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Boko Haram reportedly sacks Army HQ in Mubi, Adamawa state – LIB

According to a report by Sahara Reporters, suspected members of Boko Haram entered Mubi town in Adamawa state today Oct. 29th and took over the army headquarters of the 234 battalion in the town.

The troops guarding the barracks reportedly initially exchanged fire with the sect men but fled after they realized they were outnumbered by the militants and their heavy firepower.

In a related development, the sect members are reported to have attacked Uba and Hildi towns and other locations in Borno and Adamawa states this morning Oct. 29th. According to residents of the villages, the sect men arrived in the early hours, shooting at them, burning buildings and forcefully took away their food stuff

Buried Alive

donvelly:

I cant really find words that can define this.

Originally posted on backpackerlee:

The monsoons have caused a serious mudslide in central Sri Lanka and this news worries me as it is feared that hundreds of people are buried alive.

View original 245 more words

Quote Of The Day

I feel like I’m able to relate to all races of people because when you learn to tap into the raw emotion of a person, that goes past color.

Big Sean

RAPPER B

ISIS: Reality TV fan and former Girl Guide heads to Syria with 14-month-old son to join Islamic State terrorists – CT

A young mother has shocked her family by leaving her home in Britain to join Islamic State terrorists in Syria.

British newspaper The Sun reports Tareena Shakil, 25, took her 14-month-old son with her, causing her parents to be concerned for his welfare.

Shakil, from Burton-upon-Trent in Staffordshire, reportedly told her family she was going on holiday to Spain when in fact she travelled to Turkey and crossed over the border into Syria with her son, Zaheem.

She has been in contact with her family and informed them she is now in Raqqa.  The Islamic State is headquartered in the city and the city’s residents have reportedly been subjected to strict enforcement of sharia, with public executions in the city’s square carried on those who have failed to comply.

An image posted to Twitter this week by user @ArmedResearch showed three Syrian men apparently being beheaded in Raqqa after being charged with “cursing the Lord in markets, streets and homes”, El Gulf Daily reports.

Shakil’s father, Mohammed, said he was shocked by her actions, telling the newspaper his daughter was a fan of the British reality TV show The Only Way Is Essex (Towie) and 90s pop group the Spice Girls.

“There was no reason to suspect,” he told The Sun.  “Tareena did drama and was in The Guides.  She loved the Spice Girls and Towie.”

There have been reports of dozens of British women joining an all-women unit called the al-Khansaa brigade tasked with imposing the Islamic State’s strict sharia laws.

Another all female unit to have emerged is a group calling itself Al Zawraa, which has the aim of preparing women for jihad by teaching them how to use weapons and social media, sew, do first aid, cook for male fighters and understand sharia.

Despite the Islamic State’s gruesome barbarity, a report in The New York Times last week that it is finding women eager to join their ranks, although the precise number is unclear.

King’s College lecturer in defence studies Katherine E Brown told the newspaper it was likely that some women are attracted to the idea of marrying a fighter, while for others the appeal is a “new utopian politics, participating in jihad and being part of the creation of a new Islamic state”

Amidst ISIS war, Kurdish discourses on national self-determination – OD

The US and EU urgently need a better understanding of realities on the ground, the nature and diversity of attitudes to national self-determination in various parts of Kurdistan, and how they have been affected by the war against ISIS.

Massoud Barzani addresses official opening of US consulate in Erbil, 2011.

Massoud Barzani addresses official opening of US consulate in Erbil, 2011. RFE/RL/Demotix. All rights reserved.In both Iraq and Syria, officially or unofficially, Kurdish irregulars form the vanguard of the international coalition to defeat the radical militants of theIslamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

However, it remains to be seen whether the Kurdistan Regional Government(KRG) wages this war to defend the unity of the Iraqi state – as its western partners would have it – or pursues its own agenda of establishing an independent Kurdish state once ISIS has been defeated. An article in this month’s New Yorker alleges as much, and it is a concern routinely voiced in western capitals when discussing arming and training the peshmerga.

Such fears may appear even more valid in Syria, where NATO reluctantly came to fly sorties as well as to drop arms and ammunition in support of the defence of the contested town of Kobane; weapons, Turkey warns, that could end up in the hands of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

These concerns of the Kurds exploiting the current crisis to unilaterally pursue independence, though, seem to be more guided by western essentialist and normative understandings that perceive sovereignty as a zero-sum game – a way of thinking particularly salient in Turkey – than by realities on the ground, the nature and diversity of the discourses on national self-determination in the various parts of Kurdistan, or how they have been affected by the war against ISIS.

National self-determination versus sovereignty

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq has a predominantly young population, who, born or come of age after 1991, has never experienced Arab rule and has grown up in a Kurdistan governed by Kurds. They increasingly question their nominal subordination to a central government in Baghdad that is only perceived as having a negative impact, if any, on their daily lives. Among this segment of society, the widely held view of sovereignty as an absolute that either exists or not is most pronounced.

Such a view subscribes to the modernist take on nationalism, where, in the words of Ernest Gellner, “nationalism is primarily a political principal which holds that the political and the national unit should be congruent.” In other words, since modernism understands the modern sovereign nation state as the pinnacle of human political development, a nation, according to this view, is defined by its very desire to politically organize and express itself as a state; nations are seen as proto-states.

If the desire for statehood is lacking, said entity does not qualify as a nation. Furthermore, in the mainstream understanding of statehood, state sovereignty is seen as indivisible and only voluntarily transferable: once sovereign statehood is recognized by other states, only that state can claim undivided control over its territory and population and no other power – external or internal – has the legal right to contest its sovereignty.

Likewise, such a zero-sum mindset on sovereignty has formed the cornerstone of Kemalist state doctrine ever since the founding of the Turkish Republic. For ninety years the Turkish political establishment has stubbornly held on to the belief that Turkish society is comprised of only one nation; for to acknowledge the existence of a second (Kurdish) nation, in their eyes, would inevitably open the door to their territorial demands.

In its view on sovereignty, the international system regulated by international law has proven only marginally more flexible than Turkish state doctrine. While there are, as always, exceptions to the rule – think of the independence of Kosovo or various instances of so called “humanitarian intervention” – here too, the general principle holds that who and what is a state today and what is not is cast in stone.

Since not all nations in the world have yet become states, these two principles, national self-determination and sovereign statehood, are inherently contradictory and consequently often at odds – an immanent systemic conflict of principles international law has yet to satisfactorily address. And until it has been addressed satisfactorily this contradiction that on the one hand claims to espouse the self-determination of nations yet on the other hand holds existing states sacrosanct, effectively contributes to protracting countless ethno-nationalist conflicts around the world.

Three discourses on national self-determination

Before ISIS took Mosul in June and fundamentally altered the political landscape in the entire region, one could have observed three parallel discourses on national self-determination in Kurdistan. In line with the modernist linear trajectory of nations ‘naturally’ progressing into sovereign nation states, young Kurds in Iraq oppose Kurdistan being denied its supposedly organic development towards becoming a full-fledged member of the international community of independent states. Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel argues on openDemocracy in a similar vein when declaring, the Kurds “can ill-afford to be passengers as the evolutionary train darts past this time around … outright independence remains the only real option.”

A good number of Kurdish youth perceive the Kurdish leadership of President Massoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) as an old boys club, whose stalling tactics and tendency to fall in line with western and Turkish interests are more dictated by personal gain than political caution.

To be sure, one could read Barzani’s brinksmanship into the merely tactical terms of only attaining what is realistically feasible in the present. He knows that a Kurdish unilateral pursuit of independence that would break up Iraq is not only vehemently opposed by Baghdad and the KRG’s regional partners such as Turkey and Iran, but also by an international system that considers the sanctity of borders and the territorial integrity of existing states as dogma.

At the same time though, Barzani’s power and authority depend on holding out the prospect of independence to his own constituency, at a juncture of his choosing, while, by the same token, using the threat of independence as leverage via Baghdad and the international community to get ever wider concessions on regional autonomy. Consequently, in early July, for the umpteenth time, he threatened to hold a referendum on independence if his nemesis, Nouri al-Maliki, clung to the premiership in Baghdad.

However, Barzani’s tactical maneuvering should not only be seen in terms ofrealpolitik. It can also be interpreted as an alternative view to the above hegemonic discourse on nation- and statehood that in system-immanent contradiction portrays nations as bound to develop into sovereign nation states yet at the same time imposes insurmountable restrictions on new states to emerge from the debris of existing ones.

Arguably, he may adhere to a more historic understanding of sovereignty, not as an indivisable absolute but as a fluctuating expression of relative power and authority that needs to be constantly adapted and re-negotiated, and where several forms of sovereignty can overlap.

Historically, this was the case in late medieval times when the Kurdish emirs, nominally part of the Ottoman Empire in a heavily contested border region, shifted their allegiance between Constantinople and Safavid Persia to maximize their autonomy via the former. As I have written elsewhere, the same patterns are at play today, where the Kurdistan Region is nominally part of Iraq and Iraqi Kurds hold important offices in the central government, yet for all intents and purposes Iraqi Kurdistan acts as a quasi-independent country, controlling its own natural resources in direct negotiations with oil giants like Exxon Mobil, maintaining its own armed forces – the legendary peshmerga – and conducting its own foreign policy.

For this reason many of his critics accuse Barzani of a medieval understanding of national self-determination, in which he, like a traditional tribal leader, seeks the patronage of a benevolent suzerain and contents himself with the larger share of a smaller pie, i.e. autonomy, rather than antagonizing the suzerain by unilaterally pursuing the smaller share of a larger pie, i.e. independence.

Alternatively, his ideology can be described as post-modern, where several layers of sovereignty overlap and complement each other, in which the temporality of commanding full internal but only limited external sovereignty identified for so called “de facto states” is extended into perpetuity, and where relations with powerful non-state actors like Exxon Mobil count for at least as much as the recognition of Abkhazia, another so called de facto state, by the likes of Nicaragua and Belarus.

In other words, Barzani may be quite content with indefinitely preserving the status quo – ‘his’ state-like polity remaining within but at the same time apart from Iraq. Thus, while de jure not independent, the KRG deals with the Iraqi central government and to some extent even external powers as equals.

It goes without saying that this approach, very much shaped by Weberian charismatic leadership at the expense of democratic accountability, is inherently autocratic – which is another critique routinely and justifiably leveled at Barzani’s leadership in Iraqi Kurdistan.

A theoretically more democratic discourse on national self-determination is propagated by the PKK. Their understanding of national self-determination is grounded in nineteenth century anarchist political theory that refutes the international order of centralising sovereign nation states, which, it holds, suppresses the true democratic will of the masses.

According to leading anarchist thinkers, Peter Kropotkin and Mikhail Bakunin, the modern sovereign nation state is a majority-sanctioned despotism of elites promoting ever more comprehensive homogenisation of society in order to maximize their control over it. In contrast, they envisioned a federalism that is rooted in an individualist and regionalist conceptualisation of society, resulting in a bottom-up and voluntary collectivisation of people, goods, and means of production into communes, and, in the long run, into a global confederation.

These political associations though, whether communes or global confederations, are strictly voluntary and can be as easily abandoned and dissolved as they have been entered into. In other words, unlike the current hegemonic discourse on nation- and statehood, here secession is an inherent right of every individual and group. Individuals and larger communities are free to join and leave any political collective, irrespective of ethnicity, nationality or religion.  The PKK’s discourse on national self-determination exists in Iraqi Kurdistan only at the margins, yet it is more pronounced in neighbouring Turkey Syria.

The ISIS advance in Iraq as a watershed moment

When in June, ISIS took Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, and advanced on Baghdad, the political system in Iraq was shaken to its very foundations; KRG PM Nechirvan Barzani, Massoud’s nephew, declared with confidence that it would be impossible to return to the Iraq of before the fall of Mosul.

The Kurds quickly moved into the positions the Iraqi army had abandoned andoccupied all territories contested between the KRG and the central government, most prominently the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. To the masses in the streets of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region, and to the Kurdish diaspora across Europe, for a brief moment, the hour of independence seemed to have come; Kurdish and international media abounded with calls for the Kurds to realize their dream of national self-determination, and some international leaders like Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu even openly endorsed the prospect of a Kurdish state.

All appeared to be set in the Kurds’ favor: the Iraqi army had been defeated, in Baghdad PM Nouri al-Maliki, whose divisive leadership had antagonized Kurds for years, was clinging to power and was consequently shunned by the international community, and the US and her allies relied on the Kurdishpeshmerga to confront ISIS.

Consequently, President Barzani felt increasing public pressure to finally walk the talk, to seize the moment and unilaterally break with Baghdad in a bid for Kurdish statehood. How in such auspicious circumstances could he not go after independence as he had promised his constituency in speech after speech?

Less than six weeks later any such demands fell silent in Kurdistan. The referendum on independence has been postponed indefinitely, and instead the KRG promise to fully cooperate with the new Iraqi government of PM Haider al-Abadi. The main reason for the Kurdish excitement for independence to die down so quickly was the defeat of the Kurdish peshmerga at the hands of ISIS in early August. That it took US fighter jets to stop the Islamist militants’ advance just 25 kilometers east of Erbil demonstrated two very painful facts to all Iraqi Kurds: first, that their revered peshmerga were not up to scratch in defending the Kurdish polity, be it as an autonomous region or an independent state; and second, that the Kurds could not dare risk going it alone.

On the contrary, the dividends of cooperation with the international community were made immediately evident. As soon as the KRG agreed to cooperate with the new government in Baghdad, they received US air support as well as NATO weaponry and training. With these developments in Iraqi Kurdistan, Barzani’s discourse on national self-determination appears to have prevailed at the expense of those demanding independence. Contrary to western fears then, the support in weaponry and training the peshmerga receive from NATO countries have ensured the KRG’s compliance with the norms of the international system and, begrudgingly, its cooperation with Baghdad, rather than undermined it.

The battle for Kobane as a defining moment in the Kurdish nationalist narrative

With the advance of ISIS temporarily checked in Iraq, international attention turned to Syria, where for more than a month now the fighters of the KurdishPeople’s Protection Units (YPG) hold the strategic border town of Kobane against superior ISIS forces. At one time ISIS had been on the verge of conquering the city, and CENTCOM had written it off with US officials cynically remarking that to save Kobane, its remaining civilian population and about 2,000 YPG fighters was not a “strategic priority”.

Even more objectionable in light of the human tragedy in Kobane is Turkey’s behaviour. After at first admitting 180,000 refugees from Kobane, Turkish security closed the border, preventing Kurds from Turkey joining their fellow Kurds in the defence of the city, and its army, which could have easily beaten ISIS back, idly kept watch from a safe distance as the Kurds were fighting for their lives. Turkey’s callous inaction can be explained by the fact that the majority of YPG fighters are members of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian Kurdish affiliate of the PKK, who for the past two years has successfully run a Kurdish self-governed autonomous zone in Syria. Ankara fears that western support for the YPG would strengthen the PKK and in the long run could bolster attempts by the PYD to break away from Syria.  Despite an on-and-off peace process since 2009, the PKK remains listed by the US and EU as a terrorist organization.

The endurance of the YPG together with international media coverage, though, has turned the tide in the last week. Against Turkish objections the US has intensified its air campaign and dropped weapons and ammunition for the YPG, realizing not only that the Kurdish fighters are the only ground force in Syria capable of holding ISIS at bay, but also that the battle presents them with a strategic opportunity to tie down and eliminate thousands of ISIS insurgents. What is more, Kobane has become “a defining moment for nationhood and identity” for Kurds everywhere and has often been referred to as the “Kurdish Alamo”. Across Turkey and Europe Kurds took to the streets in the tens of thousands to protest Turkey’s cynical game with Kurdish lives. Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK, threatened that if Turkey allowed Kobane to fall the peace process with the PKK would be dead in the water. And Massoud Barzani negotiated with Turkey the free passage of a contingent ofpeshmerga through Turkish territory to aid the defence of Kobane.

Such display of pan-Kurdish solidarity, however, may prove short-lived. While it is true that the PKK had distinguished itself earlier in the defence of Erbil when the Iraqi Kurdish capital was threatened by ISIS in August, the PKK and Barzani are decades-long rivals for supremacy in the Kurdish nationalist discourse. They come from opposite ends of the ideological spectrum and, as outlined above, have widely differing views on the nature and future of Kurdish national self-determination.

In the 1990s they fought a bloody civil war over control of Iraqi Kurdistan, in Turkey Barzani has forged an alliance with President Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) against the PKK and the Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (BDP) – often alleged to be the moderate poster child for the PKK – and in Syria the PYD and Barzani’s affiliates are facing each other off in a cold war standoff over who is to determine the future of Syrian Kurdistan: Barzani’s conservative, pro-western brand of nationalism or the PKK’s more radical, although no longer separatist, ideology. In this context Barzani’s intervention to aid the YPG in Kobane, rather than altruistic, is to be understood as an attempt not to lose control of developments in Syria.

Yet Barzani’s eleventh hour activism cannot hide the fact that for the man who has dominated the Kurdish discourse on national self-determination for a decade, with the PYD/YPG heroes of Kobane, a strong competitor has arisen. Irrespective of whether the city falls or prevails in the end, the symbolic power of Kobane has become branded on Kurdish hearts and minds everywhere. For the US-led, anti-ISIS alliance, on the other hand, this development should not be seen as a threat but as an opportunity. Rather than allowing their Syria-policy to be dictated by Turkish obstructionism, they should take the experience with Iraqi Kurdistan in August as an example. They should seek to engage the PYD/YPG, making them a full-fledged partner in the war against ISIS, as well as holding out the prospect of them becoming a partner in the post-war order for Syria.

Such a genuine partnership does not have to be reflected in one or two independent Kurdish states but in giving the Kurds of Syria, Iraq, and Turkey a real say in their future, allowing them their democratic right for national self-determination in acknowledgement of the fact that there are a diversity of authentic Kurdish discourses beyond the zero-sum game mentality of sovereignty as an absolute; home grown concepts that envision alternatives to the western, essentialist nationhood-statehood equation that has brought decades of bloody conflict to the entire region

Over 100 feared dead in Sri Lanka mudslide – ALJAZEERA

More than 100 people are believed to have been killed in a landslide in hilly south-central Sri Lanka, with hopes fading for more than 300 listed as missing, the country’s disaster management agency said.

The mudslide happened early in the morning on Wednesday, wiping out more than 100 homes of tea garden workers at the Meeriabedda tea estate, 218km east of the capital, Colombo.

Rescue workers pulled out bodies and troops were mobilised to help with the rescue operations, Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said.

“We have reports of 140 houses getting washed away in the mudslides,” Sarath Kumara, a government spokesman told the AFP news agency.

State broadcaster Rupavahini showed huge mounds of earth covering the houses, with only parts of the roofs visible on some. It showed more muddy water gushing from the hilltops.

Heavy rainfall has also washed away sections of several national highways, slowing down traffic.

About 500 military personnel and civilians were searching for survivors late on Wednesday with the help of heavy earthmoving equipment, according to a local journalist at the scene. But the operation was later suspended.

“We have suspended the rescue operations because of darkness and inclement weather. There is also threat of further landslide. We will continue from tomorrow,” the disaster management minister said.

Heavy rains expected

Al Jazeera meteorologist Everton Fox reported that heavy rains are expected in the coming days. He said that as much as 141mm of rain fell in the region in the last 24 hours that could have triggered the landslide.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa posted a statement on Twitter saying that he had ordered officials to provide early relief and speed up the rescue work.

More than 700 members of the armed forces were deployed to assist in the search operations.

The Disaster Management Centre said it had repeatedly warned residents to move to safer areas after heavy monsoon rains in recent weeks.

The monsoon season in the Indian Ocean island nation runs from October through December.

Sri Lanka, formerly called Ceylon, is one of the world’s leading producers of tea. Most Ceylon tea, as it is known, is produced in the central hills, where the high altitudes and rainfall provide favourable conditions.

INVESTIGATION: Nigerian embassy in U.S. wastes N100 million on frivolous PR contracts – Premium Times

Nigeria Ambassador to the U.S, Adebowale Adefuye

Nigeria Ambassador to the U.S, Adebowale Adefuye

By Samuel Malik

Just a few months after disclosures about a $1.5 million dollar image laundering contract awarded by the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, to an American PR firm, stirred controversy, the International Centre for investigative reporting, ICIR, has discovered that the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC has also awarded two similar frivolous contracts worth over N100 million ($700, 000) in less than a year to another United States-based company to do ostensibly what its staff are paid to do.

According to documents obtained by www.icirnigeria.org, between July 2013 and May 2014, the embassy awarded two contracts to Mercury Public Affairs LLC worth $300, 000 (over $50 million) and $400, 000 (over $60 million) respectively for jobs that have been described as basic diplomatic functions that could easily be handled by the embassy staff.

The first of the contracts showed that in four months, between July 22 and November 22, 2013, the Nigerian Embassy paid $300, 000 for Mercury to: “Provide government affairs counsel and arrange meetings with key Executive and Legislative branch officials and staff on issues of importance to Nigeria; arrange meetings between US and Nigerian officials to further deepen business, economic and security ties, and; facilitate and arrange US visits for key Nigerian officials.”

The contract document was signed on July 22 on behalf of the Nigerian Embassy by Ade Adefuye, the Nigerian Ambassador to the US and Morris Reid, managing director of the PR firm.

Our investigation further revealed that in addition to the $300, 000 contract fee, there was room for additional money to be charged without limit, as the contract provides for “Miscellaneous expenses, such as travel” to be “billed in addition to the retainer.”

The second contract, which lasted five months, from December 2013 to May 2014, cost $400, 000 and saw Mercury engaged for “strategy development; liaised with US officials and relevant organizations to enhance the US/Nigerian relationship” — responsibilities that were again not beyond the capacity of the embassy staff.

While ICIR could not ascertain how much was billed by Mercury to the Embassy as miscellaneous expenses in the first contract, our investigation revealed that the PR firm billed the Nigeria Embassy an additional expenditure of more than N10 million ($67, 383), in the second contract.

This expenditure, it was discovered, was accumulated mainly from numerous travels that came with feeding and accommodation, including participation by agents of the PR firm at the World Economic Forum on Africa held in Abuja earlier in the year.

Also, significantly, both contracts could have been awarded as one as they cover a period of about 12 months; but they were split, probably, to meet the approval limit of the ambassador.

In the filings by Mercury to the US Justice Department, a requirement under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, FARA, the company details the activities it conducted for the embassy to be mainly organising meetings and sending emails. Such meetings were principally between US government officials, including legislators, and Nigerian officials, principally Mr. Adefuye and the minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonko – Iweala.

Speaking on the contract, Seember Nyager, chief executive officer of Public and Private Development Centre, PPDC, which wrote a joint Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, request with the ICIR to the Embassy for details of the contract, including the bidding process, said that not only was the sum excessive, the contract itself was needless.

“It just looks extremely vague to me because, honestly, that is exactly what the contract says, and of course, there is no liability,” Ms Nyager said. “So, anything they do will be meeting the term. And I don’t see why the embassy cannot just write directly to the government officials they would like to meet in the US because that is what diplomatic bodies do.”

“I do not know that diplomatic bodies need to hire PR firms or similar firms to arrange these kinds of meetings by virtue of the fact that those are the core functions of diplomatic outfits, not something that ought to be outsourced and certainly not for $300, 000.”

Ms. Nyager said Embassy staff should have no problem executing the job which Mercury was hired to do.

“It is a key function of diplomacy, I think, to be able to arrange those kinds of meetings and I doubt that if you write a letter saying you would like to arrange a meeting with this and this person, you would be turned down abruptly. It is very unlikely that they would not respond to you. Even ordinary citizens, when they write letters they get responses. So I see no reason why a diplomatic outfit would get no response (since) they already have ties with the foreign governments that host them.”

The open-ended nature of the miscellaneous expenses further makes the contract a sheer waste of public funds, according to Nyager. “It is not supposed to be and that is what makes the contract extremely vague because anything you do can be seen to be acceptable.”

“I believe public institutions, of which an embassy is a part of, have budgets and they can only work with their budget. So if you are entering into a contract, you can’t enter into a vague contract that does not state a limit at all for utilisation of resources. Miscellaneous is too wide and too vague (and) I think it contravenes every form of due process and every form of public resource management in Nigeria.”

Seember Nyager said Nigerians are partly responsible for such misuse of public funds by government agencies because, “By being passive, we encourage it and contribute to the system of unaccountability.” According to her, however, a stop can be put if Nigerians take advantage of the Freedom of Information Law.

“There is ample provision now for all of us to demand that we know how our public resources are being spent and when we see that somebody has done it (uncovered misappropriation) I think people should be angry enough to agitate against any of such kinds of practice because it is wrong.

“We need to see that punitive measures are taken so that people are discouraged from doing these kinds of things and know it is an open system and we cannot be exploited or taken advantage of,” she concluded.

The award of PR contracts to US firms has become a trend by Nigerian government ministries and agencies in the last few years. The first outcry against such a contract was a $1 million PR contract awarded by Ojo maduekwe, then minister of Foreign Affairs to Patton Boggs, one of America’s most priced public relations companies. That contract was awarded in January 2010.

Recently, there was also outrage over a contract awarded by the News Agency of Nigeria, the nation’s official wire service, in June this year to Levick Strategic Communications, a Washington – based public relations for an amount in excess of $1.5 million.

According to the contract document, part of Levick’s brief was to provide “government affairs and communication counsel” to shape international and local media perception about the Nigeria government’s efforts to rescue the more than 200 girls from Chibok, Borno State, kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents in April.

When civil society groups asked NAN for details of the contract, the agency dodged, referring them to the office of the National Security Adviser, NSA, which it claimed had the information.

All attempts to get the Embassy to respond to several queries on the contract such as whether due process was followed, what specific services Mercury has delivered and costs proved abortive as neither the Ambassador nor other embassy staff responded to our email sent over two weeks ago.

Also, the FOIA request jointly written by PPDC and ICIR, which was hand delivered to the embassy’s offices in Washington DC has not elicited any response.

Similarly, Mercury did not respond to our email as at the time of filing this report.  When our reporter phoned the PR firm’s Washington DC offices, he was told by the lady who answered the call that questions relating to contracts could not be handled on the phone.

She, however, availed our reporter the personal email of the managing director. However, another email requesting information sent to Reid’s email address last week has also not been replied until the time of going to press.

Zambia’s President Michael Sata dies – Aljazeera

Sata, 77, had been in office since September, 2011 [AP]
Zambian President Michael Sata has died in London, where he had been receiving treatment for an undisclosed illness, the government said.

Roland Msiska, secretary to the Zambian Cabinet, said in a statement on Wednesday that Sata died late on Tuesday in London, where he was being treated.

“As you are aware the president was receiving medical attention in London,” Msiska told state television.

“The head of state passed on in October 28. President Sata’s demise is deeply regreted. The nation will be kept informed on burial arrangements.”

Msiska says Sata’s wife, Christine Kaseba, and other family members were with the 77-year-old president when he died.

An official told Al Jazeera that the death had been announced to the cabinet on Wednesday morning.

Sata had left Zambia for medical treatment on October 19 accompanied by his wife and family members, according to a brief government statement that gave no further details.

There had been no official update on his condition and acting president Edgar Lungu had to lead celebrations last week to mark the landlocked nation’s 50th anniversary of independence from Britain.

For supporters who voted him into office in 2011 he was a no-nonsense man  of action. For critics, the former policeman, trade unionist and taxidermist  was an authoritarian populist.

‘King Cobra’

Detractors, political foes, the media and even allies frequently came under attack from a man who earned the sobriquet “King Cobra”.

He once publicly upbraided his whole cabinet, threatening to collapse his  own government if they did not do a better job.

The final period of Sata’s rule saw a crackdown on political opponents and critical journalists who reported on his long-suspected illness and frequent  “working trips” abroad, apparently for medical treatment.

Concern over Sata’s health has been mounting in the country since June, when he disappeared from the public eye without explanation and was then reported to be getting medical treatment in Israel.

He missed a scheduled speech at the UN General Assembly in September amid reports that he had fallen ill in his New York hotel.

A few days before that, he had attended the opening of parliament in Lusaka, joking: “I am not dead.” Sata has not been seen in public since he returned to Zambia from New York in late September.

Sata, who once worked as a railway porter in London, had been the country’s president since September, 2011 after winning a tight presidential race against the then incumbent, Rupiah Banda

Despite own majority, PDP admits it can’t force Tambuwal out; counts on court – Premium Times

Its majority status in the House of Representatives far from overwhelming after a series of defections, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, acknowledged Tuesday it may lack a required two-third support to force out the speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, who decamped from the party Tuesday.

Mr. Tambuwal dumped the ruling party for the opposition All Progressives Congress, citing factionalization within the party in his home state, Sokoto.

In its response, the PDP national leadership said the “honourable and responsible” action for the speaker would be to resign from his position.

The party did not state its reaction if the speaker refuses to voluntarily quit.

But amid concerns over a possible impeachment of Mr. Tambuwal, the PDP leadership in the House said while the party remains in control of the lower house of parliament, the idea of unseating Mr. Tambuwal may not be as simple.

An impeachment of the speaker would require 240 out of the 360 members to agree on the move.

Currently, the PDP leads with 189, while the APC has 159 members. Smaller opposition parties cover the remaining slots.

Any impeachment move would mean the PDP must reach out to the APC for support, were to able convince all its members and those of the smaller parties, many who are Mr. Tambuwal’s allies.

“I think we need to be mindful of the constitution,” said deputy Majority Leader, Leo Ogor, on impeachment concerns. “According to the constitution, you would need a two-third majority to remove a sitting Speaker. Do we have two-third? That is another matter we need to ponder over.”

He said the party would instead await a pending decision by a federal court on previous defections by lawmakers from the PDP to APC.

“We await the ruling of the court on the matter. And I think this is one great opportunity for us to call on the Judiciary — they are also an arm of government — that justice delayed is justice denied. And if this subjected matter is before them, it behoves on them to make the necessary interpretations so that we can lay this issue to rest in respect of defection,” Mr. Ogor said.

He added: “It is extremely important. But for us as members of the PDP, we believe that we will continue carrying on the responsibilities of our party.”

Mr. Tambuwal defected formally at Tuesday’s plenary, ending months of speculation and denials, and becoming Nigeria’s first speaker from an opposition party.

A three-term member of the House, Mr. Tambuwal had long been alienated from the ruling party, PDP, repeatedly missing party functions and publicly criticising officials of the party on whose platform he rose to power.

Speculations he will dump the PDP reached its zenith more than a week back when the speaker attended an APC meeting in his home state, Sokoto, and publicly acknowledged doing so.

Mr. Tambuwal said he took the decision on the invitation of the state governor, Aliyu Wammako, after he was snubbed by a visiting PDP delegation to the state, led by Tony Anenih, the Board of Trustees chairman.

Despite associating with the APC for months, Mr. Tambuwal had consistently denied moving to join the APC. Those denials are believed to have been informed by his concerns over his position as speaker.

On Tuesday, when the speaker finally decided to quit PDP, it was dramatic.

With widespread news reports of his likely defection, Mr. Tambuwal maintained a calm presence at the House, giving no indication the decision was irreversible this time.

Unlike other defections usually announced before the take-off of the days’ business in the House, the speaker delayed his announcement until the last minute of deliberations, as the house moved to adjourn.

“Before I hit the gavel on the motion for adjournment, I want to make this formal announcement to this House,” he began. “Based on the provision of the 1999 Constitution, and having regards to the development of PDP in my own state, Sokoto State, I hereby announce my membership with the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Let me register my profound appreciation to all of you my colleagues for the unflinching support you have continued to extend to me for the overall national interest and development of our democracy. May almighty God continue to guide us all,” Mr. Tambuwal said.

The House adjourned to December 3, a decision some lawmakers interpreted as an attempt to neutralise any attempt by the ruling party, PDP, to move against him.

The APC caucus in the house, which welcomed the defection, said the adjournment was to allow members attend to pressing political needs and well as state needs like preparations for the 2015 budget, expected there shortly.

“We welcome and applaud the Speaker’s decision. Ever since the crisis started in PDP which led to the formation of the ‘New PDP’, and the defection of five PDP Governors, 37 PDP members of the House of Representatives to the APC, and the formal merger of the ‘New PDP’ with the APC, we had all along known that this day will come,” the party said in a statement by House Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila.

“We are proud to acknowledge that the Speaker remains not only a member of the House of Representatives but also its Speaker. This position is consistent with the law and practice in a Presidential System of Government.

For the avoidance of doubt, the Constitution requires only that ‘Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be elected by members of that house from among themselves’. Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal has been a Speaker for all the members, all the political parties and for all Nigerians and will so continue.

With concerns about Mr. Tambuwal retaining his position, the APC acknowledged that more than ever before there is need for vigilance and focus on the concerns of the Nigerian people who elected all of us.

The deputy PDP leader, Mr. Ogor, said the PDP will also watch further, and definitely will see what happens.

“Let’s look and see how he manages the House. We will watch him with eagle eyes and interpret every action that he takes”.

Separately, the House Leader, Mulikat Adeola-Akande, said the party will take a decision on Mr. Tambuwal’s defection at an “appropriate time”Aminu-Waziri-Tambuwal-8-e1414522295159

2015: Kwankwaso declares presidential bid- Vanguardng

ABUJA—Kano State Governor, Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwa has formally declared his intention to run for the office of the president of Nigeria on the platform of All Progressives Congress, APC.

His declaration, yesterday, has brought the number of presidential aspirants in APC to three.

Former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar had previously declared on the same platform.

The declaration, which held at the old parade ground in Abuja attracted not only a mammoth crowd of men and women across the country but also notable chieftains of APC.

KWANKWASO DECLARES— Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola (M); with his Rivers State counterpart,  Governor Rotimi Amaechi (2nd right); Kano State Governor  and presidential aspirant  on the platform of APC, Dr Rabiu Kwankwaso(right); APC chieftain Audu Ogbe (left), and Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje (2nd left) during the Presidential bid declaration  of  Kwankwaso at the former Parade Ground, Abuja, yesterday

Among them were governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, Rivers State governor, Mr. Chibuike Ameachi, immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, former governor of Kogi State, Abubakar Audu, and former National chairman of Peoples Democratic Peoples, Abubakar Baraje.

Others included Sen. Buhari Abba Ibrahim (Yobe State) Sen. Kabiru Gaya (Kano State) former Minister of Communication and APC chieftain, Chief Audu Ogbeh, Senators George Akume (Benue State), Chris Ngige (Anambra State) and Robert Boroffice (Ondo State) among others.

He’s a good man —AMAECHI

Speaking on behalf of APC governors, Rivers State governor and chairman of the governors forum, Chibuike Amaechi described Kwankwaso as a good man.

He further stated that APC governors will work together to realize his ambition should he emerge the presidential candidate of the party.

Also, Senator Boroffice extolled the virtues of Kwankwaso, saying his credibility stood him out among other aspirants.

Former governor of Benue State, Senator George Akume, while describing Kwankwaso’s declaration as good news to the Nigerian public also charged the people to put their trust on Kwankwaso whom he said made a name for himself during his time as the Minister of Defence.

According to him, the abduction of Chibok girls, which he said has become an albatross on the neck of the present regime under President Goodluck Jonathan would not have happened were Kwankwaso in the saddle as the president of Nigeria.

Reeling out his achievements in Kano State, Governor Kwankwaso said the success of the journey and the clarion call by Nigerians were his motivation in seeking election into the office of the president in 2015.

“The success of this journey and clarion call by patriotic Nigerians from across the country motivated me to seek APC’s nomination as the party’s presidential flag bearer for the February 2015 general election. I therefore, wish to accept this call and to formally declare my interest to seek for the Presidential ticket of our great party the APC in February 2015 general elections.

“I am offering myself and soliciting the support of all patriotic Nigerians to join Engr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso on this difficult journey to reclaim our country from the clutches of incompetence and destruction and return it onto the pedestal of peace and progress. I have no doubt in my mind that this journey is difficult and arduous. I have no illusion about the enormity of the challenges. But to save our country, we must walk the journey, however difficult. And we must confront and defeat all the challenges, however, monstrous they are. Yes, we must.”

According to him, the call to save Nigeria has never been louder than now.

“Mr. Chairman and fellow APC members, the call to save our dear country has never been louder, clearer and more unambiguous than now. Every facet of our national life is deteriorating: governance has been reduced to mediocrity; incompetence and impunity. I have no doubt in my mind that this journey is difficult and arduous. I have no illusion about the enormity of the challenges. But to save our country, we must walk the journey, however difficult. And we must confront and defeat all the challenges, however monstrous. Yes, we must!, he said.

He also stated that tackling insecurity, corruption, economic restoration among others will form the nexus of his government if elected president.

“The first priority of this country at this moment is restoring peace and security in every corner of the land. Lives and properties of our citizens must be protected and secured. Boko Haram and all forms of insurgency must be defeated. As a government, we cannot afford to live in denial.” Insecurity is escalating at an alarming rate. Little wonder rag-tag insurgents are taking over cities and towns in the Northeast. My experiences as Nigeria’s Defence Minister and as Special Adviser on war-torn Darfur and Somalia have shown me that securing a nation and fighting and defeating armed insurgents is only achievable if the forces are professionally mobilized, properly kitted and equipped, highly spirited, and correctly armed with intelligence and munitions.

“My experiences have shown me that technology must be deployed in addition to mobilizing and cultivating the support of local communities. Cross-border intelligence is a veritable ingredient necessary to defeat armed insurgents. Relegating the welfare of the Armed Forces and the Nigerian Police Force to the background only helps in compounding the phenomenon. And where low morals meet poor quality equipment and kits, no doubt the insurgents will have an edge. Any responsible government must take these issues seriously if protection of life and property of its citizens is its primary responsibility. These, we understand very well. We must work together, compatriots, in a new APC government to achieve this. Yes, we must!

“Our journey to economic prosperity will always be imperilled if the peace and security of movements of persons and goods cannot be guaranteed. Stopping these menaces does not require rocket science. Good surveillance equipment deployed appropriately and manned by well-groomed and well motivated enforcement agents will do the magic. Ensuring that the culprits are apprehended and brought to justice is imperative.

On corruption

“The second priority of this country, my compatriots, is killing the cancer of corruption that has eaten so deeply into the very fabric of our value system. The impunity with which corruption is being perpetrated, promoted, and protected by the present PDP administration leaves no patriotic Nigerian in doubt that the government is working deliberately and with determination to impoverish Nigerians.. We must stop them. We must save our country. Yes, we must. Effective fight against corruption requires strong institutions, political will of the leadership, as well as cooperation of the citizenry. This, we are determined to do. Our antecedent testifies that we have the capacity and political will to do so.

“The transparency with which we are running the affairs of Kano State and the results that the entire country is seeing are a testim

 

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