As always, the news wave within Nigeria in the past week has been filled with the good, the bad and the awfully ugly. While we had updates to laugh about, and some others to applaud, there were also some unnerving, doom-laden reports. One of such reports is the statement by Ahmad Salkida, Nigerian journalist famous for his close interaction with and great understanding of the relentless terrorist group, Boko Haram.
According to him, Abubakar Shekau, the group’s leader on whose turbaned head the United States placed a bounty of $7 million in 2013, has groomed thousands of youth to continue with the “struggle” if he gets killed by the army. Shekau had released a video over the course of the week to say he is “tired of this calamity”, that it is better he dies and proceed to rest in paradise and to boast that he and his men are still in Sambisa forest despite the recent claims by the military to the contrary. Particularly, the Nigerian Army had announced over the past weekend that it had “completely defeated” Boko Haram through its Operation Lafia Dole.
Many have interpreted Shekau’s video to mean the impending end of Boko Haram and the death of its leader – genuine this time, as Shekau, according to the Nigerian military and media, has died five times already. However, in a series of tweets, Mr Salkida has warned otherwise. In his words: “If we consider one of Shekau’s lines in his last video, literally, that he is tired of being around and would prefer death than this life, as a sign of complete defeat, then we are still VERY ignorant of the group’s corrosive ideology, which is, “to kill or be killed”. He continued by saying Shekau has groomed men and women in their thousands and he is in fact seen as an obstacle by many of the group’s members. “No doubt, he remains the face of the insurgency, but no longer the driver of it.”
If this assertion is anything to go by – and it is – then it only means the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government still has a long way to go in actualising its pre-election plans regarding internal security and curbing terrorist attacks. In addition to the ever-fresh Boko Haram menace, Nigeria is witnessing an unabated rise is a development that is just as sinister – the herdsmen attacks. Nearly on a daily basis, there is news to evidence the government’s overall inefficient handling of matters of security. On Saturday, the Benue State Police Command declared, in what is a tiny addendum to a long chain of tragedies, that four riot policemen were ambushed by suspected herdsmen and have been missing.
It is therefore not yet Uhuru for Nigerians. The government needs to pay attention to the right areas in its fight against insecurity. These have been emphasised by political commentators over and over and were reiterated yet again by Mr Ahmad Silkida in his recent tweets: “investment in intelligence [and] good governance that fights poverty, climate change and support[s] education.”
Still on Boko Haram but on the brighter side of the moon is news of the release of three lecturers of the University of Maiduguri and ten policewomen, after close to 200 days of captivity. It will be recalled that the university lecturers were abducted while on a “national assignment” to explore for oil in the Lake Chad Basin. Some of their colleagues were killed during the ambush, including Ibrahim Njodi, brother to the University Vice Chancellor.
This pleasant report may be viewed as a tragicomedy. In three decades, the Federal Government has spent ₦27 billion and $340 million dollars, according to The Sun Newspaper, trying to discover oil in the North. All that money has gone down the drain. Yet, the current administration is still undeterred in this elusive search for black gold in commercial quantities. But now, it is not only money that has gone down the drain, invaluable lives of academics and security operatives have followed suit. It is even more tragic because the economic diversification anthem has been sung the loudest by the Buhari-led administration. The question that need be asked is: how much more and how many more lives have to be wasted before we quit gambling with our men and resources in the futile search for an oasis of hydrocarbon in the desert?
Ladies and gentlemen, the Lagos City Marathon has come and gone and, as predicted, East Africans have again literally given us a run for our money. Going home with the whopping grand prize of $50,000 is Abraham Kiprotich, Kenyan-born French long-distance runner. And winning the women edition was Herpha Guta, an Ethiopian. It will be recalled that the international category in the previous two editions were also won by a Kenyan, Abraham Kiptum. This had led to Nigerians suggesting that the organisers rename the competition the “East African Lagos Marathon”, given the unbroken record of East African winners. Some even point out the irony in Nigerians always losing to their African neighbours despite the preponderance of fast-running hawkers of gala and soda.
Moving on, we have the heart-warming news of Dangote Oil Refinery concluding a training programme for 150 young Nigerian engineers in refinery operations as it prepares to kick-start operations in its Lagos refinery and petrochemical plant. The engineers spent five months in the classroom and on different operating refineries in India. More of such trainings are to follow, according to the company’s Director of Human Capital Management and Project Support, Mohan Kumar.
Though it has been alleged that many other aspects of the company’s project, such as the production of 90,000 tons of storage tanks, were awarded to foreign contractors at the expense of equally qualified local experts, this remains a step in the right direction. We must not forget that Aliko Dangote, owner of the Dangote Group, is first a businessman before he is a patriot. Government at the federal and state levels on the other hand need to reinforce policies to ensure the true transfer of technological know-how from industrialised countries of the world to local industries.
Finally on this week’s edition of Newsquake is the social media earthquake triggered by the return of ₦650 million by Jumoke Akinjide, former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, in a plea-bargaining arrangement. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had re-arraigned her and others before the Federal High Court on 16 January 2018. She was accused of receiving the sum of ₦650 million from former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, which was part of the $115 million disbursed by the latter to influence the 2015 elections in favour of Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
She had originally pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against her by the EFCC, but it is now evident that she probably meant “not guilty enough.” For her to have returned the entire sum, close to one billion naira, without delay, then it may not be out of place to assume it is either she has benefitted much more from other illicit deals, and this charge is just a drop in the sea of corrupt returns, or she has the backing of individuals who have.
Till next time, readers.