Friday, March 23, 2012

"If you Tarka me, I go Daboh you"

Godwin Daboh Adzuana will be remembered for a great contribution to Nigerian Pidgin.

Mr Daboh, who died last week, was a Nigerian political godfather, acting behind the curtain, sticking his fingers in many pies.

But back in the days when military leader Yakubu Gowon was in charge, in fact it was just before he was deposed in a coup, Daboh was a relatively unknown businessman from Benue state.

Gowon's publicity man Joseph Tarka had made an announcement that the government encouraged people to report corrupt officials.

Daboh took the opportunity to do exactly that, and provided information that Tarka was as bent as every other six-bob note in the government.

Tarka was forced to resign, and so the phrase "If you Tarka me, I go Daboh you" was born.

Daboh didn't do what he did out of a sense of moral probity, however.


The phrase encapsulates that old military-era problem, which has unfortunately hung over into today's Nigerian society: Everyone is up to their neck in it, if you try and dunk me, I'll pull you under.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Boko Haram's Abu Qaqa gives press conference

This is the text of a press conference given by Boko haram Spokesman Abu Qaqa to journalists via speakerphone. The interview was given in Hausa and translated into English. Note I was not at this meeting, I was sent the text by someone who was.

Abu Qaqa: This is an important message on the issue that occupied the media in respect of negotiaitions between our group and the government.
Not long ago, President Goodluck Jonathan made a public statement urging us to come forward for dialogue. He also said we should make our demands clear with a view to resolving the protracted problem in the country.
The first condition we gave was the need for unconditional release of all our members. There was initial meeting between us and the government and in the process, one of our members, Abu Dardaa was arrested in Kaduna.
Since then, we never trusted the government. However, following endless plea by some notable Nigerian, whom we have enormous respect for, we resolved to give another chance.
These people said they would intercede between us and the government, they said they have the capacity and we trusted them, unfortunately however, the opportunity was messed up.
Almighty God has told us repeatedly that the unbelievers will never respect the promises they made. As such, henceforth, we would never respect any proposal for dialogue.
In fact, we have closed all possible doors of negotiation. We would never listen to any call for negotiations. Let the government forces do whatever they feel they can do and we too would use all the warewithal at our disposal and do what we can.
If the government thinks arresting our members will discourage us from launching onslaught, then let them continue arresting and killing our members.
We strongly believe that Almighty Allah will give us the power to catch and prosecute government forces. We are optimistic that we would dismantle this government and establish Islamic government in Nigeria.
Let the federal government and its agents do what they can; and we in return, would also do what we can.
The noble prophet Mohammed was also tried and tested during the war of Uhud, he persevered and at the end of the day, he emerged victorious. The fact is that, we don’t have an element of doubt in our minds that one day, we would surely emerge victorious from this onerous encounter.
We are calling on all Muslims in this part of the world to accept the clarion call and fight for the restoration of the Caliphate of Usman Danfodio which white the white man fought and fragmented. The white man killed prominent Islamic clerics and emirs and also replaced the white Islamic flag with the Union Jack.
We want all our people to come together and restore our loss glory.

Questions and answers
Are you aware of the moves made by Dr Datti Ahmed?
Qaqa:Yes, Datti Ahmed and his people have intimated us that they would make attempt and find a platform on which we would meet with government agents and find solution to the crisis. Datti also assured that he will get back to us on what transpired between his group and the government. We gave him our conditions.

A journalist was threatened, what is your position?
Qaqa: We are following unfolding events. Some people threatened a journalist and he was frightened. The truth is that, the same journalist was the very person that created a link between us and the Datti Ahmed group.
We want to advice him and all journalists not to be deterred by the threat. Journalists must also adhere to the ethics of their professional calling because, all over the world, everybody knows the
role of the journalist. Journalists must remain courageous and upright.

The issue of Boko Haram is now a global phenomenon. Some people said government was hesitant by the move by Datti Ahmed because there was no assurance that the move was true?
Qaqa: We are really involved in the moves made by Dr Datti Ahmed because they gave us adequate assurance that they have the capacity to deliver. However, they (Datti and Co) have seen how deceitful the federal government is. As far as we are concerned, we know that the
federal government will not live up to its responsibility. A true believer will not allow himself to be cheated twice.

What do you think the FG did that prompted you to back out?
Qaqa: The truth is that we have been doubtful on the seriousness and purposeful commitment of the government. It was the Datti group that thought the federal government could be trusted and they have been disappointed.

Stop proceeds of crime being banked in Britain: Open letter to the UK government

Here is the text of an open letter sent by the undersigned organisations to the British Government trying to give voice to the story silenced by the abrupt end of the Ibori trial: the relationship between British banks and corrupt officials from foreign governments.

Tuesday 20th March 2012

TO:
Secretary of State for International Development, Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP
The Home Secretary, Rt Hon. Theresa May MP
Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe, Metropolitan Police Service
Adair, Lord Turner, Chairman & Hector Sants, Chief Executive Officer, Financial
Services Authority
Rt Hon. Malcolm Bruce MP, Chair, International Development Select Committee
Rt Hon. Meg Hillier MP, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Nigeria

We, the undersigned, would like to congratulate the Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan Police Service’s Proceeds of Corruption Unit (POCU) on the successful prosecution of James Onafene Ibori, former Governor of Delta State, Nigeria. We welcome the support for this action from the British government, and particularly the Department for International Development.

Mr Ibori was convicted on seven separate charges of money-laundering; one charge of conspiracy to commit money-laundering; one charge of conspiracy to defraud; one
charge of conspiracy to make false instruments; and one charge of property transfer by deception. For these charges he could expect to face ten years in prison.

Mr Ibori’s trial has documented the huge sums of money which prosecutors at Southwark Crown Court testified to have been stolen from the public exchequer over the period ofhis terms in public office; £35 million of UK assets traced to him were frozen in 2007, and in total he may have laundered as much as £160 million, according to prosecutors.

Alongside that, the trials of Ibori and his associates show that he amassed luxury cars and a property portfolio in two continents including a London mansion bought for £2.2 million in cash.

Corruption is a huge drain on the economies of developing nations such as Nigeria.

This type of prosecution, consistent with Articles 43-50 of the UN Convention Against Corruption, is enormously important in that it sends a signal that breaking domestic and international laws by stealing public money and using it for private gain and accumulation overseas will not be tolerated. Such international law-enforcement
cooperation is essential if the fight against corruption in Nigeria, and in other developing nations, is to move forward.

Equally, it is important to British taxpayers, who fund the UK’s commitments as a
longstanding and core development partner in Nigeria. It is also important for the UK to show that investments from proceeds of corruption in other parts of the world are not welcomed.

The UK has made progress on this issue in the five years since the Financial Action Task Force listed the UK as only partially compliant on customer due diligence in financial services, with important new money laundering regulations coming into force in 2007.

However, there are serious concerns about how well banks are actually implementing
these rules. In the banking sector, too many financial institutions seem to be paying little heed to their obligations under know-your-customer and anti-money-laundering legislation. A June 2011 report by the Financial Services Authority found that:

• Three-quarters of banks sampled failed to take adequate measures to establish
the legitimacy of the source of wealth and source of funds to be used in the
business relationship;
• More than half failed to apply meaningful Enhanced Due Diligence (EDD)
measures in higher risk situations and did not identify or record adverse
information about the customer or the customer’s beneficial owner;
• More than a third of banks visited failed to put in place effective measures to
identify customers as Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs).

In addition, James Ibori’s huge property portfolio points us to the key role of the realestate sector and estate agents in helping to prevent money-laundering. The attractive location and prices of the UK property market continue to attract international investment, which sadly includes laundered money.

Following the EU’s Third Money-Laundering Directive (2005/60/EC), implemented in the UK as the Money Laundering Regulations 2007, other economic actors in nonfinancial activities and professions, including lawyers, notaries, accountants, estateagents, have a responsibility to require 'enhanced due diligence' measures for new and existing customers that are 'politically exposed persons'.

Crucially, these require identification of beneficial owners and the verification of the
beneficial owner's identity. Yet the Ibori conviction raises questions about the checks
taken to comply with these regulations by many of the financial intermediaries that he dealt with, including real-estate agents. How did these institutions ensure that the funds they were handling were not the proceeds of corruption?

The Ibori case has also revealed how corrupt politicians can use shell companies to hold their assets, and in some cases hide their identity. For example, IborI’s lawyer, Badresh Gohil, who has also been convicted of money laundering, helped Ibori buy a $20 million Bombadier private jet through a number of shell companies.

We therefore urge the British government, financial services regulators, law enforcement and anti-corruption bodies, financial, legal and real-estate professional associations, and private-sector financial bodies, vendors, agents and purchasers of real-estate, to take note of these issues and implement actions including:

• Devoting more law-enforcement time and investigative efforts to prosecutions
such as that of James Ibori;
• Educating real-estate and financial services actors as to their legal obligations as
regards money-laundering;
• Working with professional associations in the real-estate, legal and financial
services sector to establish, disseminate and train on best-practice in combating
risk from money-laundering;
• Continuing to monitor market actors’ implementation of anti-money-laundering
controls, especially as regards politically exposed persons, and sanctioning those
who do not take compliance efforts seriously;
• Rigorously enforcing the anti-money laundering regulations by carrying out spot
checks on the regulated sector, and where wrongdoing is identified undertaking
prosecution, including in the most serious cases, for an imprisonable offence;
• Introducing greater transparency over the ownership of shell companies by
requiring companies to disclose their ultimate (or beneficial) owner to Companies
House so that this information is in the public domain;
• Support the Nigerian Government to strengthen its anti-corruption institutions and
prosecution systems to ensure that future cases of money laundering do not slip
through its system.

We feel that such measures will underline Britain’s seriousness in combating the
globalised menace of corruption and money-laundering, and send a strong deterrent
signal across the world.

Yours sincerely,
Centre for Democracy and Development, Abuja, Nigeria
Christian Aid, London, UK
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Abuja, Nigeria
CLEEN Foundation, Lagos, Nigeria
Constitutional Reform Dialogue Mechanism (CRDM), Abuja, Nigeria
Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) Nigeria
Global Witness, London, UK
Kayode Ogundamisi, Nigeria Democratic Forum, UK
Modupe Debbie Ariyo, OBE, Africans Unite Against Child Abuse, London/Manchester,
UK Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation, Europe
Nigerian Gender Budget Network, Abuja, Nigeria
Oliver Owen, St Cross College, Oxford, UK
Paul Okojie, Department of Law, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
Platform, London UK
Revenue Watch Institute, New York, USA
Richard Wild, Department of International Development, University of Oxford, UK
Stakeholder Democracy Network, Port Harcourt, Nigeria/London, UK
Tax Justice Network, London, UK
Tearfund, London, UK
The Corner House, Dorset, UK
Transparency International UK, London, UK
Youth Action Initiative Africa (YAIA), Jos, Nigeria

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How not to stop Boko Haram

Most likely the boy in this picture is now dead.

This picture was taken in "The Crack"; the local HQ of the Nigerian Police's Special Anti Robbery Squad in Maiduguri, Nigeria, a year ago.

It shows a young man, called Mohammed Zakaria, who was arrested by the policeman sitting behind him.

The 20-year-old confessed to being a member of the Boko Haram group, and showed police to where a cache of arms was hidden in a Damturu safe house in February last year.

When they brought him in to the office, the first thing I noticed was how he smelled. A thick, musty smell of body and fear.

Dry blood spotted his shirt, as he talked to us he tried to hide it in his lap, perhaps afraid that if the foreigners saw it he might be beaten again.

But it was there and I saw it.

He told my colleague and I he had been selling houseware; batteries, padlocks, brushes and the like, from a cart in the market when some men came up to him and asked him if he wanted to earn some money.

As he only made around 2,000 naira (about £8 or $12) a week, he said yes.

It was the start of an association that would end with him driving guns into Nigeria from the border with Cameroon to Yobe state.

So he said.

As the police routinely use torture as a method of "investigation" its difficult to say for sure what the truth is.

My colleague and I were both eager to leave "The Crack".

When we did, we looked at each other. "They will kill him won't they?" I asked. My friend nodded once.

We discussed what we could do. We thought about giving his name to a trusted local journalist, so that someone could make sure he went to trial and keep a light on him. But it was useless, one boy among so many? There really is no way of following up something like this.

I feel very uncomfortable about these "parade" pictures.

Normally I'd say to take a picture of a suspect who has not been tried and convicted in such circumstances is a violation of their rights.

I feel ashamed of taking that picture of Mohammed Zakaria, paraded in front of me like a trophy.

But look at these boys.

They were captured during a failed raid to rescue two European hostages, Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara in Sokoto this month, this is their "parade" photo taken by the Nigerian media.

Given the "normal" situation as we find it in Nigeria, It is unlikely that, at the end of a trial they will be given a sentence of death by a judge, invested with the power of the state to administer capital punishment.

It is unlikely they will live out the rest of their lives in a jail cell, pondering the error of their ways. It is unlikely a judge will consider a verdict on them, or even hear evidence against them. Maybe they won't even see a trial.

I think it is unlikely they will even get a lawyer.

Because, like their colleague, it is more than likely they too will be dead soon.

Perhaps taken to a scrubby bit of ground and shot unceremoniously in the head.

This video was taken in the aftermath of the 2009 Maiduguri uprising. It shows how the police deal with the situation (WARNING THESE ARE GRAPHIC):
.

So does this one:
Some of the officers in these videos, and their commanders, have been charged with murder.

But a lot of the anger that drives Boko Haram comes from the continuing brutal treatment the police mete out to Nigerians.

With every execution or police atrocity two things happen; Boko Haram draw more strength, and they become harder to stop.

People don't want to talk to the Nigerian police about Boko Haram.

If you do you could easily be the next one to disappear into "The Crack", it is thought.

Perhaps I'm wrong and these teenagers won't go the way of so many other young men in Nigeria. I hope so.
If the UK and the rest of the world want to help, they could start by insisting that Nigeria lives up to the rule of law, and they could provide more help to train the police force.

They could also use their diplomatic pressure to make sure that Boko Haram suspects are all accounted for during their arrest and detention, witness that they are tried and made to account for what they have done in a way that reflects the values that we claim to hold so dear.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The nature of Nigeria: Boko Haram and the botched rescue of Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara

The expected denial from Boko Haram spokesman "Abu Qaqa" came last night, in a conference call with reporters.

"We have never been involved in hostage taking and we never ask for ransom" Saharareporters quoted him as saying.

And, for what its worth, I think he may have a point.

Boko Haram is a group that now sustains itself by bank robberies, like this one on the same day as the events in Sokoto. It's a curious side effect of the banking revolution in Nigeria over the last few years, there are banks in the most remote of places. Easy pickings.

I've been trying to map Boko Haram's activities here. The point of the map is not wholly to point out the geographical difference of the attacks to the Sokoto events; There isn't a whole lot of things to attack in between the north east and the north west, so one might expect a gap between the two.

But my question is, look at the density of bank robberies, shootings and general mayhem in north east Nigeria. If the Sokoto group, calling itself Al Qaeda in the Land Beyond the Sahel, is splinter group of Boko Haram, disconnected from the rump, where are its bank robberies? Kidnapping is an expensive business, how is it funding itself?

In reality Boko Haram's denial will have little meaning at this stage. As far as the understanding from outside goes, it makes little difference as to whether it was Boko Haram, or an offshoot of that organisation, or Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

For many in the UK, Italy and maybe the US, it's like picking catfish from a bath at a "point-and-kill" joint (see picture above). They're all about the same size, so pondering over exactly which is the best is unnecessary and only going to delay your meal.

But I think this media attention does open an opportunity to have a shot at explaining why, as it sheds some light on deeper issues of what is wrong in Nigeria.

Richard Dowden is spot on when he writes:

And it is not just Boko Haram which benefits from the global fear of terrorism. My friend went on to point out that a quarter of Nigeria’s budget of almost $30 billion this year will be spent on the military and security services. The service chiefs will now have to find – or create something – to justify that and keep it flowing.

I'm not saying that the murders of Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara are a conspiracy by the Nigerian government, and nor is Mr Dowden. But he is saying that those in power in Nigeria are well able to play things the way they want, never mind the reality.

After all, at the "point and kill" there is no guarantee the fish they bring is the one you selected.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Round up on the botched rescue of Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara

The Guardian say that the information of the hostages' location came after the arrest of a top Boko Haram man in Kaduna:

Nigerian security agents have been receiving intelligence training from western nations with years of experience in handling terrorism, including the United States and the UK.

Military sources say the training would normally start to show results within 18 to 24 months, about the time since foreign countries began technical assistance to tackle Boko Haram.

A group known as "al Qaeda" in the land beyond the Sahel" claimed in December that it had captured McManus.

The paper's correspondent in Lagos says it shows a disturbing shift in tactics:
Officials say factions within each of the groups have been in contact with each other. According to Nigerian intelligence officials, members of the more radical Boko Haram factions have received training from Aqim in Algeria and possibly Afghanistan. Aqim is thought to have given Boko Haram advice on urban terrorist tactics and suicide bombings.

Aqim has perfected what analysts call a "kidnap economy", thriving off the abduction and ransom of westerners and Africans. It often snatches hostages in one country and moves them across one or more borders, ending up in Aqim bases in Mali. Reports suggest Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara were moved around but remained within Nigerian borders, which makes it unlikely that Aqim was behind the atrocity.
From last nights' The World Today, Haruna Tangaza in Sokoto tells them the battle raged for hours and they used a tank to get in:
Haruna Shehu Tangaza reporting on the Sokoto kidnapping (mp3)

I don't know what this means for the line on the BBC story that "British forces were first in the door".

The FT say that the fact that Boko Haram didn't claim the operation may have some significance.

All in all its still a muddy picture. I think this underlines the fractured nature of the new militancy in northern Nigeria.

As an observer thousands of miles away, I have some questions:

If this was a splinter group, how did they maintain themselves with funding and supplies?

What level now do we put British involvement in this issue?

If it is Boko Haram, will they now retaliate?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

McManus and Lamolinara kidnap on Saharareporters

http://saharareporters.com/news-page/saharareporters-first-publish-early-details-botched-rescue-european-hostages

Saharareporters have a much more precise location for the raid: Mabera Layout in Sokoto city, Sokoto South LGA.

They're pretty confident that it was members of Boko Haram who were holding Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara.

Nigerian forces did take some of the captors alive.

The real problem will be, can we rely on any information that comes from their interrogations?

The government needs to give clear and unambiguous information about the kidnappers to the media, and the Nigerian media need to follow this information up in a thorough way.

I'm not trying to clear Boko Haram in this, just trying to flag up areas of uncertainty.

The risk is that this becomes a very foggy issue with very little reliable information that can be verified... Unfortunately par for the course in Nigeria.

Is it Boko Haram who kidnapped Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara?


View Nigeria in a larger map

The Nigerian government have confirmed that the raid took place in Sokoto state.

They've not said if it took place in Sokoto city itself, but its pretty likely that it would have been there. My guess is its easier to hide two hostages in a large town than it is in a remote country area, but we don't know that for sure.

The location of this raid is very important. If you look at the map above, you might see what I mean.

Had it been in Maiduguri, there could be little question that this was a raid on a Boko Haram operation. A likely scenario to my mind would have been that the men were taken hostage in Birnin Kebbi by some opportunists and sold to Boko Haram.

However, now we know this raid took place in Sokoto state, I'm going to say that the connection to Boko Haram is still questionable.

The map above shows the physical separation in the grouping of the incidences of Boko Haram activity and this kidnap (the two placemarks on the top left).

Sokoto is very close to the border with Niger. There have been several kidnappings along the Niger/Mali axis, including this one of French citizens Antoine de Leocour and Vincent Delory in January last year.

This it seems their kidnap and murder was claimed by a group claiming to be Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that these are different organisations, operating in the Sahel, rather than nationalistic organisations operating within the borders of different countries.

The BBC are now reporting in their bulletins that its a matter of fact that Boko Haram carried out this kidnapping. I'm not so sure its that cut and dried.

Why is it important? Well, I certainly don't think that I have to clear Boko Haram of anything. In a sense it doesn't really matter if they did it or not, so bloody are their hands.

However it is important to understand the internal workings of these groups and if we are going to follow them, we should know what we are following, and what we aren't.

And if it was out of Boko Haram's field of operation... doesn't that mean we could have two groups operating in Nigeria now?

Scary stuff.

(The map itself is a work in progress, I'm going to keep working on it, adding attacks as they happen.)

Nigerian hostage rescue failure: Some thoughts

First of all, its clearly terrible for the families of Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara. All my condolences go out to them.

The BBC's Gordon Corera is saying that sources tell him that the kidnapping was carried out by Boko Haram. He says that a "splinter cell with strong links to al Qaeda".

The people I speak to are unclear on the factionalisation of Boko Haram. Some say they are all under one command, through a 30 member Shura Council, and that there are no factions within the organisation.

However, it is my understanding that the organisation operates with a cell structure, so the members of the Shura Council run essentially 30 operations.

Other decisions are made at an executive level, by Abubakar Shekau, without reference to the Shura Council.

The group has had factional fights. There have been beheadings and killings within the organisation as it purged itself of members who betrayed them, or were too moderate.

It is possible that there are cells who look outward, away from the more parochial concerns of the group.

After all, the group bombed the UN compound in August 2011.

However, most researchers on Boko Haram point out the focus of their demands have been on the Nigerian government, police and local religious leaders, and little rhetoric aimed at international institutions.

Its my view that Boko Haram have proved themselves to be adaptable in the prosecution of their anger, widening the nature of people it is righteous to kill to include anyone they consider to be an "enemy".

Observers have been very reluctant to pin Boko Haram within the al Qaeda framework, rightly, because there are doubts about the nature of al Qaeda in this region. As one said to me "what is al Qaeda anyway?"

The question is how long can the significance of a connection be rejected? If there is a group perpetrating attacks, suicide bombings, kidnaps, and the like, in other words behaving like al Qaeda has done, what difference does it make that we consider them to be a different organisation?

Video showing British and Italian hostage posted to YouTube last year by AFP


This is the footage posted by AFP to YouTube in August 2011. It is believed to show Chris Mcmanus and Franco Lamolinara, along with brief glimpses of their captors, who wear turbans and hold large automatic weapons. The audio has not been posted, but it is believed the men identify themselves and say they are being held by Al Qaeda.


Hostages killed: Update and some thoughts

BBC report on the hostage rescue here. They have been named as Chris McManus and Italian Franco Lamolinara from the construction company B Stablini. Media now reporting David Cameron said that the rescue operation was "Nigerian-led" and the British forces advised.
When they were taken there were a number of possibilities:
1. They were kidnapped by Boko Haram
2. They were kidnapped by a gang of opportunists
3. They were kidnapped by opportunists who sold them to Boko Haram.
4. They were kidnapped by opportunists who sold them on to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The fourth of these options to me seemed the most likely, along the same lines as the kidnap in 2009 of some tourists in Gao, Mali, which ended in the murder of Edwin Dwyer. There was a rash of other kidnaps in Mali, thought to be connected to AQIM in 2011.

Hostages killed in rescue attempt.

Just hearing that a British and Italian hostage taken in Birnin Kebbi last may have been killed in a rescue attempt "in Nigeria". No details as yet where.
Previously I thought it very unlikely that Boko Haram would have been behind their kidnap, as it was far out of their sphere of influence. It's not inconceivable that they would end up in Maiduguri. It all depends on where this rescue attempt was.
Here's a link to the original kidnap story.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Diabel Cissokho @ Momo


Went to see Griot Kora player Diabel Cissoko at Momo this month (just found this to post).

A great session. His drummer uses a miked-up upturned calabash which he plays with his fists, which has a great sound, like villagers pounding their pestle and mortars in a cave.

Cissokho himself plays the Kora and the Tehardent, which is an amazing instrument, sort of like a guitar mixed with a violin, which when electrified sounds like a raw slide-banjo played by a crazed, one eyed Tuareg whose only audience is his camel.
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