the same year, he was redeployed to the then North-Eastern State and posted to Muri Division (Jalingo) as Divisional Officer.
From December 1968 to March 1970, he was the Principal Assistant Secretary in charge of the Local Government Department, in the Office of the Military Governor of the now defunct North-Eastern State. In April 1970, he was promoted to the rank of Under Secretary, Government House, Maiduguri, where he served for over two years.
In September 1972, he was appointed Permanent Secretary, Economic Planning and Political Division, Military Governor’s Office, still in the former North-Eastern State. From August 1975 to April 1976, he was the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning in the state.
In May 1976, he again transferred to the Federal Civil Service where he was appointed Director, National Policy Development Centre (an in-house Think Tank), under the Cabinet Office, in Lagos. By June 1977, he had risen to the rank of Federal Permanent Secretary, first in the Political Department and later in the Public Service Department of the Cabinet Office, still then in Lagos. He was the Federal Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Mines and Power from April 1978 to September 1983, and thereafter Permanent Secretary, Steel Development Department, from October to December 1983.
In January 1984, he was appointed Secretary to the Borno State Government, a post he held till August 1987.
In September 1987, he was appointed by President Ibrahim Babangida as the Ambassador Extra-Ordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to Chad Republic. He served on that post till March 1991.
In May 1991, Ambassador Galtimari voluntarily retired from the Federal Public Service, but that was not to be the end of his involvement with the public service.
In December 1995, the then Head of State, General Sani Abacha appointed him a member representing Borno State on the Federal Character Commission. In February 1998, he was further appointed Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission. He resigned from the chairmanship of the commission in July 2001.
In the course of his public service career, Ambassador Galtimari has served either as chairman or member of many boards and government committees. Among others, he has served as a member of the following: North-Eastern State Consultative Committee; North-Eastern State Local Government Reform Committee; Advisory Board, Institute of Administration, ABU, Zaria; and New Nigeria Development Company, Kaduna. He is also a member, Board of Trustees of the Kanem-Borno Foundation.
He has also served as Chairman of the following: National Youth Service Corps Committee, North-Eastern State; Nigeria Coal Corporation, Enugu; Nigerian Uranium Mining Company, Lagos; Hadejia-Jama’are River Basin Development Authority, Kano; Chad Basin Development Authority, Maiduguri; and the High-Powered Committee on the BluePrint for Enhanced Public Sector in Borno State.
In 2009, after the Boko Haram uprising in July of that year, he was appointed by the then Borno State governor, Ali Modu Sheriff, as Chairman of the Administrative Committee of Inquiry which investigated the crisis in the state, and submitted a detailed report to the state government.
Ambassador Galtimari is married with children.
In recognition of his services to the nation, he was decorated with national honour of ‘Commander of the Order of the Niger’ (CON) by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
On 29 July, six men, identified as politicians, were found unconscious and foaming from the mouth inside a minivan, along Deeper Life Road in Gbagada area of Lagos State. They were rescued by motorcycle taxi operators (known locally as Okada men) and other citizens, while police arrested the driver of the minivan to assist their investigations.
The victims were said to be ward chairmen (grassroot leaders) of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Bariga Local Council Development Area (LCDA) of Lagos State. Police sources said they were returning from Ibafo, Ogun State, where they had been scheduled to hold a meeting with the chairman of Bariga LCDA, Mr. Akeem Omoyele Sulaimon. But the chairman had reportedly phoned them to say the meeting had been called off, as he was attending another important meeting at the same time.
It is not yet clear what happened thereafter, but the ward chairmen appeared to have been either drugged or poisoned, before they got unto the minivan in which they were found.
However, the tide bagan to turn towards their rescue, when the minivan (a Nissan Quest van marked LT 286 AAA) knocked down an Okada man at Gbagada roundabout.
As the man who was driving them sped off, showing no concern for the Okada operator he had hit, other motorcyclists gave him a hot chase until a commuter service bus eventually blocked him. Scores of the ubiquitous Okada men and passersby quickly gathered around the two vehicles and soon noticed that six of the seven men in the back of the Nissan van were unconscious. Only one, later identified as Elder Emmanuel Otekaye, was still conscious.
The Okada men, widely notorious for their rough and ready ways, forced the driver to take his van and strange passengers to the Ifako Divisional Police Station in Gbagada. Once there, the unconscious men were given emergency medical attention from a nearby clinic. Some of them reportedly threw up as they regained consciousness, suggesting they may not only have been heavily sedated but probably poisoned.
Some of the men told the police that they were all ward chairmen from the Bariga branch of the ACN, the ruling party in Lagos State. They were able to recollect that they were coming from Ibafo after a cancelled meeting. They could not, however, explain at what point and in what circumstances they lost consciousness, how they got into the van from which they were rescued, and how they ended up at the police station. The driver was detained by police to help in the continuing investigations.
The victims were still in hospital late in the day. Medical staff barred family and friends from getting to them, insisting they needed to be stable before receiving visitors.
As news of the incident spread, a large crowd converged on the police station, apparently trying to catch glimpses of the victims. Fearing that the swelling crowd could eventually storm the station to lynch the driver of the minivan, the police called in Mobile (anti-riot) policemen to disperse the crowd and keep the peace. The anti-riot men, who arrived letting off shots into the air, caused a stampede in which some fleeing citizens sustained injuries.
On 28 July, about six people were feared dead, with scores of buildings and automobiles razed, after a fuel-laden tanker caught fire and exploded at a roundabout near the popular Ogbete Market in Enugu, capital of Enugu State. The Ogbete market is the largest market in the city.
Mr. Sikiru Raimi, Commandant, Enugu State Command of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), said the incident occurred when the tanker loaded with diesel lost control while negotiating the roundabout. Witnesses said the crash was followed by leakage of fuel from the tanker, operated by the Port Harcourt-based Shorelink Oil and Gas Services Company.
They said as the leaked fuel flowed into the barracks of the Enugu Central Police Station and some parts of the Ogbete market, the tanker driver raised alarm and ran to the police station to seek for help; one source said there was no immediate response, apparently as the police had no fire-prevention equipment. A short while later, the tanker exploded and went up in huge flames.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Steven Ekpei, confirmed three people dead. But local residents and witnesses said apart from the three charred bodies recovered initially, the toll may be up to six. Over 20 buildings, housing officers of the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigeria Prisons Service, were burnt. About 10 cars and several motorcycles were also in ruins. As the fire also destroyed poles and cables of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), the company’s Principal Manager, Public Affairs, Mr Eseme Udo, said some facilities, including the Enugu Prisons, may run without electricity for some time.
Witnesses say personnel from the Enugu Fire Service, and their colleagues from other agencies like the NSCDC and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), rallied to save the market and the police station from ruin. But they said fire-fighting vehicles could not get to some of the burning buildings as structures constructed without approvals blocked access routes. Some fire-fighters, injured while battling the inferno, were later rushed to Parklane Hospital.
Addressing reporters shortly after inspecting the scene of the accident, the Deputy Governor, Mr Sunday Onyebuchi, said the state government would do everything possible to minimise the damage from such accidents in future. He said as a first step, Governor Sullivan Chime had ordered the demolition and clearance of all illegal structures in the city, within the next two weeks.
He praised the Fire Service and other emergency agencies for their quick response to the incident and pledged the state government’s assistance to alleviate the suffering of the victims.
On 27 July, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, declared that the military Joint Task Force (JTF) deployed to quell attacks by the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, was making good progress on its mandate. He said the security situation around the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, was “better now than it used to be”.
Speaking to newsmen in Maiduguri, after addressing officers and men of the JTF at their Base in Pompomari Ward area of the city, the CDS made several significant statements regarding the objectives, challenges and progress of the operation.
He said the JTF was not waging a “religious war” but was conducting an operation to stop terrorism. He admitted that the operation met serious difficulties at the onset, but said it was now coming to grips with its challenge. He conceded that there had been some instances of misconduct by his soldiers, but stressed that those involved would be disciplined by military authorities.
The CDS rejected calls for dialogue with the Islamist group, saying the constitutional mandate of the armed forces was to do battle not dialogue. He also reiterated the Federal Government’s resolve that the military task force will not be withdrawn from Maiduguri and its environs until security and tranquility are restored to the state.
JTF operation not a “religious war”
Apparently trying to dispel misconceptions among some local residents, regarding the objective of the JTF operation, Marshal Petinrin said the the military was not executing a “religious war”, and that its operation in the state was targeted only at uprooting Boko Haram.
He said: “Let me state clearly that the government did not send us here to deal with any religious or tribal group. We are here to stamp out those shooting people and throwing explosives in market places. We are not here to fight a religious war; we are here to ensure the restoration of order and protect innocent citizens who are being terrorised by Boko Haram”.
Military coming to grips with terrorism
The CDS revealed that the operation had been difficult at the onset and that Boko Haram had some initial advantage as terrorism was new in the country; but he said security forces and agencies had learnt fast and were now ready to tackle the insurgents squarely.
He said: “The issue of terrorism is new in Nigeria and, when things are new, it takes time for people to get to the bottom. Now, we are gradually getting to its root and soon we will get over it and pull our soldiers back to their base”.
Dealing with the excesses of some military personnel
The CDS acknowledged operational lapses by some JTF personnel. He explained that “for an operation as massive as this”, there were bound to be mistakes and lapses. But he stressed that the military authority was doing everything possible to address such lapses.
He said: “The Defence Headquarters does not take the issue of misconduct lightly when it comes to any serving officer, because we abide by rules of engagement in all our operations. In line with this, the commander of the JTF has initiated the process of trial of five officers suspected to have committed acts of misconduct…Any officer found to have gone against our rules of engagement will be brought to book”.
Military not in the business of dialogue
The Defence chief said the calls in some quarters, for dialogue with Boko Haram, would not stop the armed forces from performing its constitutionally-mandated internal security role. He said: “The military is not in the business of dialogue,” but was created “to battle those troubling Nigeria and Nigerians”.
He said: “Those who are calling for a dialogue between government and the sect could be doing so because our Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and the right to voice out their opinion”. He said such opinions would not stop the military from responding appropriately to any threats to national security.
No withdrawal of JTF till conditions improve
The CDS also reiterated the Federal Government’s resolve to retain JTF on ground, until security is restored in the state. He said most of those calling for JTF’s withdrawal were doing so from the comfort and security of their homes in the elite Government Reserved Area (GRA), well removed from the the impact of explosives that were being thrown at common people in their homes and market places.
He said: “The people in the GRA can afford to call for the withdrawal of soldiers because no bomb explosion had been recorded in the area. But the people living in densely populated areas have been cooperating with the JTF, because they have seen lots of security improvements since our men took over. In fact, while the advocates are calling for withdrawal, I am busy strengthening the JTF to make it easy for us to attain our goal of securing peace”.
On 27 July, the Minister for Defence, Dr. Haliru Mohammed Bello, declared that the Boko Haram insurgency in Borno State will soon be over.
Speaking to newsmen while visiting the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, the Minister said the Federal Government was deeply concerned over the numerous attacks by the militant Islamist group.
He said the Federal Government was handling the issue with utmost seriousness, and that very soon the armed attacks by the group would become a thing of the past.
The minister drew parallels between the security situation in Borno State, and some other security challenges which the government had managed, elsewhere in the country. He said that just as the government had succeeded in restoring some measure of calm and security in the Niger Delta and Plateau State, the result of its efforts in Borno State would be no different.
Mohammed said : “The internal security operation in the Niger Delta has resulted in relative peace in that area. The internal security operation in Plateau State has brought peace and quiet in that state. I assure you we are handling the issue of Boko Haram in Maiduguri and, very soon, it will be a thing of the past”.
Earlier on, while welcoming the minister to the Academy, the NDA Commandant, Maj Gen Chukwuemeka Onwuamaegbu, had presented him with a sobering list of facilities and resources that were lacking at the institution. These included modern equipment for the training of cadets, staff and hostel accommodation, vehicles to aid the movement of personnel and tools, and laboratories of international standard.
Responding, the minister assured the Commandant that the 2012 budget will provide resources for addressing the deficiencies.
The NDA is Nigeria’s only military university. Established in January 1964 as a reformation of the British-run Royal Military Forces Training College (RMFTC), the institution offers both professional military training and full degree courses to cadet officers of the Nigerian Army, Navy and Air Force.