Monthly Archives: August 2011

Ambassador Saidu Pindar dies in car crash in Kaduna State

Amb SAIDU PINDAR

On 31 August, Alhaji Saidu Shettima Pindar, Nigeria’s pioneer Ambassador to Sao Tome and Principe, died a car accident. The accident occurred on the Kaduna-Zaria road in Kaduna State.

Details of the accident are yet to be confirmed, but sources said he was traveling to Kano at the time he died. One source said the accident was caused by the bad condition of some spots on the road, but this too, had not been verified.

Ambassador Pindar was born in Biu, Biu Local Government Area of Borno State, on 19 August 1954. He obtained an Electrical Engineering Diploma from Kaduna Polytechnic in 1976, Bachelor of Electrical Engineering Degree from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1980, and subsequently a Master’s Degree in Communication Engineering from the University of Manchester’s Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) in United Kingdom.

He started his working life with the Borno State Civil Service, rising to become the Director of Engineering/Chief Engineer at the Borno Radio and Television (BRTV) before transferring to the Federal Civil Service in 1987.

In October 1998, he was posted to the Embassy of Nigeria, Rome, Italy, as Minister-Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary. While on that post, he received commendations from the Italian Ministry of Interior, the Italian Immigration and Frontier Service and a Christian NGO for his commitment towards combating human trafficking and for his compassionate treatment of trafficked Nigerians.

In 2000, he was appointed Nigeria’s pioneer Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome & Principe. At that post, he was credited with contributing immensely to the ratification of the Treaty establishing the Nigeria-Sao Tome & Principe Joint Development Zone (JDZ). He voluntarily retired from the Federal Civil Service after 32 years of public service. In 2004, he was conferred with a National Honour, Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON).

Even in retirement, he remained active in private business as well as in political and public life. He was the founder and promoter of Maitama Amusement Park, a leisure and entertainment centre situated in the high brow Maitama district of Abuja. He was also the Executive Chairman of Subotech Engineering Ltd, a company supplying and installing broadcast equipment nationwide.

Politically, he was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In October 2009, he was appointed by then President Umaru Yar’Adua, into the board of the Nigeria-Sao Tome and Principe Joint Development Authority (NSTP-JDA). He was later the deputy governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Borno State in the April 2011 general elections, but his party did not win.

Ambassador Pindar was a member of several professional bodies, including the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) and the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN).

He was a founding member of the Biu Emirate Development Association (BEDA) and also the Biu Forum. In recognition of his contributions to the development of Biu Emirate, HRH Alhaji Umar Mustapha Aliyu, the Emir of Biu elevated him from the position of Jarma of Biu to Waziri of Biu in January 2005.

A philanthropist, he sponsored hundreds of students in various schools in Borno, Yobe and Bauchi State under the Shettima Pindar Foundation.

He was happily married and blessed with children.

In a condolence message to the late ambassador’s family, Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima expressed shock over the unfortunate incident. He described the late Pindar as a visionary, humble and de-tribalized man, who dedicated his life to the cause of transforming not only Borno State, but the Nigerian nation.

Suspected plotter of UN bomb attack named by SSS, linked with Al Qaeda

On 31 August, security authorities investigating last week’s suicide bomb attack on the United Nations office complex in Abuja, reported they had identified the man who probably led the attack. They declared him wanted.

In a statement issued by the Department of State Services (also known as SSS), the security authorities said: “On 18 August, 2011, precise intelligence was obtained by this Service that some Boko Haram elements were on a mission to attack unspecified targets in Abuja”.

It said following the intelligence, the SSS on 21 August, arrested two members of the militant Islamist sect widely known as Boko Haram. The two men were identified as Babagana Ismail Kwaljima, aka Abu Summaya, and Babagana Mali, aka Bulama, and described as “notorious leaders of the Boko Haram extremist sect”. The statement said that “valuable statements” given by the arrested men suggest that a third member with an al Qaeda connection ploted the attack.

The statement said: “Investigation has revealed that one Mamman Nur, a notorious Boko Haram element with al-Qaeda links who returned recently from Somalia, working in concert with the two (arrested) suspects masterminded the attack on the United Nations building in Abuja”. It declared the suspected mastermind wanted.

The SSS appealed to members of the public to “cooperate with security agencies by providing useful information that could lead to the arrest of Mamman Nur”.

The bomb attack on 26 August smashed a floor of the five-storey UN building which houses all 26 UN agencies working in Nigeria. By the last UN update, the attack killed 23 people and wounded 76, making it one of the dealiest attacks on the United Nations in the history of the world organisation.

Gunmen kidnap father of journalist in Imo State

On 26 August, unknown gunmen abducted the father of a reporter with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

Local sources said the man, retired army Colonel Innocent Opara Ejibas, aged 66, was abducted from his village, Umudara-Ogwa, in Mbaitoli Local Government Area of Imo State, by five armed men.

His son, Desmond Ejibas, a reporter with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Port Harcourt, said the gunmen stormed the family house at about 5 pm, fired indiscriminately in the air to scare people away, which then enabled them to seize the retired officer and take him away without any hindrance or resistance.

It is not yet known why the kidnappers targeted the senior Ejibas. Desmond said that: “Contact had been made with the kidnappers, but they have not made any ransom demand and no group has claimed responsibility for the act’’.

The family of the retired officer had already reported the incident to all security agencies in Imo State and also to the state’s branch of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ).

NAN reports that Col Ejibas served in the infantry corps of the Nigerian Army before he disengaged from service in the early 1990s.

President Jonathan must stop the killing of Nigerians, other blacks in Libya, Senator Ojudu demands

Senator FEMI OJUDU

On 30 August, Senator Babafemi Ojudu called on President Goodluck Jonathan and the international community to stop the killing of black migrant workers, including Nigerians, by the rebel forces fighting to end the rule of Muamar Gaddafi in Libya.

In a public statement, Ojudu, who is representing Ekiti Central District in the Senate, noted reports indicating that large numbers of black migrant workers, from countries like Nigeria and Ghana, had been killed by the rebels, with their dead bodies littering the streets of the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

The Senator said: “It is disturbing that innocent black migrant workers, including Nigerians and Ghanaians, who have nothing to do with Gaddafi, are being targeted and killed by Libyan rebels”.

There had been reports since April, that rebel fighters were killing black people, whom they suspected to be loyal to Gaddafi. On Monday – 29 August – the chairman of the African Union (AU), Mr Jean Ping, charged that Libyan rebels may be indiscriminately killing black people in the country, as they had confused innocent migrant workers with mercenaries. Ping said this was one of the reasons the AU was refusing to recognize the Libyan rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) as the country’s interim government. He said “We need clarification because the TNC seems to confuse black people with mercenaries …. They are killing normal workers”.

Senator Ojodu said the rebels had no justification for killing other nationals, and that their killing of dark-complexion people in particular, portrayed them as blood-thirsty racists rather than as people fighting for freedom from oppression. He said the rebels’ claim that Gaddafi had hired foreign mercenaries to fight against his people, was no excuse for killing black people.

The lawmaker therefore demanded that “world leaders must, as a matter of urgency, step in to caution the supposed freedom fighters before it gets out of hand”. He particularly urged President Jonathan to caution the rebels since he had openly endorsed their National Transitional Council. He said President Jonathan must “set a clear line between the fight against oppression and racism”.

Sultan of Sokoto, leader of Nigerian Muslims, condemns UN House attack, violence in Jos

His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III

On 30 August, the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, denounced the suicide bomb attack on the United Nations office complex in Abuja, describing it as an abominable act in Islam, particularly during the month of Ramadan. The Sultan, who is the leader of Muslims in Nigeria, also condemned the violence in Jos, Plateau State.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that the Sultan said these in Sokoto, as part of his Sallah message to the Muslim community in Nigeria, on the occasion of the Eid el-Fitr celebrations.

Refering to the bombing incident, NAN quoted the Sultan as saying as follows:

“We, therefore, seriously condemn this act while commiserating with those who lost their property and condoling the families of those who lost their lives.

“We hereby call on the Muslims not to allow themselves to be used by our enemies in achieving their desired goals. We should not allow them to cause us to commit acts prohibited by our religion. We, therefore, call upon all those involved in this nefarious act, to fear God and desist from committing this grievous act,” he added. Those involved in such acts, the Sultan said, should rather seek avenues to dialogue with the leaders over their grievances.

The Muslim leader also condemned, in very strong terms, the recurrent violence in Plateau State, the latest episode of which claimed about 20 lives only a day earlier.

He said: “We vehemently condemn yesterday’s unfortunate incident of violence in Jos, which caused the loss of lives of many people. While we condole the families of those who lost their lives, we would like to reiterate our call on the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, investigate the incident and bring the culprits to book”.

He added that: “It is high time for the government to prevent any future recurrence of such acts of violence in this country”.

TRAGIC: 34 travellers killed in multiple crash in Ondo State

On 29 August, 34 people died in a multiple motor accident along the Akure-Owo Expressway in Ondo State. Sixteen of them were burnt alive.

Local sources report that the crash, which involved two Abuja-bound buses and a trailer, occurred around 7.45pm on Kilometre 14 of the Akure-Owo Road, near the Possibility Church in Ogbese town.

Briefing newsmen in Akure, the Police spokesman for the state, Mr Adeniran Aremu, said the crash occurred late on Monday. He said the two buses were on high speed, and that as one of them attempted to overtake the other, it rammed into a trailer marked XN769ABC, which was also coming at considerable speed from Owo.

He said the bus and the trailer went up in flames instantly. Efforts by the Police and other road users to put out the fire and save those trapped in the vehicles were apparently too feeble and ultimately futile. All passengers on the bus that directly rammed into the trailer were burnt to death, beyond recognition. Those in the other bus (marked XZ 976 AKD), though not burnt, also all died on the spot, after their bus crashed into the bush. The police spokesman said all the corpses had been taken to the mortuary at the Specialist hospital in Akure.

However, while Mr Aremu had reported 30 persons killed in the crash, the Sector Commander of the Federal Roads Safety Commission (FRSC), Mr. John Meheux, said the report he received indicated 34 persons dead. He said the casualties comprised 14 persons in the bus that collided with the trailer, two persons in the trailer, and 18 persons in the bus that crashed into the bush. He said three persons in the second bus survived with injuries.

A local source said the discrepancy in casualty figures may have arisen from the fact that some of the corpes in the first bus were incinerated almost completely, and therefore barely recognizable as human bodies. On why the bus drivers were speeding so recklessly, he said they may have been rushing to make the most of the large number of passengers at commercial vehicle parks, seeking to travel for the Eid-El-Fitri celebrations. The source added that there was now a need for closer monitoring of speeding on highways, and much higher penalties against over-speeding drivers.

Kidnapped: Mother of Bamido Omogbehin, sports administrator, in Ondo State

On 29 August, unknown gunmen kidnapped Mrs Cecilia Omogbehin, mother of a former member of the Ondo State House of Assembly and now Chairman of the State Sports Council, Mr. Bamido Omogbehin.

Mr Omogbehin told the News Agency of Nigeria that his mother, aged 75, was abducted from her residence at Igbokoda, Ondo State, by four armed men at about 7.30 pm.

Recounting the incident, he said: ““She left her shop and got home around 7 pm… The armed men later entered her room, tied her up and also tied up the other female tenants who were in the house. After tying them up, they took my mother’s car and drove away in it”.

The kidnappers later abandoned Madam Cecilia’s vehicle, a black Isuzu Trooper Jeep with registration number ONDO AA 359 REL. Omogbehin said it was the Police that discovered the car, where the kidnappers had dumped it along the Okitipupa/Igbokoda road, late Monday night.

He said the kidnappers were yet to contact the family and that he was very much worried about her safety. Omogbehin said: “It is unfortunate that my mother has been kidnapped. The woman was returning from her shop when they, kidnappers followed her. Up till now, the kidnappers have not contacted the family. I don’t know what my mother has done to warrant such kind of treatment”.

The Police Public Relations Officer for Ondo State, Mr Adeniran Aremu, said the state police Command was making frantic efforts to arrest the kidnappers.

This is the third kidnap incident involving the mother of a notable citizen of the area in the last six months.

On 20 March, Madam Omofenwa Jimoh, mother of business mogul Jimoh Ibrahim, was abducted at Igbotako. The kidnappers asked for N370million ransom (about 2.5 million USD). It is not known how much they were paid, but the woman’s businessman son had said that “Mama is priceless”. Madam Jimoh was later freed on 27 March, after the kidnappers had taken her family through a tourtuous track-scrambling journey, from Sagamu on Ogun State to Sapele in Delta State. Two suspects were later arrested.

On 13 June, Madam Mariam Oke, 83-year-old mother of the National Legal Adviser of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olusola Oke, was kidnapped in Igbokoda, Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of N130 million (about 870,000 USD); but it is not known whether any part of that demand was met before the kidnappers released her on 23 June, in a riverine community near Warri, again in Delta State.

Violent clashes in Jos: 20 feared killed in Christian-Muslim fights

On 29 August, at least 20 people were killed and more than 50 vehicles burnt during clashes between Christian and Muslim youths, amidst celebration of the Muslim Eid-el Fitr in Jos, capital of Plateau State. Residents said some of the deaths occurred after military forces had been deployed to disengage the fighting youths.

By various accounts, the fight started after a group of Muslims, who had gathered at a prayer ground in the Rukuba area of the city, to end the Muslim month of Ramadan, were confronted by youths from the predominantly Christian neighbourhoods. The Muslims were said to be members of a radical sect, the Jama’atul Izalatul Bid’ah Wa Ikamatus Sunnah (often refered to as Izala or JIBWIS for short) who were observing the Eid el-Fitr a day ahead of most other Muslims in the country.

It is not clear how the confrontation started. Several sources said the Muslims had not used that prayer ground since the Christian-Muslim fights of December 2010, and that their attempt to resume prayers there unilaterally, without seeking approval and working out necessary modalities for maintaining peace, was considered an act of provocation by the predominantly Christian residents. A resident said when some Muslims went to clear the bushes at the prayer ground three days earlier, in preparation for the Eid prayer, they were told by residents not to proceed with their plan.

One source however said the Christian youths also took the action to avenge the disruption of their own Christmas Day celebrations last year, by deadly bomb attacks which killed over 80 people on 24 December, and which were seen as the handiwork of Muslim youths.

Whichever was the case, youths from the Christian-dominated neighbourhood reportedly mobilized and surrounded the prayer ground. Brig Gen Hassan Umaru, commander of the military Special Task Force in the state, told Reuters that the Muslims had completed their prayers before they found themselves trapped by neighbourhood youths who would not allow them leave, thereby sparking a fight.

The fighters on both sides used knives and machetes, as well as bows and arrows. Soldiers, police and members the state security outfit code-named Operation Rainbow, were rapidly deployed to the area. Firing in the air, they dispersed the fighters and evacuated some Muslims who were still trapped in the area.

The fight however spread to some other parts of the metropolis. On learning of the confrontation at the prayer ground, youth groups in other parts mobilized to march into the area and support their colleagues. Reports say soldiers attempting to disperse the rampaging youth met stiff resistance in some areas. Gunshots could be heard in several parts of the city as a helicopter hovered in the sky.

Security authorities have not yet reported on casualties. The Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Emmanuel Dipo Ayeni, said he did not yet have definite figures. Brig Gen Umaru told Reuters that: “The number of people killed, I can’t give that yet. We are still checking with local hospital sources”.

However, government sources and local residents said at least 20 people were killed, some of them by soldiers drafted to quell the fight. Choji Gyang, special adviser on religious affairs to the Plateau State Governor, told CNN that at least 20 people were killed, some of them allegedly by the military forces.

The fighting had stopped by the end of day, but the atmosphere in the city remained highly tense.

Jos is located in the so-called Middle belt of the country, a zone of convergence between the largely Muslim Hausa-Fulani who constitute the majority in northern Nigeria and many numerically smaller but predominantly Christian ethnic groups who had been long settled in the region. Especially since 2009, the city and the surrounding local government areas had suffered recurrent violence, with several hundreds killed.

Intensive security operations had forced down the violence since late 2010, though midnight attacks and “silent killings” continued in some remote villages. The state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Abraham Yiljap, told a press conference in Jos, that the renewed violence was “a great setback to the peace being attained in the state”.

UN bomb attack: Nigerian government reassures foreign envoys of security

Mr HAFIZ A. RINGIM Inspector General of Police

On 29 August, the Federal Government reassured the diplomatic community in Abuja, that it would make every effort to safeguard their embassies and personnel, following the 26 August suicide bomb attack at the United Nations House.

Addressing over 50 diplomats at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, said the UN House attack had made it necessary to intimate them of steps being taken by the government towards their security. The minister then invited the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr Hafiz Ringim, to update the diplomats.

The IGP told the envoys that following the UN House blast, President Goodluck Jonathan summoned the heads of all security agencies to a meeting, “where far-reaching decisions were made on how to ensure, not only the security of foreign missions’ property and facilities, but of their personal as well”. He said the Presidency subsequently mandated security agencies, particularly the IGP, to meet with the diplomats on how to strengthen security around their personnel and facilities.

In furtherance of that mandate, the IGP informed the diplomats that security agencies would be meeting them soon, to re-assess their security needs and work out new modalities for ensuring better security in their missions. He said: “We will go round, from mission to mission, and discuss what specific security assistance you require that would make you feel more secure”.

The IGP said he was aware that some of the missions and diplomats had already requested for information and for additional security coverage, following the bomb attack. He said he had been mandated to grant all such security requests, as much as is possible.

He said: “Security agencies have been directed to leave nothing to chance and nothing can stand in the process of providing each and every one of you the necessary security that you need, in order to function peacefully and effectively while you are in this country”.

Updating the diplomats on investigations of the 26 August blast, the IGP disclosed that “our security agencies have made some arrests”, but he did not provide any details. He said: “The President would soon make pronouncements in that regard to you and the nation”.

Gunmen kill Yomi Bamgbose, ACN leader and VIO Coordinator, in Abeokuta, Ogun State

On 28 August, suspected assassins killed Chief Yomi Bamgbose, a leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) party, in Abeokuta, Ogun State.

Bamgbose, 53, who was also Coordinator of Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIOs) in the South-West zone of the country, was murdered at the entrance to his residence, around 10.30pm.

Local sources said he was driving out of his house with a visitor, in his Peugeot 406 car, when about four gun-wielding men accosted him. Some sources said the killers seized him in his car, pulled him out and then shot him. Others said on sighting them, he instantly sensed danger, jumped off the car and fled, but that the men caught up with him, dragged him back to the gate of his house, and then shot him on the chest.  As his neighbours fled to safety, the killers reportedly waited to be sure he was dead, before they got into his car and drove off into the night.

His body was later deposited at the morgue of the state general hospital at Ijaiye.

A statement by the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, said the state government was liaising with the Commissioner of Police to track down the killers. The statement added that: “The state government wishes to assure all residents of the state, that it has put in place measures to ensure security of lives and properties, and law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear”. The Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Muyiwa Adejobi, said the state police Command had commenced investigations into the killing.

The late Bangbose held the traditional title of Lupona of Egbaland. He is survived by three widows – Funmilayo, Sekinat and Mopelola.

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