On 13 February, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported that pirates had shot dead the captain and the chief engineer on a cargo ship off the coast of Nigeria.
A notice on the IMB website said: “Armed pirates chased and fired upon a drifting bulk carrier. Vessel raised alarm and headed towards Lagos. All crew except the bridge team took shelter in the citadel. Due to the continuous firing, the captain and the chief engineer were shot”.
The website notice said this incident, which occurred about 110 nautical miles (126 miles) south of Lagos, is the latest in a string of attacks on vessels off the Nigerian coast.
On 9 February, pirates hijacked a tanker about 80 nautical miles (92 miles) from Cotonou, capital of Nigeria’s westward neighbour, the Republic of Benin, the bureau said. Again on Saturday, 11 February, a cargo ship about 70 nautical miles (80 miles) from Lagos, was shot at by pirates on two boats, who chased it for 25 minutes before giving up.
Last year, the IMO reported a 28 percent increase in pirate attacks on vessels off the West African coast, compared to a year earlier. It said 64 attacks were reported in 2011, up from 46 in 2010.
Mohammed Dikko Abubakar, appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan, as Acting Inspector General of Police on 25 January 2012, was born in Gusau, Zamfara State, on 5 May 1958.
He enlisted as a Cadet Officer in the Nigeria Police Force on 31 July 1979.
From 1991 to 1993, he read for and obtained an Advanced Diploma in Public Admininistration from Sokoto State Polytechnic, Sokoto. From 1995 to 1997, he again pursued and obtained a Diploma in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of Lagos, Lagos. While on that course, he also obtained a Diploma in Disaster Management and Control from Isreal in 1996.
For his professional training, Abubakar undertook several courses in Nigeria and abroad.
These include: General Detective and Security Course with the Metropolitan Police, West Hendon, England (1982); Police Mobile Training in Malaysia (1983), Police Mobile Training at Gwoza, Borno State, Nigeria (1983), General Security and Intelligence Course at the Police Academy, Cairo, Egypt (1986), Basic Intelligence Course at Military Intelligence School, Badagry, Nigeria (1987); General Security and Anti-Terrorism Course with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in the United States (1988-89); and the International Security Course 9 at University of Surrey, England (1991).
He also attended the Intermediate Command Course at the Police Staff College, Jos, Nigeria (1991); Senior Command Course at the Police Staff College, Jos, Nigeria (1995); General Security and Intelligence Course with the Israel Defence Force, Isreal (1996); Disater Management Course at Haifa, Israel (1996); Senior Executive Course (SEC) 27 at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), in Kuru, near Jos, Nigeria (2005).
Since joining the Nigeria Police Force, Abubakar has held several appointments and positions. He was Assistant Commissioner of Police, State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Sokoto Police Command (1991 – 1993); Assistant Commissioner of Police, Federal Operations, Force Headquarters, Lagos (1993); Assistant Commissioner of Police, Murtala Mohammed International Airport Police Command (1993-1995); Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Airport Police Command, Lagos (1995-1998) and Deputy Commissione of Police, Administration (and second in Command), Lagos State Police Command, Ikeja (1998-2000).
Abubakar has held command as Commissioner of Police in Plateau, Abia, Kwara, Kano and Lagos States. He was also Commissioner of Police, Airport Police Command, Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos. In 2008, he was promoted Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) and posted to Zone 2 Command Headquarters, Laogos, comprising Lagos and Ogun States. He was also AIG Zone 5, Benin, comprising Edo, Delta and Bayelsa States. He was later posted to Zone 6, comprising Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Ebonyi States.
His most recent command, since 15 November 2011, was as AIG in charge of Zone 12 of the Police encompassing Bauchi, Borno and Yobe States.
Abubakar is a member of several professional bodies. These include the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), member International Association of Black Police Officers, Fellow of the International Institute of Professional Security (FIIPS), Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Economics (FCE), Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Local Government and Public Administration of Nigeria (FCIPA), Fellow of the Safety Management Institute (FSMI) and Life Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Industrial Security (LFNIS).
Through his years of service in the Police, Abubakar has received several commendations and awards. In 2007, he was decorated with the Nigeria Police Medal (NPM).
He is married and blessed with children.
On 16 January, the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, expressed strong objection to the Federal Government’s deployment of soldiers on the streets of Nigeria’s economic mega-city, Lagos, to prevent protests against the government’s removal of subsidy on gasoline.
The soldiers were deployed across Lagos metropolis on the night of 15 January, especially at the open spaces where protesters had gathered for mammoth rallies all through the previous week. The soldiers had said they were doing routine security duties, but they effectively prevented protesters from gathering in large numbers at the rally venues.
In a broadcast, Governor Fashola noted that the citizens who had gathered for the protests in several parts of Lagos had “largely conducted themselves peacefully, singing and dancing while they expressed their displeasure” at the way government had taken decisions on issues that affect them.
He said “majority of these people, who represent diverse interests, had not broken any law”; and that even if they had done so, “it is the police that has the responsibility for restoring law and order if civil protests threaten the breach of the peace”.
Recalling that all those currently occupying high elective offices once “danced and sang before these same people when we were seeking their votes”, the governor said there was “no justification for sending out soldiers to a gathering of unarmed citizens”.
Describing the presence of the troops on the streets of Lagos as “disquieting”, Fashola urged President Goodluck Jonathan to reconsider his decision to deploy them and to direct their withdrawal.
BROADCAST BY LAGOS STATE GOVERNOR, BABATUNDE FASHOLA, OBJECTING TO THE DEPLOYMENT OF TROOPS AGAINST PROTESTERS IN LAGOS, ON 16 JANUARY 2012
For the past few days, I have monitored the developments related to the public protest against the increase in the pump price of petrol.
During that period, I have, at the invitation of my colleagues in the Governor’s Forum responded, to an invitation from the Presidency.
My role, since last Monday till date, has been to find a ground of compromise that stabilizes the polity, protects our democracy and prevents any loss of lives.
Inspite of these efforts, we were not wholly successful in preventing the loss of the life of a young Nigerian, Ademola Aderinto, who was sadly shot.
I am truly saddened by that ugly development. While I condole with his family, I pledge the commitment of our Government to bring the alleged perpetrator to justice.
I have decided to address you today, in view of the very disquieting developments that occurred overnight especially the deployment of soldiers across Lagos.
I have the highest respect for members of our military, especially because they have made a contract with all of us, that they will willingly lay down their lives whenever it becomes necessary to do so, in order to protect us.
This covenant is instructive, because soldiers did not sign up to stop us from expressing our grievance about things that we are displeased about.
It is not disputable that the citizens who have gathered in several parts of Lagos like Falomo, Ikorodu and Ojota, to mention a few, have largely conducted themselves peacefully, singing and dancing while they expressed their displeasure at the way that we have taken decisions that affect them.
That, in my view, should not offend those of us in Government. The majority of these people, who represent diverse interests, have not broken any law. If they have, it is my opinion that in a constitutional democracy, it is the police that has the responsibility for restoring law and order if civil protests threaten the breach of the peace. This is not justification for sending out soldiers to a gathering of unarmed citizens.
Every one of us, or at least majority of us who hold public offices, danced and sang before these same people when we were seeking their votes. Why should we feel irritated when they sing and dance in protest against what we have done?
For me, this is not a matter for the military. The sooner we rethink and rescind this decision, the better and stronger our democracy will be.
If anything, this is a most welcome transformation of our democracy, in the sense that it provokes a discussion of economic policies and this inevitably may result in political debate.
I therefore urge the reconsideration of the decision to deploy soldiers and implore the President and Commander-in-Chief to direct their withdrawal from our streets. I must also emphasize that the rights of free speech and protest are not absolute. They impose the duty not to break the law, breach the peace, endanger human life or destroy property, whether public or private.
They also impose the duty to respect the rights of others not to support our protest, and indeed to support what we oppose. At the end of the day, it is a contest of ideas in which the most persuasive will get the endorsement of the majority of the people we serve.
I am convinced that our democracy is mature enough to accommodate this. We must do our best to ensure that it does.
God bless you all.
Nigerian Government, labour fail to reach agreement, but threat to halt oil production still on hold
On 14 January, talks between the Federal Government and labour union leaders, seeking to end the nationwide strike and street protests sparked by the government’s removal of petrol subsidies, failed to produce a deal, but a threat by workers to halt oil production was put on hold.
Labour officials said the talks could continue as early as Sunday 15 January, but also warned that the strike would continue on Monday if the negotiating parties failed to reach an agreement.
Comments by Senate President David Mark, who had been acting as a mediator, as well as some negotiators on both sides, suggest the Saturday talks made some progress, but stopped short of an agreement. Mark said the two parties were on the “right path”. The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Abdulwaheed Omar said: “The meeting is not deadlocked, but we have not reached a compromise”.
In a more sober assessment, the NLC secretary general, Owei Lakemfa, told the news agency, AFP, that the meeting “did not go well for Nigeria because we did not reach an agreement … because the country is bleeding”. He said while unions were demanding a return to the pre-January 1 pump price of 65 naira per litre, the government was insisting on negotiating on a price above that.
Earlier in the day, the executive councils of the two main labour unions, the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), had met and decided to stick to their demand for a return to the pre-January 1 price.
However, both parties appear keen on ending the strike and avoiding further hemorrhage to the economy. The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), which had threatened to start shutting down production platforms if a deal was not reached on Saturday night, said it was staying action to give the talks some more chance.
A statement issued by the PENGASSAN spokesman, Babatunde Oke, said the workers expected further talks on Sunday morning, but added they would “execute the systematic shutdown, if the negotiation process breaks down”.
On 12 January, negotiations between President Goodluck Jonathan and labour leaders, over the government’s removal of subsidy on petrol, reported some progress but produced no agreement. Labour leaders said the nationwide strike started on 9 January will continue, pending the outcome of another meeting on Saturday 14 January. But they halted public rallies and street demonstrations for the weekend.
The meeting between Jonathan and the labour leaders was the first since the strike began. The President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Abdulwahed Omar told newsmen that: “We have not concluded discussions yet, but we have had very fruitful discussions. We have to continue on Saturday afternoon… Until we conclude the discussions, we maintain the status quo”.
The government had come under increasing pressure to make concessions. Over the past four days, tens of thousands of protesters, led by an alliance of labour leaders and civil society activists, had been on the streets of the nation’s major cities, demanding government’s restoration of the subsidy.
The turnout of protesters had grown by the day, with unprecedented crowds massing in several cities, notably the commercial capital, Lagos, and the usually serene federal capital, Abuja. Many said they would continue the protests until the government reverts to the pre-January 1 pump price of 65 kobo per litre.
Earlier in the day, the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), which represents about 20,000 workers, had threatened to shut down output as from Sunday, if the government did not reinstate the subsidy. NUPENG president Babatunde Ogun said if oil and gas fields were shut down, it could take several months to restart them. Meanwhile, a shutdown of natural gas supply would also cripple the nation’s electric power grid.
The strikes and protests had also taken a heavy toll on the economy, as commercial activities had been paralyzed in Lagos and other major cities, all week. Domestic airports had been completely shut and international flights seriously disrupted. The Central Bank governor, Sanisu Lamido Sanusi, told Reuters the strikes were costing the economy more than N100 billion a day.
In some instances, the protests had witnessed incidents of violence: hoodlums had attacked innocent citizens and public property; security operatives had killed at least 10 people – protesters and hoodlums – injuring many more, in Lagos, Kano and Benin.
As at 12 January, the Nigerian Red Cross said it had given first aid treatment to over 300 injured protesters across the country since the strike began. It said it had also provided basic health services to about 4,000 persons temporarily displaced by protest-related violence in Benin City, Edo State.
The two-day pause in public rallies and street demonstrators for the weekend followed pressures on labour leaders and other protest organizers to ease off the lock down, without compromising on the core demands of the protesters and other citizens. With banks and other commercial houses shut for the past four days and ATMs running out of money, many citizens had run out of supplies and cash. Many demanded that the rallies and demonstrations be suspended for a few days, to enable them re-stock.
Announcing the suspension of the protests at a rally in Abuja on 13 January, NLC President Omar said: “We want to make sure that on Saturday and Sunday people will relax”; but he quickly added that on Monday morning, “it is going to be the mother of all crowds”.
Some civil society activists warn that the suspension of rallies should not be misread as a weakening of their resolve on the fuel subsidy issue. They insist that unless the government reverts to the old pump price, street protests will continue next week, even if labour calls off the strike.
On 9 January, Nigeria’s labour unions and civil society groups started a paralyzing strike and street protests in several cities across the country. The protests initially appeared largely peaceful, but there have been reports of at least three protesters shot dead and over 30 others wounded in clashes with police in Lagos and Kano.
The striking workers and activists are demanding that the federal government reverse its 1 January decision which ended the subsidy on motor fuel and hiked pump prices by over 100 per cent overnight. That hike spurred further increases in prices of food, transportation and other goods and services nationwide. In a country where about 70 per cent of the 167 million population live on less than two US dollars a day, these sharp and sudden price increases have stung people really hard, fuelling angry protests.
The strikes and protests are being driven by two major unions – Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC). The unions are supported by a loose network of activists called “Occupy Nigeria”, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York.
In the federal capital, Abuja, there were reports that youths camping in the city’s ceremonial parade ground, Eagle Square, were cleared out overnight, by police using tear gas. By morning, thousands gathered under tight security, some in cars and waving NLC flags. Banks and other commercial houses were shut. The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport was also closed, preventing flights from landing or leaving.
In Lagos, the nation’s commercial capital, thousands of people gathered outside Labour House in Yaba, waving NLC flags. Others waved placards challenging President Goodluck Jonathan’s record and bearing an effigy of the president with vampire teeth and devil horns. From there, they started marching and chanting “Solidarity forever”, closely followed by armed anti-riot police.
In most parts of the metropolis, roads and streets that are typically clogged on Monday mornings were empty, except for protesters on their way to rallies and police patrols maintaining public order. Shops, banks and offices were all shut. Riot police were on stand-by at the demonstration sites, though vastly outnumbered by the protesters. In some areas, protesters blocked roads with burning tyres and local hoodlums harassed motorists, stoning the cars of those still driving in spite of the strike.
Protesters and police clashed briefly in the Ogba suburb of the city, with one person killed and at least three others suffering gunshot wounds. Residents said the man was shot dead when the police fired to disperse a crowd. A statement by the NLC also said the protester was shot dead by police, but there is yet no police report on the incident.
In Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria, protesters set two vans ablaze and also reportedly set ablaze the office of the Secretary of the State Government (the third highest officer in the executive arm of the state government), damaging it seriously. They also tried to torch the home of the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, but police stopped them. Protest organisers said the security personnel killed at least one person, when they fired live ammunition and tear gas to disperse a crowd. A Red Cross official reported 30 injured people, including 18 with gunshot wounds. A hospital source later reported that two of those injured had died.
The strikes and protests recorded mixed results in several other cities. In Kaduna, the streets were quiet, with all shops closed amidst a heavy police presence. In Jos, the military task force, Operation Safe Haven, outlawed all forms of street protests, in view of the volatile security situation in and around the city and some parts of Plateau State, since 2010.
Across the Niger Delta, the protesters were also restrained by heavy security presence. In Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa State, police prevented them from marching on the streets. In Port Harcourt, Rivers State, hundreds gathered but were largely confined to the Isaac Boro Square. In Calabar, Cross River State, most workers did not comply with the strike order and went about their normal work or business.
FAILED EFFORTS TO STOP THE STRIKE
The government had made spirited efforts to prevent the strike but failed. It had made strenuous efforts to justify its elimination of the subsidy, arguing that with the subsidy, fuel was much cheaper in Nigeria than neighbouring countries, encouraging the smuggling of the product abroad.
It had also promised that the 8 billion US dollars in estimated savings a year from scrapping the fuel subsidies, would be channelled towards improving health, education and the highly erratic electricity supply. But after so many failed promises in the past, nobody believes these new promises.
On 6 January, the National Industrial Court gave a late evening (5.30 pm) ruling, declaring the then proposed strike illegal. The labour leaders said they were not served any copies of the ruling. Many other protesters said they were not bound by the ruling as it was specific to the labour unions.
On 7 January, President Jonathan made a televised broadcast defending the removal of the subsidy. He insisted that the deregulation of the petroleum sector was the best way to curb corruption and ensure the survival and growth of the economy. He also announced a 25 per cent cut in the basic salaries of political officers in the executive arm of government, reduction of foreign travels in 2012 and plans to trim the over-bloated federal bureaucracy. Many analysts said the address offered too little too late.
On 8 January, President Jonathan inaugurated a mass transit scheme with 1,600 buses, as one of his government’s palliatives to cushion the effects of the hike in fuel and transportation costs.
The federal House of Representatives, in a rowdy and sometimes comical session in Abuja, also tried to stop the strike. Its members passed a motion calling on Jonathan to reconsider his action, but also calling on the unions to stop the strike and allow more time for consultations. Union leaders thanked the lawmakers for their intervention, but said the strike would go ahead as already planned. There was also no sign the government would back down.
Speaking shortly before the strike was due to officially commence, Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told the BBC’s Network Africa that she expected a low turnout. She said: “Everybody is going to work – that’s the information I got from the governors…Even in Abuja… most people are going to work. In Lagos, a lot of associations and schools say they’re going to carry on business as usual”.
Judging by the large turn-out in Lagos, the minister was grossly mistaken. Said one commentator: “That shows you just how totally disconnected these people are from the real heartbeat of the Nigerian people”.
The protesters say the action will continue indefinitely. Many citizens say the government needs to find a quick and satisfactory response, in order to prevent further damage to the country’s economy – and her image.
On 4 January, the nation’s two main trade unions – Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) – announced they would commence an indefinite strike and mass protests by 9 January, if the Federal Government does not reverse its recent removal of fuel subsidy.
A statement signed by leaders of the two unions said: “All offices, oil production centers, air and sea ports, fuel stations, markets, banks, amongst others will be shut down” starting from 9 January, advising citizens to “stockpile basic needs, especially food and water”.
The statement said the decision to call the strike was reached “after exhaustive deliberations and consultations with all sections of the populace”. It further said: “The NLC, TUC and their pro-people allies demand that The Presidency immediately reverse fuel prices to 65 Naira”, the pump price per litre before the subsidy was removed. Some labour leaders say there will be no dialogue with the government until their demand is met.
On 1 January, the government had announced it was ending the subsidy on imported refined petroleum which it says costs the nation about 8 billion US dollars annually. It had argued that continually committing such a huge amount to subsidizing the cost of motor fuel was not sustainable, and that it would rather spend the money on providing or improving infrastructure the nation direly needs, especially in the areas of electric power supply, health and education.
However, in the immediate term, the withdrawal has only led to a more than 100 per cent increase in the pump price of petrol prices since 1 January, and attendant doubling of public transport fares nationwide. Many citizens are worried that this steep hike in the price of fuel will send the prices of foodstuff and most other commodities and services to the skies.
Some say the timing of the government’s action is particularly ill-adviced and insensitive, considering that many citizens had just exhausted their wallets and bank deposits on the Christmas and New Year celebrations, and on travels. Many also doubt the government’s ability to deliver on the alternative projects to which it says it will commit the subsidy funds.
The hikes have already sparked angry protests in the Federal capital, Abuja; the economic mega-city, Lagos; and several other cities in the country. The protests have been generally orderly and devoid of violence. But on 3 January, a young man was killed amidst the protest in Ilorin, Kwara State, while another was shot in Lokoja, Kogi State. Police and labour leaders are in dispute over what caused the Ilorin death.
On 3 January, protests against the Federal Government’s removal of fuel subsidy, which raised the price of petrol by over 100 per cent overnight, spread through several cities of the country, claiming a first casualty in Ilorin, Kwara State.
In Lagos, the protesters were addressed by leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) at the labour union’s secretariat in Yaba. Thereafter, led by human rights lawyer, Femi Falana and labour officials, they marched through some major streets, carrying unprintable placards against the Federal Government.
The protest disrupted traffic for several hours, especially along the multi-lane Ikorodu Road, a main drag into the metropolis. The march was however disrupted after policemen had tear-gassed protesters. Commercial drivers, fearing their vehicles would be damaged, withdrew their services from the streets, leaving commuters trekking to their destinations.
In Ilorin, protesters set up bonfires in several areas, including those around the Emir’s Palace, Oniyangi, the Taiwo Road -Niger Road junction, Alore, Sango, and the Oloje Ipata market. The spokesman of the Kwara State police command, Mr Ezekiel Daboh, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, said the protesters attacked two petrol filling stations around the Post Office area, destroyed their fuel pumps, and also damaged two vehicles they found inside the premises of the filling stations as well as a bullion van.
Daboh confirmed that a protester was killed around the railway station, but he said the wound on the man was not inflicted by a police bullet, and so he might have been stabbed by his colleagues. But the NLC insisted the protester was shot dead by the police, and said it was holding President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration responsible for the death. Some of the protesters were arrested by security agents.
In Lokoja, Kogi State, protesters blocked vehicular movements along the ever-busy Lokoja-Abuja highway, creating a massive traffic gridlock. The protests also disrupted economic activities in Lokoja town, as petrol stations, banks and even government offices remained closed all day. Some sources report that one protester was shot while several others suffered other injuries, as policemen battled to disperse them and re-open the highway.
In Kano State, students from universities, polytechnics and colleges of education in the state marched peacefully through the city. They started from the gate of Bayero University, Kano, and ended up at the Silver Jubilee Square. Their leader, Comrade Mohammed Hamisu Sheriiffa, said they were protesting the increase in fuel prices as well as the month-long strike by university lecturers nationwide. Nine protesters were arrested by security agents, but later released.
In Kaduna State, mostly youthful protesters, under the umbrella civil society movement, Occupy Nigeria, converged at the Murtala Muhammed Square, where a register was opened for people to indicate their opposition to the government’s removal of fuel subsidy. Policemen, who barricaded the gate to the Square, barred the protesters from gaining access inside. The register was later made available at the gate, where an unknown number of protesters signed against the government’s policy.
In Ibadan, Oyo State, protesting youths led by the University of Ibadan students’ union president, Mr Tokunbo Salako, marched through the areas around Agodi, Agbowo, Gate, Dugbe and Challenge and the Governor’s Office. The march paralyzed businesses as banks and many other commercial houses remained shut. However security agencies, deployed to protect public assets and control motor traffic, were able to maintain peace, in spite of the generally chaotic situation.
The protesters demanded the immediate resignation of President Jonathan, Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Minister of Information, Labaran Maku; and Minister of Petroleum, Mrs Dieziani Allison-Madueke. They also demanded that members of the National Assembly immediately call off their recess and reconvene to resist the increase in fuel price.
At the office of Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi, the students submitted a formal letter of protest. The Governor assured them of his understanding and urged them to press their demands peacefully. “What you are doing today is part of democracy”, he said. “Whatever message you have brought will be delivered accordingly”.