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#EndSARS: CNN shrugs off FG threat, releases another report

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In brazen show of audacity, global television station, Cable News Network, has released another report on the alleged shootings by Nigerian soldiers at Lekki toll plaza during the recent #EndSARS protests.
This is coming less than 24 hours after the Nigerian government had forwarded a petition to the CNN head office, complaining about the first report on the incident and demanding an unreserved apology with a threat of a legal action.
The Minister of Information and Culture,  Lai Mohammed, had last week faulted the CNN’s report on the Lekki shootings, describing it as poor journalism.
Mohammed also followed up the threat with a letter addressed to the management of CNN.
The network on Tuesday did a second report with more damning footage showing soldiers shooting at unarmed protesters on October 20, 2020.
The fresh report also shows the Commander, 81 Division, Brig.Gen Ahmed Taiwo, admitting before the judicial panel in Lagos that his men indeed took live ammunition to the tollgate.
The CNN report also highlighted the fact that Brig.Gen Taiwo’s claim is at variance with the minister’s who had claimed last week that the army fired blank bullets.
The fresh report showed protesters running as soldiers open fire at the tollgate.
The National Broadcasting Commission, which is overseen by the information minister, had last month slammed hefty fines on three Nigerian television stations for daring to use some of the footage which CNN has also used.
The Federal Government has been receiving flak from members of the United Kingdom Parliament and Amnesty International over the killing of protesters.
In a lengthy report published on CNN website, the media organisation stated it obtained a copy of the CCTV footage ahead of the Lagos panel’s sitting last Saturday, which it claimed matched and verified the footage published as part of an investigation last week on the events.
Part of the report read, ”The footage corroborates the timings CNN reported for the gunshots fired by the army. It also shows soldiers approaching protesters and firing shots.
”What is perhaps most notable is what’s missing.
”At 6:47pm, the moment when CNN has video of the army appearing to fire directly at protesters, the surveillance camera pans away from the area.”

UK lawmakers want violators of protesters’ rights sanctioned

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom parliamentarians have recommended sanctions against government officials and security agents who abused the rights of #EndSARS demonstrators last month.

The UK lawmakers, while considering a petition signed by 220, 000 signatories in the aftermath of the alleged shooting of protesters at the Lekki tollgate on October 20, expressed lack of confidence in Nigeria’s handling of the incident.

They therefore vowed to launch an independent investigation to unravel the circumstances surrounding the alleged shooting.

They passed the resolutions the same day the Nigerian government wrote to the United States-based global CNN over last Wednesday’s airing of a report on the alleged shooting of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki tollgate.

The UK parliamentarians condemned the alleged attack on unarmed persons at Lekki yollgate by soldiers, pointing out that the proposed sanctions should not be mere rhetoric but must be carried out sooner than later.

The lawmakers said, “No action can replace the lives that have been lost, but that doesn’t mean we cannot take actions.

“We know that these individuals come here and use our banks, so we are in a unique position to do something.”

In the petition started by one Silas Ojo, a Nigerian, the petitioners charged the UK government to impose sanctions on individuals in the Nigerian government and police officers involved in human rights abuses.

 

 

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News

Boko Haram: Visitors barred from federal secretariat, hoodlums kill cop

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on

Amid fear of an imminent Boko Haram attack in the Federal Capital Territory, visitors were barred from entering the Federal Secretariat Complex, Phase I located in the Three Arms Zones, Abuja.

One of our correspondents, who monitored events in front of one of the gates for about 30 minutes on Friday, observed that men of the Nigerian Legion as well as the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps were seen ensuring that only civil servants with identification cards were granted access onto the premises.

The security personnel were also seen turning back those without valid ID cards, pointing them to a notice on the wall of the gatehouse on the need to beef up security.

The notice directed that persons without ID cards not be allowed onto the premises, while also banning hawking in front of the complex.

Cobblers and hawkers of fruits, recharge cards and snacks were fond of selling their wares in front of the complex.

Female soldiers keep vigil at Mogadishu Cantonment

Armed female soldiers were, in the early hours of Friday, stationed at strategic points in front of the Mogadishu Cantonment, popularly called Abacha Barracks.

The troops are of the Nigerian Army Women Corps.

They were seen at the foot of the pedestrian bridge in front of the gate on both the Abuja-bound and Keffi-bound lanes of the Abuja-Keffi Expressway.

The stern-looking soldiers did not allow drivers to stop anywhere in front of the barracks.

Also, at the Louis Edet House, headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force, vehicles entering the premises were seen being thoroughly searched when one of our correspondents visited.

Panic among parents

Some parents and guardians, out of panic, again stormed some schools to withdraw their children and wards.

Eyewitnesses identified the Government Science Secondary School opposite Maitama General Hospital and the Federal Government Technical College, Orozo as some of the schools in the FCT that were stormed by parents.

A woman simply identified as Sophie told one of our correspondents that she did not bother to allow her children to go to school on Friday.

“To be forewarned is to be forearmed. With all we have been hearing about possible attacks since last week, it would be foolish of any parent to still allow kids like mine to go to school today,” she said.

Cop killed as El-Zakzaky followers, police clash

Meanwhile, there was tension in the Wuse/Berger area of the FCT on Friday when members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, otherwise known as Shi’ites, clashed with policemen.

An Assistant Superintendent of Police, Adama Ezekiel, was confirmed to have been killed in the process.

The protesters, it was gathered, were demanding the release of their leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, and his wife from detention when they clashed with policemen.

The news of the incident further caused anxiety among residents.

A commercial driver in the area who gave his name simply as Williams told one of our correspondents, “I saw them during their protest coming from Wuse Zone 3 and chanting songs of solidarity for the release of El-Zakzaky.

“I cannot say what caused the clash but the protesters were aggressive. People ran for cover and I also did. I later saw police officers and Special Weapons and Tactics officials here.”

A trader in the area who did not want her name in print said the Shi’ite members attacked a police officer and attempted to snatch his gun.

“They were throwing stones and not long after, we started hearing sounds gunshot in the area. Everywhere was in turmoil. They also beat a policewoman mercilessly and tried to snatch her gun but she held on to it,” she said.

But the spokesman of the FCT Command, ASP Mariam Yusuf, in a statement, alleged that a police officer, Adama Ezekiel, was killed during the protest.

Yusuf stated that members of the disbanded sect went on the rampage, destroying properties and attacking innocent citizens, including police officers, with weapons, adding that 49 protesters had been arrested and would be arraigned in court upon conclusion of investigation.

She said, “The police successfully restored calm at Berger Roundabout after dispersing a violent protest by some members of the proscribed Islamic Movement of Nigeria – Shi’ites.

“Unfortunately, members of the disbanded sect went on the rampage, destroying public property and attacking innocent citizens including police officers using weapons such as cutlasses, sharp knives, etc.

“Sadly, one of the police officers, ASP Adama Ezekiel, deployed to restore calm during the violent protest, paid the supreme price as a result of the brutal attack where he was stabbed by one of the irate protesters.”

According to her, the Commissioner of Police, Bala Ciroma, commiserated with the family of the deceased.

The statement added, “The command wishes to state that it will not condone further attacks on its personnel, equipment or other public property by members of the proscribed group.

“The command implores residents to remain calm and law-abiding, while reaffirming its unwavering commitment to the protection of lives and property within the FCT.”

When contacted on the telephone to react to the police’s claim, the spokesperson for the Shi’ites, Ibrahim Musa, said the police shot one IMN member and arrested over 50.

“I cannot ascertain all the causalities at our end but more than 50 of our members have been arrested and one shot by the police,” Musa said.

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Insecurity: US won’t relocate Africa Command to Nigeria, others, Pentagon replies Buhari

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The United States has said there is no plan to relocate its Africa Command from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any other part of Africa despite the worsening state of insecurity in the region.

The US gave the response barely two weeks after the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), appealed to the US government to consider relocating AFRICOM to Africa to assist Nigeria and other adjoining countries to combat worsening terrorism, banditry and other security crises.

The President made the plea in a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on April 27.

Germany-based Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the US military headquarters that oversees its operations in Africa.

Buhari’s request followed a series of recent military casualties in Nigeria’s decade-long fight against Boko Haram terrorists, fresh expansion of the insurgents’ bases to Niger and Nasarawa states, and heavy wave of abductions and killings by bandits in the North.

Buhari said, “The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.

“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes.

“The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.

“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.”

However, the US government on Thursday ruled out any plan to relocate AFRICOM from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any part of Africa.

According to the United States Department of Defence’ Pentagon, previous studies have shown that the cost of relocating AFRICOM from Germany to Africa is very huge.

In an emailed response to Saturday PUNCH, the Pentagon said although it would continue to value Nigeria and other countries in Africa as important partners, the American government would not consider relocating AFRICOM to any part of the African continent at the moment.

This newspaper had asked if the US would consider Nigeria’s request to relocate AFRICOM to the continent.

The US Pentagon spokesperson, Ms Cindi King, said, “Although there is an ongoing Global Posture Review, the relocation of Combatant Command headquarters is outside the scope of its assessment. In the case of AFRICOM, previous studies have concluded that the cost associated with the relocation of this headquarters is significant and likely to incur the expense of other engagement opportunities and activities that more directly benefit our valued African partners.

“We greatly value the partnership with Nigeria and appreciate President Buhari’s recognition of the United States’ positive contribution to African peace and security, as well as other regional partners that have made similar past pronouncements. The United States remains committed to continuing our close partnership with African countries and organisations to promote security and stability.”

It’s ‘near impossible’ for America to accept Buhari’s invitation – Campbell, ex-US ambassador

Meanwhile, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has listed reasons why it is “unlikely or near impossible” for the US government to relocate AFRICOM from Stuttgart in Germany to Nigeria or any part of the continent.

He said aside from the fact that the cost of doing so is very huge, the Nigerian military had proved to be a difficult partner for the US over the years.

In an emailed interview with Saturday PUNCH, Campbell, who is the Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, a Washington, DC-based think-tank, said, “From an American perspective, moving AFRICOM’s headquarters after 14 years in Stuttgart would be a major undertaking.

“However, should the AFRICOM headquarters move, it is unlikely – if not impossible – that it would be to Africa, with its logistical challenges. Some in the US Congress support moving AFRICOM’s headquarters to the United States as a cost-effective alternative. For example, South Carolina’s senators, both Republican, have advocated moving it to Charleston, the site of large US military installations.

“It is mostly a matter of money. Moving AFRICOM to Africa would require the construction of a sophisticated installation in areas where the basic infrastructure may not yet have been developed. Moving it to the United States would mean making use of already existing but underused installation (e.g., perhaps Charleston) that could be quickly and more cheaply expanded, if necessary.”

The ex-envoy, however, said Buhari’s request marked a reversal of Nigeria’s official opposition to AFRICOM plans to move it to the continent 14 years ago.

“The shift likely reflects the conclusion that the security situation in West Africa and Nigeria is out of control, spurring a willingness to consider options hitherto unacceptable. Buhari argued that AFRICOM’s headquarters should be closer to the theatre of operations. He also seemed to imply greater US involvement in West African security, including a kinetic dimension in the context of greater Western support for West Africa’s response to its security threats.”

He recalled that when President George W Bush established AFRICOM in 2007, a military-civilian hybrid command in support of Africa, African official reaction was largely hostile, seeing the effort as “neo-colonialist.”

Campbell said, “The Nigerian government took the lead in persuading or strong-arming other African states against accepting the AFRICOM headquarters, which was thereupon established at Stuttgart, Germany, already the headquarters of the European Command.

“In addition to opposing AFRICOM in the first place, the Nigerian military authorities have been largely uncooperative with the US military. Hence, the US military involvement in Nigeria, beyond limited training operations, is minimal, and the country does not host any American defence installations.

“Successive Nigerian governments have wanted to purchase sophisticated American military equipment but have rejected US oversight. In fact, Nigerian purchases of US military materials have been rare, despite their high-profile, ultimately successful purchase of 12 A-29 Super Tucanos – sophisticated aircraft.”

Why US can’t relocate AFRICOM troops from Germany to Nigeria –Chatham House fellow

Corroborating Campbell’s view, an Associate Fellow at the United Kingdom-based Chatham House, Matthew Page, said there was no prospect of the US relocating its AFRICOM HQ from Germany to any part of Africa.

Chatham House, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is an independent policy institute headquarters whose mission is to provide authoritative commentary on world events and offer solutions to global challenges.

Page said, “There is absolutely no prospect of this happening. A combatant command headquarters is an administrative node that requires enormous physical infrastructure and thousands of personnel (and their families) to sustain it. They need to be able to safely live, work, and send their children to school locally. The Nigerian government is unable to safeguard the lives of hard-working Nigerians, never mind a US military installation that would be a juicy target for a terrorist attack.

“With the exception of European Command and Africa Command – which for longstanding historical reasons are located and headquartered in Germany – all combatant commands are located in the United States. These commands do have forward elements and subordinate commands based in the theatre of operations, such as Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) based in Djibouti. But these typically are task-specific and have a light local footprint. The United States is not – and doesn’t want to be – an imperial power with permanent military outposts on the continent. Nor should African leaders be asking it to become one.”

Page, who was previously with the US Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, further said, “I am sure the Biden administration was puzzled by President Buhari’s invitation, given that Nigeria has been a reluctant and difficult security partner for the United States. The Nigerian Army has long viewed US military engagement in West Africa with deep suspicion, shunning deeper ties and ignoring Washington’s calls for security sector reform and human rights improvements. Inviting AFRICOM to relocate to Nigeria is the equivalent of proposing marriage before going on a first date.”

Nigeria, other African leaders must take responsibility for citizens’ security – Expert

However, a counter-terrorism expert and Senior Researcher for the Lake Chad Basin Programme at the Institute for Security Studies, Dakar, Senegal, Dr Akinola Olojo, has said that Buhari and other African leaders must take responsibility for the security of their citizens, noting that the entire burden cannot be pushed on foreign countries.

He spoke against a backdrop of Nigeria and African countries getting US help in the fight against terrorists and other criminals in the region.

Olojo said, “The relocation of the United States Africa Command from Germany to Africa would depend on a number of factors anchored on the foreign policy priorities of the US in the current period. Beyond this, however, is the need for Nigeria (and African countries) to be sincere with a self-interrogation regarding whether the relocation of an external entity such as AFRICOM will address Africa’s challenges of insecurity.

“The ultimate burden of responsibility for ensuring the human security of African citizens lies on the leadership or governments in Africa. The presence of French troops supporting the G5 Sahel Joint Force for nearly a decade has not really solved the fundamental or root causes of the crisis affecting Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with global partnerships when it comes to addressing insecurity. Besides, challenges such as violent extremism have a transnational character and in early 2020, the US and Kenya launched a joint terrorism task force. As long as such frameworks are mutually beneficial, this is good.

“However, the governments of Nigeria and countries in Africa must begin to live up to the responsibility entrusted to them by citizens. In other words, leadership in Africa must inspire and drive the process for implementing the different policy frameworks and national action plans which already exist on the continent.”

Meanwhile, a government official familiar with US operations said even if the US chose to relocate its AFRICOM to Nigeria or any part of the West Coast, it would come with its own challenges which might affect Nigeria or its neighbours adversely.

 The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said, “Bringing AFRICOM to Africa or Nigeria will be a major problem for Nigeria and the African continent. Bringing AFRICOM to Nigeria, for example, will be tantamount to inviting or attracting all the enemies of the US, including global terrorist organisations, to the host country. Such a host country will become a subject of attack from terrorist organisations.”

President Joe Biden had in February stopped the planned withdrawal of US troops from Germany that was ordered last year by the Donald Trump administration but had never actually begun, Associated Press reported.

Biden said the troops’ pullout would be halted until the US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin did a review of America’s troops presence around the globe.

Austin, he said, would ensure that “our military footprint is appropriately aligned with our foreign policy and national security priorities.”

In a statement, Austin said the US Department of Defence would conduct “a global force posture review of U.S. military footprint, resources, strategy and missions.”

The review, he said, “will inform my advice to the commander in chief about how we best allocate military forces in pursuit of national interests. The review will be led by the acting undersecretary of defence for policy, in close consultation with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

Last year, President Trump announced that he was going to pull out about 9,500 of the roughly 34,500 US troops  stationed in Germany. The US has several major military facilities in the country, including Ramstein Air Base, the headquarters for US European Command and US Africa Command, and Landstuhl Regional Medical Centre, the largest American hospital outside the United States.

Trump’s order met resistance from Congress as well as from within the military, which has long relied on Germany as a key ally and base of operations. Trump announced the troop cuts after repeatedly accusing Germany of not paying enough for its own defence, calling the long time NATO ally “delinquent” for failing to spend two per cent of its GDP on defence, the alliance benchmark.

Austin hinted at a likely reconsideration of the order in a conversation with his German counterpart.

German officials believe the order will be rescinded by the new administration, and the German Defence Ministry said that in Austin’s call with his German counterpart, he “emphasised that Germany is highly valued as a station and that American soldiers feel very comfortable here.”

“The US continues to consider its presence in Germany as an important part of joint security,” the Defense Ministry said.

-Saturday Punch

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Reps summon NNPC, CBN, FIRS, EFCC, probe illicit financial flows

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The House of Representatives has resolved to invite various departments and agencies of the Federal Government over illicit financial flows in Nigeria.

At the plenary on Thursday, the House specifically mandated its committees on Finance; Anti-Corruption; Financial Crimes; Banking and Currency; and Insurance and Actuarial Matters to ‘investigate the phenomenon of illicit financial flows and appraise the Federal Governments current policy framework to curb the continuous loss of Nigeria’s’ revenues to illicit financial flows’.

The House also mandate the committees on finance; national planning and economic development; anti-corruption; financial crimes; banking; and currency and insurance and actuarial matters to appraise the Federal Inland Revenue Service’s current framework for identifying, tracing, preventing and sanctioning cross-border tax evasion and other illicit financial outflows.

The committees are to invite the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainad Ahmed; and heads of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Central Bank of Nigeria, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, Nigerian Export-Import Bank, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation ‘and any other relevant institutions’.

They are to ‘address the committees on the continuous loss of government revenues to illicit financial flows and present reports on the measures to curb revenue losses, particularly the coordinated implementation of the automatic exchange of information standard, to prevent further revenue leakages, curb tax evasion and money laundering activities’.

These resolutions followed the unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Chairman of the House Committee on Local Content, Ochiglegor Idagbo, titled ‘Need to appraise Nigeria’s legal framework against illicit financial flows’.

Idagbo explained that IFF was the cross-border transfer of capital that was illegally earned, transferred or utilised, and often consisted of commercial money laundering, tax evasion and proceeds of corruption and criminal activities.

The lawmaker said that the socioeconomic development of Nigeria had deeply suffered due to the unabated cross-border financial dealings of the nation’s revenues resulting from illicit financial flows.

Idagbo decried that statistics showed that the amount of revenues lost annually was more than what came in as  development aid.

“The net official development aid received by Nigeria in 2017 was $3,358,790,000, and the United States Agency for International Development has donated over $526.7m in humanitarian assistance to Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin since 2017. Yet, none of the aforementioned figures matches the estimated $15 and $18bn Nigeria loses to IFFs annually, hence Nigeria continues to struggle with growing inequality, poor infrastructure and lacking service delivery,” he said.

The lawmaker further decried that despite having at least 12 institutions and agencies responsible for tackling IFF and related crimes, Nigeria continued to be menaced by weak regulatory structures and complicity of other financial secrecy.

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