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Blessed Iwene Tansi: The patron saint of Nigeria’s democracy @20

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BY FRANCIS ANEKWE OBORJI

The Nigerian Guardian Newspaper wrote in its editorial of May 11, 2011 (dedicated to the then newly Beatified John Paul II), that the journey to Sainthood in the Catholic Church is an effort many in humanity attest:
“In Nigeria, the Catholic Church is holding its breath for Blessed Michael Iwene Tansi who is on this same journey. We ask for progress in the matter too so long as it would propel our people to good conduct and love of neighbour. We congratulate Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church as it enthrones a model we can appreciate. It would be best to ask that his kind should increase in our world today and tarry to hurry into Heaven.” (Guardian Newspaper, “Editorial”, Wednesday, May 11, 2011).
Twenty years ago, when Pope St. John Paul II visited Nigeria for the second time, for the Beatification of Fr. Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi of Aguleri, he made the theme of love of neighbor through “reconciliation and healing”, the central focus of all his preaching and speeches throughout the three-day Papal visit.
This Papal Visit of 21-23 March 1998, was the most singular and visible factor that prepared the ground for the return of democracy in Nigeria few months later in 1999. In fact, two months after the Papal Visit of 1998, events that led to the end of Abacha’s tyrannical regime began to unfold, and Nigeria’s return to democracy became a reality thereof in 1999.
Our aim in the present article is to present the theme of true healing and national reconciliation, highlighted by Pope St. John Paul II during his 1998 visit as a panacea for Nigeria’s rebirth and survival as a nation state today. The article presents Blessed Iwene Tansi as a model of reconciliation and spiritual Patron Saint Nigeria needs today in its struggle for survival as a nation state.
The theme of healing and national reconciliation goes hand-in-hand with the recent calls by some knowledgeable individuals and groups for political restructuring of Nigeria. This too needs a spiritual re-foundation of love of neighbor. In this regard, the nation should not forget to invoke the heavenly patronage and intercession of Blessed Iwene Tansi as Nigeria’s most visible celebrated Ancestral Guardian Saint at this time of our history.
As the country braces-up for the 2019 national elections, we should not lose sight of spiritual dimension in nation-building. Our political elites and those at the corridors of power will be doing the country no good should they fail to listen to the voice of reason calling us for love of neighbor, true healing, national reconciliation and political restructuring today.
How relevant is the Papal Visit of 1998 and Beatification of Fr. Tansi to our Nigerian situation today?

OUR POINT-OF DEPARTURE
It will amount to a denial of history to discuss today the return of democracy in 1999 without first, acknowledging the role played by the visit of Pope St. John Paul II to the country in 1998 and his Beatification of Nigeria’s first Blessed, Fr. Tansi during the visit. Many Nigerians believe that Pope St. John Paul II’s last visit to the country in 1998 and the Beatification of Fr. Tansi prepared the grounds for what is still accepted as divine intervention in Nigeria weeks after the Pope left the country.
In other words, the Papal Visit and Beatification of Fr. Tansi in 1998 formed the bedrock or rather spiritual foundation that made possible the return to democracy in Nigeria in 1999. Without sounding superstitious, however, it is obvious that without this spiritual dimension of that event and epoch, the gains of democratic rule we enjoy today in Nigeria could have been anything but a mirage. This is why we must not overlook the present calls by many for true healing and reconciliation as well as for political restructuring of Nigeria. These are foundational
ingredients, spiritual and political yearnings of the people towards building a new Nigeria of our dream.
They constitute the essence of the message of Pope St. John Paul II during his Pastoral Visit to Nigeria in 1998 for the Beatification of Fr. Tansi. In fact, love of neighbor, healing and reconciliation of the people dominated the life and pastoral ministry of Blessed Iwene Tansi.
This is why the Pope challenged all of us with those ideals as lived and preached by Blessed Iwene Tansi during his earthly existence.

WHO IS BLESSED IWENE TANSI?
One remarkable thing about Iwene Tansi (1903-1964) was that he was a child of destiny, especially, in the area of reconciling people with God, with oneself, with one another and with the created reality. He was born of humble parents who were followers of African Traditional Religion (ATR) in its Igbo cultural colouring, the farmer Tabansi and his wife, Ejikwevi of Igboezunu Aguleri, Anambra State.
The birth of Iwene Tansi occurred at a very critical and trial period of his hometown Aguleri, when the people of the town were having serious frictions with the British Royal Niger Company (R.N.C.), operating at the banks of Anambra River. The livelihood of Aguleri people was and is still dependent on the agricultural activities they do along the banks of the Anambra River. However, with the colonial overlords controlling the Anambra River banks and its environs, the people of Aguleri had never had it easy with the officers and army of the Royal Niger Company (R.N.C.) throughout the colonial era. The birth of Blessed Iwene Tansi occurred precisely when this unease relationship between the natives and the colonial R.N.C. was at its lowest ebb.
Born at Aguleri and educated at the mission school at the Christian Village in his hometown Aguleri, Iwene Tansi became a teacher in his alma mater at the age of 16. Thereafter, he studied for the Catholic Priests and was ordained in 1937. Immediately after ordination, Father Tansi worked as a Parish Vicar under Father John Cross Anyogu (who was later consecrated a Bishop of Enugu), at Nnewi for three years (1938 to 1940). His laudable performance at Nnewi mission encouraged his Archbishop to transfer him to Dunukofia to open that station. This he
did creditably too.
After five years at Dunukofia (1940-1945), Fr. Tansi, again, was transferred to Ufesiodo (Orumba Aguata region) to build up the Mission. He worked satisfactorily as well in this field, from 1945 to 1949. Finally, he was posted to his hometown Aguleri in 1949. It was while at Aguleri that Father Tansi expressed for the first time in writing to his Archbishop his wish to become a Trappist monk. Consequently, from Aguleri he departed for the Monastery in Leicester England in 1950.
As a pastor, Father Tansi dedicated himself not only to daily contemplative prayer but also to active ministry. He evangelized the youth, prepared couples for marriage, visited the sick, was a very good confessor, promoted vocations to priesthood and religious life, and provided for the needs of the poor. He travelled extensively throughout the parish environs to meet and serve his people. An active and busy pastor suddenly developed interest for a monastic life! After thirteen years as a diocesan priest, Archbishop Charles Heerey selected him as the most appropriate candidate to receive, incorporate, and share the Trappist spirituality.
Not a young man at age forty-seven, the parish priest left his native land and travelled to the distant land to prepare himself professionally. En route to England, Father Tansi made a pilgrimage to Rome. In 1950, he arrived at the Abbey of Mount St. Bernard in Leicestershire. Six years later, he took the religious name Cyprian (in honour of that great third-century African ascetic theologian, St. Cyprian of Carthage).
Unfortunately, after Cyprian had begun his formation program, the Trappists reviewed the proposed location of their foundation in Africa and changed the site from Nigeria to neighbouring Cameroon. Although disappointed at this change of location, Cyprian nevertheless continued his formation and dedication to the Trappist spirituality. Early in 1964, however, Cyprian was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm. Within a few weeks, he died. Originally buried at the monastery in Leicestershire, his remains were transferred in 1988 to Onitsha and then to be buried finally at Aguleri his hometown, which had been also his last parochial assignment in Nigeria before moving to England.
The saintliness that Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi manifested to others had been a part of him throughout his whole life, beginning even in his youth. Commenting on his whole life during his beatification at Onitsha in 1998, Pope St. John Paul II said, “He proved himself endowed with virtue, devoted to responsibility, and given over to piety, prayer and studies.”
Beatified in Nigeria in 1998 by the Pope St. John Paul II, what now remains is his canonization, which is the final stage in proclaiming someone a Saint in the Catholic Church.
BLESSED IWENE TANSI: THE APOSTLE OF RECONCILIATION
Iwene Tansi was born, precisely at that time in Aguleri history, when one middle-aged man from the town, by name Onwuerume came to the Royal Niger Company palm oil depot at the company’s headquarters in Aguleri after work and mistakenly caused an oil spillage along the Anambra River bank. Onwuerume had a roasted yam, which he wanted to eat but there was no palm oil. Probably out of curiosity, he wanted to puncture one of the R.N.C. oil drums to obtain a little quantity of oil for his piece of yam. He did it but the oil spilled and even drenched him. In a deep terror, he made his escape leaving behind his hoe, piece of yam and spilling oil.
However, the company’s workers easily detected him and detained him. His detention rang a bell and the Ivite Aguleri village where he hailed from, a community, which were used to protracted war, ran to his rescue and released him. In the process, some rascals looted the properties of the R.N.C. on the argument that they will never brook oppression in their own fatherland especially by strangers. The Company’s chief at Aguleri raised alarm, sent for military re-enforcement from the Company’s headquarters at Asaba. The Company’s military forces came in full force. The soldiers marched to the Christian Village Aguleri, which was the only well organized and inhabited spot around.
At the Christian Village, the colonial soldiers arrested the famous traditional ruler and first baptized Christian of the town, Chief Onyekomeli Idigo. From there the soldiers went to ‘war’. The whole of Aguleri-Uno was attacked. Houses were burnt and domestic animals were shot. People were beaten up, wounded, but not killed intentionally even
though there were some deaths.
However, the Catholic missionaries at Aguleri were outraged that a matter that would have been settled in an hour’s discussion meant that three important villages were pillaged and burnt, the inhabitants put to flight, and Chief Idigo as well as 12 of other leading chiefs, who had come to negotiate, were taken away as hostages.
ONE OF THE HOSTAGES WAS THE FATHER OF BLESSED IWENE TANSI
The hostages were imprisoned at the R.N.C. headquarters at Asaba. The profound impact of this imprisonment of prominent Aguleri men on the people of the town was tremendous. For instance, the father of Blessed Iwene Tansi, when they were eventually released from prison after almost a year in Whiteman’s captivity, gave the name IWEGBUNAM (IWENE) to his newly born child (that is, the would be Blessed Iwene Tansi). This Igbo name, Iwegbunam, literally means, “May revenge (or anger) not consume (or rather overpower) me.”
Thus, when the young Iwene reached school age, his father took him to his uncle Orekyie who was a teacher at the Catholic mission school at Aguleri, so that boy when he eventually graduates from school would be equipped with the education to revenge what the White people had done to the father. However, things did not go as Iwene’s father had wished. For while in school the young man, Iwene Tansi met his vocation to the Catholic Priesthood. This changed his life forever.
Instead of toeing the path of revenge as his father had wished for him, God had another plan for the young man, Iwene Tansi. He was to become a Catholic Priest in the order of a new reconciliation, love and forgiveness as taught and lived by the Master, Jesus Christ. Little wonder then that from the moment he was ordained a priest at Onitsha in 1937, Fr. Tansi made reconciliation the focal point of his priestly ministry and life.
In fact, in contrast to the wishes of his father, Fr. Tansi as one of the pioneer indigenous priests in Eastern Nigeria, became number one collaborator of the White missionaries. In the seminary, for instance, he studied under the supervision of the expatriate priests. There, he was entrusted with the most delicate function, the procurator, which he discharged creditably to the admiration of his superiors and fellow students.
Both in active and contemplative life, be it as a busy Parish Priest in Nigeria or a contemplative Cistercian monk in England, Fr. Tansi spent his himself entirely for God through the ministry of reconciliation in the church and society in all the places he had worked as Parish Priest. He spent hours and hours in the ‘Confessional”, helping the people and reconciling them. He helped many people who were experiencing difficulties in living together whether as husband and wife or as neighbours, to reconcile, first with God, with oneself, among themselves and with the created reality.
As a curate (assistant parish priest) at Nnewi, Fr. Tansi lived in the company of both African and European priests. He hadn’t any problem with any of them nor did he manifest any sign of animosity against the expatriate missionaries. He mixed up very well with his fellow African priests as well as the expatriates with whom they shared the presbytery at Nnewi.
Again, in the pastoral ministry, he spent himself entirely, to helping the people in the area of penitential reconciliation in the “Confessional.” Fr. Tansi is also highly remembered for having helped neighbouring towns that share the same Parish to accept a common name and center for their Parishes. This he did especially, at Dunukofia and Ufesiodo (Orumba Aguata) Parihes. The names and choice of Parish centers of these two large Parishes were as result of Fr. Tansi’s effort to promote good neighbourliness and peaceful co-existence among the people of different towns and villages that make up the Parishes.
In addition, Fr. Tansi had a great sense of respect to Nigeria’s diverse ethnic, cultural and religious identities. Imbued with cultural sensitivity, he never spoke ill of other people, their cultures, religions or ethnic identity. For instance, in 1946 he visited Kaduna in Northern Nigeria for holidays. During the Mass at St. Joseph’s Church, when he was about to preach, knowing that the bulk of the congregation was made up of Igbos, he asked permission of the others to address his people in their own mother tongue. He told his people to respect their hosts as well as every other person, irrespective of our differences in ethnic, cultural or religious identities.
Furthermore, addressing the entire congregation in English later, he said the same thing, while charging them to respect also the White people. Jokingly, he said to the congregation, “Do not be imitating the Whites in everything, strive hard to gain the Kingdom of God. The Whites are already in heaven in this world, but you are suffering every want. Are you going to suffer also in the next world?” Moreover, as a Cistercian monk in England, Father Tansi was at the beginning of his sojourn there, the only African amidst the large community of European monks. He never had problem of living together with the White folks at the monastery.
BLESSED TANSI AND THE RETURN OF DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA @20
Speaking in a homily to over three million faithful that gathered for the Papal Mass at Onitsha for the Beatification of Fr. Tansi on 22 March 1998, the visiting Pope St. John Paul II said:
“Today I wish to proclaim [to Nigerians] the importance of reconciliation: reconciliation with God and reconciliation of people among themselves… When we see others as brothers and sisters, it is possible to begin healing the divisions within society. This is the reconciliation, which is the path to true peace and authentic progress for Nigeria and for Africa.”
Continuing, the Pope said:
Today, one of Nigeria’s own sons, Fr. Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi, has been proclaimed “blessed” in the very land where he preached the Good News of salvation and sought to reconcile fellow countrymen and women with God and with one another. (Pope St. John Paul II, Homily at Onitsha, 22 March 1998 (see, “L’Osservatore Romano” (Weekly English Edition), 25 March 1998).
The Papal Visit in 1998 was very significant in many ways to Nigeria as a nation-state. In the first place, the 1998 Papal Visit was the second time a Pope was visiting the country, and Nigeria was to get her own first “Blessed”, in the person of Fr. Tansi. The first time Pope visited Nigeria was in 1982 during the civilian and democratic regime of Shagari/Ekwueme (1979-1983).
However, the second Papal Visit to Nigeria in 1998 became a catalyst that changed everything for good for a nation caught-up by the worst military dictatorship and tyrannical regime in her recent history. If the first Papal Visit of 1982 took place under a democratic elected civilian government of Shagari/Ekwueme, 12 years after the Nigeria-Biafra War, the second Papal Visit of 1998 took place when Nigeria was under her most brutal military dictatorship of General Abacha, and after the cancellation of the famous June 12, 1993 national elections.
In fact, many international media outlets did not hide their sentiments in reporting the enthusiasm with which many Nigerians welcomed and embraced the 1998 Papal Visit. Nigerians of all creeds, cultures andlanguages turned en masse to welcome Pope St. John Paul II to the country, and with him, prayed to God to deliver the nation from the tyrannical regime of Abacha’s military junta. God, of course, heard the prayer of his people in Nigeria during the Papal Visit. This is because, few months after the Papal Visit, things began to change for better so much so that in 1999, the country had returned to a democratic rule.
In addition, in international media, Nigeria was a laughing-stock of the world. Human rights abuses under Abacha regime were reported on daily basis in the international media. This was especially, after the Abacha regime had executed and killed the nine Ogoni environmental activists led by Sara-Wiwa, the famous Niger Delta writer.
Already there was the M.K.O Abiola case, the cancellation of the June 12, 1993 national elections by former military dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida. Abiola, died in prison and one of his wives, was mysteriously killed during the Abacha regime. Also during this period, many other prominent Nigerians were remanded in prison by the same regime for political reasons. This included General Obasanjo, among others.
What all these meant is that under Abacha regime, Nigeria was really charged, and in a state of anarchy. In fact, by the time, Pope St. John Paul II visited the country in 1998, majority of world powers and Western countries had cut-off diplomatic ties with Nigeria. The Papal Visit and beatification of Fr. Tansi, became therefore, a saving grace for the country. Again, the event of the Papal Visit in 1998 prepared the ground for the restoration of democratic rule in the country. It signaled the end of the tyrannical dictatorship of General Abacha.
Unfortunately, after the return to a democratic rule in 1999, the nation’s political class and those in corridors of power forgot this event of the Papal Visit that restored democracy in the country.
Nigerian leaders, once democratic rule was restored in 1999 after the Papal Visit, decided to forget this spiritual dimension of our journey as a nation-state. Furthermore, Nigerian political class and leaders who took over the mantle of leadership of the country when democracy
returned to the country in 1999, forgot to address the theme of reconciliation and healing that the Pope had challenged the country with during his Pastoral Visit.
Most painfully, our political elites and leaders forgot also to appeal to the heavenly patronage of Blessed Iwene Tansi. Till date, no politician of note from Abuja had cared to know where the Shrine or remains of this extraordinary man of God is located. Moreover, the country forgot to choose Blessed Tansi and honor him as the Guardian Saint or rather, Spiritual Ancestral Guardian of Nigeria’s nascent democracy.
In other words, Nigerian political class and leadership, immediately the democratic rule was restored in 1999, decided to relegate to the background, the spiritual role played by Blessed Iwene Tansi for the return of democracy in the country. Till date, the country and its political class are still behaving and pretending as if he never existed or mattered so much for our national rebirth. The Saint whose Beatification, exemplary life of reconciliation and totally given of oneself to God and love of neighbor, made the Pope to visit Nigeria in 1998 as a witness and pilgrim, is yet to be honored at the nation’s capital and by those at the corridors of power.
The theme of reconciliation and healing, which formed the focal point of the Papal Visit in 1998, and the powerful heavenly intercession of Blessed Iwene Tansi, that won us back the democratic rule in 1999, were all thrown away and forgotten by the nation’s leadership and political
class. Today, most of our political leaders at the center do not remember again, who Blessed Iwene Tansi is! None of our political leaders at the center since 1999 till date is interested in recalling how, through the Blessed Iwene Tansi’s intercession and beatification in 1998, democratic rule returned to Nigeria in 1999. Nobody recalls again the Pope’s teaching on reconciliation and about Blessed Tansi’s preaching on the same theme.
In other words, since Pope’s visit in 1998 till date, no serious effort has been made in Nigeria to imbibe the spirituality and praxis of national reconciliation and healing as practiced by Blessed Tansi and preached by John Paul II during the 1998 Papal Visit. What this means is that Nigeria remains a nation without a “spiritual” fibre and motivation. We are a country that has refused to recognize our only national “Guardian” Spiritual Ancestor (or Patron ‘Saint’) today.

HONORING BLESSED IWENE TANSI IN NIGERIA
Our neglect of the spiritual dimension of nation-building accounts for the reason why till today, no national monument of major significance is erected in the nation’s capital Abuja, in remembrance and in honor of Blessed Iwene Tansi since his Beatification 20 years ago. This is also why the country is yet to declare him, the Patron Saint or rather Nigeria’s national Spiritual Guardian Saint of our nascent democracy.
The 20th January every year that the Church celebrates Blessed Iwene Tansi feast day, is not even known as such by many Nigerians, not to talk of declaring it a national holiday by the government. In developed countries, feast days of Saints of national significance in the caliber of Blessed Iwene Tansi, are celebrated as national holiday with all the meaning attached to it. If not at the national level, at least in some states, the feast day of such a Saint is celebrated in some countries as a public holiday.
This is independent of whatever religious affiliation one may claim to profess. The fact is that, as is always the case wherever the Pope visits, the two Papal Visits to Nigeria in 1982 and 1998 respectively, were national events of great magnitude to all Nigerians, individually and as a nation. For instance, the first Papal Visit in 1982 happened exactly at the time the country had just returned to a democratic rule after the Nigeria-Biafra War and many years of military dictatorship thereof. In 1982 Pope St. John Paul II came to congratulate the country in its efforts towards consolidating democracy and in overcoming the traumas of the Civil War that devastated, in particular, the people of the former Eastern region of Nigeria, the Biafran enclave.
Secondly the Pope’s visit in 1982 inspired the Nigerian federal government of Shehu Shagari and Alex Ekwueme to work for achieving reconciliation through granting ‘State Pardon’ to the two key actors of the Civil War, then living in exile, that is, General Yakubu Gowon and General Dim Chukwuemeka Odimmegwu Ojukwu. The two returned to the country as free men within the time the Pope visited in 1982.
Moreover, the second Papal Visit of 1998 is of particular significance. It signaled the end of a tyrannical regime of Abacha and the ushered in a democratic rule in the country in 1999. In other words, the history of the present-day democracy in Nigeria will be incomplete without acknowledging the contribution of the 1998 Papal Visit and Beatification of Fr. Tansi by Pope St. John Paul II.
It is for this reason that we have emphasized in this article the importance of this spiritual aspect of our history as nation, its significance for Nigeria’s rebirth today. This is necessary considering the fact that Nigerian politicians are already gearing up for national elections in 2019, without truly, addressing the fundamental issues of healing, reconciliation and political restructuring that are crucial for the survival of Nigeria as a united nation state today. The eye of majority of Nigerian politicians today are fixed already towards winning the 2019 elections. The politicians have already started to campaign for their elections and re-elections, without however, paying any attention to these issues the Pope challenged us with during his Pastoral Visit in 1998.
The question of creating an enabling environment in the nation’spolitical landscape that could enthrone a culture of free and fair elections for political stability in the country to emerge, has continued to elude Nigeria’s political discourse. Our politicians are still aloof in reading the handwritings on the wall about the need to embrace true healing, national reconciliation and of course, the restructuring of our political system, that is, if we mean to build a stable and united multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation-state in Nigeria! The fact that our politicians have already started to campaign for 2019 elections without sincerely addressing these issues, should be a source of great concern to all of us.
This is because, Nigeria’s present-day political climate, the disturbing political tension and violent atmosphere reigning in the country today, do not speak good for anybody. As some knowledgeable people are already voicing out, any elections conducted today under this volatile atmosphere and without addressing the issues mentioned above, will be effort in futility.
This is why the country should not fold its arms, and pretend as if everything is alright, or think that ours is a ‘peace time.’ As things are today, the country needs, first, to get healed, reconciled and restructured for any national elections to be meaningful. This is the significance of the Papal message to Nigeria during the Pope’s Visit to the country in 1998 for the Beatification of Fr. Tansi.

CONCLUSION
Thus, as Nigeria celebrates the “Democracy Day” this year 2018, marking the 20th anniversary of the end of Abacha’s tyrannical regime, and prepares for next year’s 20th anniversary of the return to civilian rule in 1999, we must not lose sight of this aspect of our national history, its political and spiritual implications for a new Nigeria of our dream. In fact, one of the mistakes many people have been making in discussing the roadmap to Nigeria’s rebirth is the neglect of the role of spiritual dimension in nation-building.
Perhaps, this is why the country is yet to embrace the trajectories of healing and national reconciliation many years after the Nigeria-Biafra War. It is also the reason the country is yet to atone for the blood of innocent citizens killed and being killed on daily basis today by both the Boko-Haram Islamist extremists and their Fulani Herdsmen counterparts, who are marauding all over the country, killing people and destroying their farmlands and houses. They do all these things freely, without any apprehension from the government or security agencies.
The question is, how prepared is Nigeria today for the forthcoming 2019 elections? Will the 2019 elections achieve the desired aim of Nigeria’s rebirth without our first, addressing those issues of true healing and national reconciliation as well as restructuring which the Pope challenged us with when he visited the country in 1998
Lord help me to remember that nothing is going to happen today that you and I together can’t handle. (Blessed Cyprian Iwene Tansi of Aguleri (Nigeria).

FRANCIS ANEKWE OBORJI, a Roman Catholic Priest, is Professor Ordinarius of Contextual Theology, Pontifical Urbaniana University, Rome.

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Flood: Obiano Holds Emergency Meeting With Stakeholders, Urges Residents Of Riverine Communities To Relocate

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BY KENECHUKWU OFOMAH

Ahead of the imminent flooding , Governor Willie Obiano has met with Heads of Agencies with responsibilities to participate in emergencies in the event of the deluge.
Present at the emergency meeting held at the Governor’s Lodge, Amawbia at the instance of the Governor were Deputy Governor, Dr Nkem Okeke, Secretary to the State Government, Professor Solo Chukwulobelu, Executive Secretary of the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA,
Chief Paul Odenigbo and Chief of Staff to the Governor, Mr Primus Odili.
The meeting also had in attendance, members of the State Security Council and Heads of Agencies involved in emergency response activities among others.
Addressing the meeting, Governor Obiano said with emerging information indicating very worrisome signals concerning the rising flood level in some parts of the State and the latest information about Cameroun opening its dams, the meeting has become imperative to reappraise the initial strategies developed by the State Government to check the flooding.

The Governor, who noted that the State had commenced preparations for the event about five months ago, revealed that Holding Centers have been established across the affected Council areas and equipped with facilities to cater for displaced persons.
He appealed to residents of the affected areas to heed the warning by relevant agencies and vacate the flood-prone areas on time, assuring that his government is committed to their welfare.
The Deputy Governor, Dr Okeke in his remarks, acknowledged that all the agencies with responsibility during the flood have been designated to their various tasks and now await mobilization and deployment.
Briefing the meeting, the Executive Secretary of SEMA, Chief Odenigbo, said having finished with the Holding centers at Ogbaru, they have activated the nine Holding Centers in Anambra East Council Area and are now moving materials to them.
He noted that the water level is presently at eleven point eighty as against that of 2012 which was at twelve point eighty-four at its worst, adding that the signs are real of a devastating flood ahead.
The Commissioner for Health, Dr Joe Akabuike said the Ministry has worked out measures to establish sick bays at the holding centers with doctors designated to handle health emergencies that may arise.

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Nigeria Fires Back at HSBC After Bank Criticizes President

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  • Government says bank laundered more than $100m for Sani Abacha
  • Lender had said second term for Buhari raised economic risks

Nigeria accused HSBC Holdings Plc of money laundering after an analyst working for the lender said that a second term for President Muhammadu Buhari may stall economic recovery in Africa’s biggest oil producer.

“What killed Nigeria’s economy in the past was the unbridled looting of state resources by leaders, the type which was actively supported by HSBC,” presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement late Saturday. A bank that “continued until a few months ago to shield the stolen funds of one of the leaders of the Nigerian Senate has no moral right whatsoever” to criticize Buhari, he said.

Nigerian investigations revealed that HSBC had laundered more than $100 million for Sani Abacha — a military dictator who died in 1998 — in Jersey, Paris, London and Geneva, Shehu said. A spokesman for HSBC declined to comment.

Nigeria’s allegations against the London-based lender come almost two months after it published a research note saying that a win for Buhari in February’s elections “raises the risk of limited economic progress and further fiscal deterioration, prolonging the stagnation of his first term.” The note was written by David Faulkner, a Johannesburg-based economist, on July 18, but was only widely publicized in Nigeria last week.

‘50 Other Nigerians’
“With the coming of President Buhari, it is not a secret that corruption, corrupt individuals, banks and other corporate entities that aided corrupt practices are under investigation for various offenses,” Shehu said in the statement. HSBC “is also suspected in the laundering of proceeds of corruption involving more than 50 other Nigerians.”
The Nigerian government is facing intense criticism of its economic management in the run up to the elections and several ruling-party lawmakers have defected to the opposition. Nigeria was battered by the 2014 slump in crude prices and its economy is still struggling.

The main opposition People’s Democratic Party said on Sept. 12 that HSBC’s research showed a Buhari victory “portends grave danger” for the country.

‘On Edge’
“With the incoming election everybody is on edge and any analysis that is used to sway negative public opinion will be squashed as quickly as possible,” said Michael Famoroti, an economist at Lagos-based Vetiva Capital Management Ltd. “It’s possible the government is right in its claim but it completely missed the point because the issue HSBC raised had nothing to do with criminal or non-criminal activity. What is seen from their comments is that they don’t have the answers to the criticisms raised by HSBC.”

Regulators have long accused the world’s biggest banks of helping manage the illicit fortune amassed by Abacha, who ruled Nigeria from 1993 until his death. In 2001, a U.K. financial watchdog said 15 lenders showed “significant control weaknesses” in handling $1.3 billion linked to him and his associates. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice froze more than $458 million in funds allegedly generated through corruption hidden in bank accounts — including at HSBC, Citigroup Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG — in what it described as the “largest kleptocracy forfeiture action” in its history.

HSBC has a representative office in Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos, but doesn’t operate a full banking unit in the country, unlike rivals such as Citigroup and Standard Chartered Plc.


Paul Wallace , Emele Onu , and Donal Griffin
— With assistance by Elisha Bala-Gbogbo, and Stefania Spezzati

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NIGERIAN AIR FORCE COMMENCES REHEARSALS FOR AERIAL DISPLAY IN ABUJA

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The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) will carry out aerial display as part of activities to mark Nigeria’s 58th Anniversary Celebration. Consequently, there will be movement of NAF aircraft within the Federal Capital Territory from now till 2 October 2018 as NAF pilots commence rehearsals for the occasion. Fighter aircraft would be flying at low level during the rehearsals. The NAF therefore wishes to advise members of the public not to panic but to go about their normal businesses.


IBIKUNLE DARAMOLA
Air Commodore
Director of Public
Relations & Information

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Why Nigeria is a burgeoning market for UK legal services

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By Joshua Siaw

I recently had the honour of accompanying Prime Minister Theresa May on her monumental trade mission to Africa. A visit like this plays a fundamental role in continuing to strengthen UK-African relationships and building an alliance for future trade and investment growth. As the only lawyer in the delegation, I was able to advocate and highlight the strengths of our unparalleled legal sector to key African decision makers as well as take part in exclusive interviews with domestic and international media channels.

The Prime Minister’s business delegation on her visit to Africa. Credit: Crown copyright.

The current conversation about Africa is all about opportunities and new ventures. The often-misguided perceptions of economic uncertainty are beginning to shift. Its young and growing population, vast resources and largely untapped markets offer a wealth of prospects for international investment and most certainly for our UK legal services.
Nigeria in particular is a burgeoning market for UK legal services. The nation has consistently been ranked as one of the top three destinations for foreign direct investment in Africa. As the most populated country on the continent with approximately 186 million inhabitants, it has potential to become one of the largest economies.
The Ministry of Justice’s Legal Services are GREAT campaign is a prime example of government championing and promoting the UK’s £24 billion legal services sector overseas. As the British government’s plan to exit the European Union moves closer to its conclusion, it is estimated that trade between Nigeria and United Kingdom is set to double by 2030.
There currently are 111 African firms listed on the London Stock Exchange. This suggests that the UK remains an attractive international investment prospect which, in turn, creates opportunities for law firms in London. Many commercial law firms located in the UK have established relationships with Nigerian firms. This is partly because Nigeria’s legal system is based on English common law and there is huge growth potential.
Our legal services sector is one of the UK’s greatest exports and we want to continue to showcase our expertise on the global stage. Why not get involved in the Legal Services are GREAT initiative and champion the UK’s pre-eminent legal sector?


Joshua Siaw is a partner in White & Case’s Global Banking Practice and Director of the Firm’s Africa Practice.
To find out more, please email the team at legalservicesaregreat@justice.gov.uk

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I will not resign as senate president, Saraki insists

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Nigerian Senate president and 2019 presidential hopeful Bukola Saraki has said his position in the National Assembly is in the national interest, saying he will not step down until his term runs out.
Saraki had been under fire by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to resign as Senate president since he left the party to join the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on August 1.
National chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole has consistently asked Saraki to step down as Senate president following his defection to the PDP.
“Saraki must vacate the position of Senate president as a matter of honour,” the APC chairman said.
“If he does not choose the path of honour he will be democratically removed as the president of the Senate. I am emphasing logic and political morality plus law.”
Oshiomhole claimed that it was unacceptable in any democracy for a minority party to provide leadership to govern the majority.
But, Saraki, who spoke to journalists during his visit to a former military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida in, in Minna, Niger State, said the APC lack the numbers to remove him as Senate president.

“One thing is clear, I will not sacrifice the interest of the country for my personal interest, and in the last three years as a senate president, I have demonstrated that my interest is second to that of national interest, I will not step down from the Senate presidency,” Saraki said.
“They know that we are in the majority, and whatever they want to do, they know that they don’t have the number.”
Saraki described the call for the National Assembly to reconvene for the purpose of removing him as unnecessary, stating that the Senate was properly adjourned and would reconvene as scheduled after its annual break.
“We did not adjourn the Senate in the dark, there was a procedure, where at the end of the session there was a vote and it was seconded that we should go on annual recess.”
“So it wasn’t anything done in the secret, everybody was there. It is not that some few people met somewhere and took the decision. Everybody participated and everybody took the decision that we should adjourn for a normal annual recess.
“The date that we agreed to resume is the same date that we resumed last year and the year before, so there is nothing abnormal about the Senate adjournment,” Saraki explained.

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Son of president of Court of Appeal joins Gombe governorship race

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The son of the first female president of Nigeria’s Court of Appeal Zainab Bulkachuwa has joined the race to succeed Hassan Dankwambo as the governor of Gombe State.
Aliyu Haidar Abubakar is contesting on the platform of the All Progressives Congress and has submitted his nomination and expression of interest forms at the party’s national headquarters in Abuja.
“The tragic and appalling level of governance in Gombe State demands a youthful leadership greatly imbued with charisma, foresight and vision,” youthful Abubakar said.

“My aspiration and fervent dream to pilot the affairs of the state and take it to the promised land are altruistic and noble.
“This is the time to change the Gombe narrative for good. It’s time the state takes its rightful position in the comity of states across the federation.
“It is sad that we are still at a crossroads, while sister states have become model for accelerated growth and progress in all facets of human endeavours.
“A new dawn awaits Gombe if I am elected next year. I will definitely raise the bar of exemplary, accountable and service leadership.”

 


Guardian

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2019 and APGA’s new game plan

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• To Field Presidential Candidate From North
Rising from an emergency meeting of its Board of Trustees (BOT) recently, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) pulled what came as a surprise to many, when it announced its resolve to field a presidential candidate of northern extraction in the February 2019 election.
Observers had expressed surprise over the decision, apparently because of the previous position adopted by party leaders that APGA was not willing to contest the presidency in the coming elections.
National Chairman of the party, Chief Victor Oye and Governor Willie Obiano had been vocal on the issue. They hinged their reason on elections held in the state, which ended in the party’s favour without interference from the Presidency.
The elections were those of the November 2017 governorship that produced Obiano and the National Assembly re-run election that produced Chief Victor Umeh as Senator for Anambra Central. Umeh’s election delighted the party because it was the first time APGA was producing a senator.

In its 16 years of existence, APGA has never presented a candidate outside the Southeast region for the Presidency. This was due to the erroneous belief that APGA was an Igbo party and as such, is the platform for ascendancy of Igbo person to the highest political office in the land.
In fact, the Igbo appeal in the formation of APGA is summarised in the party’s Cock head logo and slogan of “Onye Aghala Nwannee ya;” meaning be your brother’s keeper.
And to lend credence to that fact, after its registration in 2002, the party moved to contest the presidential election in the 2003 elections. The first thing it did was to freely offer the platform to former Biafra warlord, late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to contest the presidency. Ojukwu, many knew, never prepared for the election and was not angling for a seat at the Presidency.
The party’s founding National Chairman, Chief Chekwas Okorie explained it as part of strategies to gain acceptability for the party in the country. He said the former warlord required no introduction and would be easier to market.
Okorie said it was an honour and a way of rewarding and appreciating the former warlord for his sacrifices for Ndigbo and support towards registration of the party.
At that gathering that held in Enugu, where he unveiled Ojukwu, Okorie also added: “Since the election has become a contest of the Generals, with our brothers from the two other zones in the country presenting their generals, we also need to present our own general. So, it is a contest that must be fought and we will not be seen as playing second fiddle.”
Okorie was referring to retired generals Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari, who contested the election for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). So, Obasanjo was coming from West, Buhari was coming from North and Ojukwu from East. He also explained that lack of time contributed to it.
The scenario that played out was such that the former warlord never contested the ticket with anybody. There was also no opportunity either for any other politician outside Igboland to vie for the ticket, just as there was no primary organised, where the Ikemba emerged. This development haunted the party and followed it to the election.
When the elections came and results were counted, APGA finished third behind Obasanjo and Buhari. Ojukwu secured a little above one million votes from the over 39 million valid votes cast in the election. Obasanjo, who emerged winner, secured over 24 million votes and Buhari, over 12 million votes.
Four years later, the party re-entered the scenario. This time, crisis over the outcome of governorship election in Anambra, as well as leadership of the party had crept in. Ojukwu was again drafted as the party’s flag bearer in the presidential election. The outing was poorer than before. APGA finished sixth, securing less than 160,000 votes. No thanks to the leadership crisis that had eaten deep into the party’s fabrics and Ojukwu’s indisposition to personally take his campaigns around the country, as well as his near imposition on the party.
Since the abysmal attempts and the crisis that developed, the APGA relapsed. Its worry became how to manage the victory in Anambra State and overcome the national leadership crisis.
In the 2011 and 2015 elections, the party openly announced endorsement of PDP presidential candidates.
Thus, after the emergency BOT meeting in which its National Secretary, Labaran Maku made the announcement that the party was now ready to play in national politics by fielding a presidential candidate in the 2019 elections, pundits were taken aback as to what prompted the somersault and fresh reawakening in the party.
A school of thought said the decision to contest might have been fuelled by realisation that the inability to present presidential candidates in past elections has not helped the party’s fortunes. Rather, the political parties it promoted and supported their candidates have conspired to undermine APGA.

Its National Publicity Secretary, Ifeatu Obi-Okoye told The Guardian that APGA was merely bidding its time to enable it reposition and play in the national politics. He said there was never a time the party ruled itself out of the 2019 presidential election, and that the opinions expressed earlier were personal ones.
He said: “The party never came up with an official statement on its unwillingness to present a candidate. There are differences between personal opinions expressed by someone and official statement from the party.
“We fielded Ojukwu on two occasions and after his death, a lacuna was created. We took time to mourn him and also considered the credibility of persons who could go for elections on the party’s platform. We must sustain the national drive which the party was set up for.”
On the decision to locate the Presidency in the north, he said: “We were more concerned and sensitive to the fact that there is power rotation between the north and south, and this is what the constitutional conference approved. Former President Goodluck Jonathan held that power for four years after completing the tenure left by his boss, Yar’Adua, who was from the north.
“So, if the south interrupted the north, when Jonathan took over, it means that naturally, you should allow the north to complete that tenure. They have taken over and we will allow that to continue.”
Another party chieftain, Joe Uzochukwu said: “APGA has been discovered to be a beautiful bride and pride of the Igbo nation. This is the right time to put square peg in square hole and round peg in a round hole. It is a perfect decision taken at the party’s Board of Trustees meeting, that this time around, we shall have a presidential candidate.”
He maintained that APGA had leadership challenges that affected some of its programmes, stressing however, that the problems had been surmounted.
“We have a good and strong leadership under the person of Chief Willie Obiano,” he explained. “He has shown what it takes to be a good leader, as chairman of Board of Trustees of the party. APGA’s inability to field a Presidential candidate, all this while, has been a problem to us. It has been a predicament not arriving or getting to where we are supposed to be.
“You must know that it is only when you have a presidential candidate that you can negotiate with other presidential candidates for what is called an accord. So, all along, we cannot say we have benefitted from the Federal Government, because it believed we are ‘woman wrapper,’ that we are always in the other room. But this time around, we are in the same room. We are fielding a presidential candidate. That’s the beauty of the decision taken by APGA now.”
It was gathered that two persons have indicated interests to use the party’s platform for the presidential election. One of the aspirants, a retired Major General of the Army is said to hail from Benue State, while the other is said to hail from Kaduna State.
But Ifeatu Obi-Okoye said: “We are hoping to get someone of quality, who will represent the party’s ideals and know that APGA has a different ideology. The entire thing is open to all. We want the best persons to contest in that election. APGA was never billed for endorsement of candidates from other political parties or contented with regional politics. We are eager to have a national spread and we believe that time has come.”

APGA And The Southeast
There are indications that the party, even with Igbo appeal, has not done well in the southeast since it came on board. Although it has contested in every election in the zone, this has not translated into victory, as it had always ended in the list of “those who also participated.”
Its only outstanding showing had been in the 2003 elections in which it won in Anambra State, and where it has continued to dominate and a few other states in the zone. It also won in Imo State in the 2007 elections. That victory was short-lived, as two years after, Governor Rochas Okorocha ran away with the mandate to the All Progressives Congress (APC). All efforts to recover that mandate and perhaps, spread to other states had been futile.
But towards the 2019 general elections, the party said it has repositioned to contest in every election and defend the outcome,assuring that its electoral victories would no longer be denied it.
Obi-Okoye said: “A lot has been done to reposition the party and enable it win elections in the Southeast. In Imo as at Wednesday, we have 16 governorship aspirants. We have paid the huge nomination fees. We have a coalition of persons led by Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, who have joined the party.
“We had earlier received a coalition from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from Chief Bright Nwalue. They joined us.
Today, we have at least five persons from each of the zones of the state contesting election. With this development, one cannot say APGA is not doing well in Imo.

“In Abia state, there is a strong desire by two camps to take over power. Our governorship candidate in the last election, Alex Oti held a rally in Aba, which no other party has been able to match, in terms of attendance and all that can go with it. Udensi held a similar rally at Aba and both events were hugely attended. The turnout indicated that APGA is acceptable in the state.
“We have weak links in Enugu and Ebonyi States, but in trying to solve them, we have dissolved the executive in Enugu State and we will soon reconstitute it. We have issued a stern warning to Ebonyi that they either sit up or be dissolved. We are no longer for games.

“Every seat in Anambra is being hotly contested. There is no free ticket in APGA. Even Senator Victor Umeh, our former National Chairman is recontesting his seat. He did not get a waiver. APGA has not drafted anyone into the race. You must be thrown up by the people and with that, we are sure we will win the election and sustain the tempo of progress.
“If you have been following history, you will know that our challenge mainly is not membership or acceptability. Our setbacks are mainly created by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which will always throw up something to deny us victory.
“In 2015, everybody knew we won the election in Abia State. They came up with two local governments, where the figures did not agree to create confusion and deny us that victory. In 2007, we also won the election in Imo State with Rochas Okorocha. But a few years after, he decided to run away with our mandate to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“In Nasarawa State, our governorship candidate, Labaran Maku was robbed of victory. It took four days for the main election results to be announced, because they were trying to perfect the rigging. APGA’s problem has been more of electoral challenge created by INEC. But we are going to defend our electoral victories with the last drop of our blood. We will ensure that votes count from this day forward. That is our resolve. No longer will anybody upturn what rightly belongs to the party.”


The Guardian

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Press Release : News of missing Girls Unfounded – Anambra State College of Education , Umunze .

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The management of the of Federal College of Education (Technical), Umunze, Anambra State has denied rumours that 16 female students of its secondary arm, Demonstration Secondary School have been declared missing.
Rumours had spread through the state of the invasion of the school by hoodlums, causing commotion in the hostel, while students scampered to safety, after which about 16 of the girls were said to have gone missing.
But a press release by Mr Sam Otti, public relations officer of the institution described the rumours as outright false.
He, however, confirmed that the school was invaded by some hoodlums, whose intent was to steal beverages from students of the college, but were quickly confronted, causing confusion in the hostel.
The release reads, “The attention of the management has been drawn to a widespread rumour of 16 female students missing from her secondary school arm, Demonstration Secondary School, Eziagu, following a burglary incident on Saturday night.
“The Management was alerted of an unfortunate incident where some hoodlums scaled the tall perimeter fence into the school premises and made their way into the hostels purposely to steal students’ beverages.
“The hoodlums were confronted by a porter and other staff on duty, who alerted the college security. The porter was injured in the process and is currently receiving treatment in a hospital.
“The commotion from the students in their hostels and efforts of the security men on duty forced the miscreants to escape from the scene.”
It stated that the DPO, Umunze police division and the monarch of the community have been alerted of the unfortunate incident, and the management of the institution has visited the school and ordered the College Chief Security Officer to reinforce security within the school premises, while more security officers have been deployed to the school for round-the-clock patrol.
The release further stated that, “Management reassures the students and their parents of high safety standard of the school, while assuring them that they will work closely with all the relevant security agencies to unmask the identities of these hoodlums and bring them to book.”
The institution also appealed to social media commentators to demonstrate responsibility in their reportage and ensure that the public get only the true version of events.


Additional Report  contributed by Joe Chukindi 

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Buhari Mourns On Nigeria’s Ambassador To Qatar

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President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed sadness over the sudden death of Nigeria’s Ambassador to Qatar, Mr. Abdullahi Bawa Wase.

The President, while extending his condolences to the family members, the government and people of Plateau State, praised the roles played by the late Wase in conflict resolution efforts in Plateau State.

He recalled that, even before his appointment as Ambassador, the late Wase was very prominently involved in community peace activism.
President Buhari in a statement prayed Allah to forgive the sins of the late Ambassador and grant his family the fortitude to bear the loss.

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PDP Demands Adeosun’s Arrest, Prosecution

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) wants the immediate arrest and prosecution of former finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, who resigned on Friday, for deserting national service and forging her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) exemption certificate in addition to alleged impropriety and abuse of office as minister.

The party said President Muhammadu Buhari’s, administration has become notorious for shielding its many fraudulent and corrupt officials, and could not summon the rectitude to sack Mrs. Adeosun, adding that she would still be in office, if not for the sustained uproar by Nigerians and international creditors.
“our investigations reveal that the federal government, which earlier made efforts to defend Mrs. Adeosun, has already perfected a plot to help her to evade prosecution following fears that she could open up on the humongous corruption going on in the financial sector under the Buhari administration. The PDP is also aware of plots by the federal government to secretly move her out of the country, and for that we urge the international community to be alert and ensure she is repatriated to face justice in Nigeria should the federal government succeed in its devious plan”.

The PDP said it is also aware that president Buhari was not by any measure prepared to drop her from his cabinet, but for the demand by those responsible for her appointment, who protested her continued stay in office, although for their own selfish gains.
The PDP therefore demanded an immediate open inquest into the records of the finance ministry under Mrs. Adeosun, “to unravel all improprieties by the Buhari presidency cabal, including alleged diversion of oil proceeds, fraudulent oil subsidy deals, leading to high fuel price; depletion of our foreign reserves, embezzling of funds returned by Switzerland, payment of outrageous legal fees to lawyers for the repatriation of looted funds and other huge sleazes in the ministry”.
The party also insisted that president Buhari should be held responsible for all infractions in the finance ministry under Adeosun, as he appointed and retained her despite having information on the certificate forgery.

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Book Review : The Morning Sunset By Joy Chinwe Aguguo Duru

 

By Joy Chinwe Aguguo Duru
The Morning Sunset is a book written to sensitize our people over the issue of engaging in a perilous journey to Europe via Libya. It is a story written for everyone: the youths; kids; fathers and mothers. The continuing migration of people into Europe across the Mediterranean is unnecessary. People are not born to waste their future that way.
The Morning Sunset is simply passing a message to people in Africa. Those that have not been opportuned to visit western world think that it is a bed of roses. In fact a paradise . Where as it is not like that. Many chose to come in search of greener pastures. They believe that Europe is the only place they will have the opportunity to get a better life for themselves and that of their families.

My messages to Nigerians and Africans are that our people should not abandon any tangible thing they have or their education just to embark on this long and dangerous journey through road and desert because the life in Europe does not worth such risk . Also let some parents and relatives be aware especially those that are anxiously waiting for the day their beloved children will come back from Europe but they never knew that the bones of their children have been rotten in Sahara deserts and in the seas of foreign land.

 


Joy Chinwe Aguguo Duru is originally from Nigeria but lived in Italy for several years before moving to Leicester , UK.

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