Saturday, December 29, 2007


Some people called it, but others of us most certainly didn't see this one coming. According to the BBC, reports say Nuhu Ribadu has been told to tender his resignation in readiness for further studies, having "been ordered to attend a one-year policy and strategic studies course in central Nigeria." Any surprise that this comes on the heels of the Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello scandal (see Nigerian Curiosity's take), which Yar'Adua and Aondoakaa were quick to 'dash' the EFCC, with it's nearly full Christmas hamper? What does this mean for the EFCC? and Nigeria's fight against corruption? Chris Albin-Lackey, researcher on Nigeria at Human Rights Watch, told Reuters that if Mr Ribadu's suspension goes ahead, "the day he leaves office will be the day the credibility of Nigeria's 'war on corruption' is entirely destroyed".


However, the EFCC for some time now has been staggering blindly and it could just be the breaking point needed to get Nigerians to finally call Yar'Adua and his AGF to order and demand that they elucidate on their strategy to win this war on corruption, with or without the EFCC.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Wishing you all a Merry Christmas (and a belated Barka de Sallah!!)

Saturday, December 15, 2007


This story in The Observer (Guardian) has enraged all who have read it so far. We need to do something about this perverse form of child abuse. I am sure it's going on in many states in Nigeria but the situation in Akwa-Ibom is of the utmost urgency. There needs to be a way to stop these fake pastors from preaching such hateful messages that end in violence being inflicted on helpless children all in the name of promised prosperity. These ostracized children need to be cared for. The Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network (basically, the man and his wife who currently care for these kids) needs to be supported in their efforts. They are currently being supported by Stepping Stones Nigeria but this is not enough people. We need to draw the attention of Nigerians to this atrocity (among many others in the ND but the focus of this post is on these children who have been convicted on false charges (based on the prophecies of "pastors") of witchcraft and are being brutally assaulted on a growing scale). If anyone can (or knows someone who can) help us get in touch with the Governor/Deputy Governor, First Lady, or any government official of Akwa-Ibom state, please email us at or Any other ideas on how to stop this madness are more than welcome.

Thanks to In My Head & Around Me and Naijablog for sharing this story.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Just what we needed...

Only just stumbled on this Economist article but was shocked to hear that Nigeria is West Africa's drug-trafficking hub! I've definitely heard more about drug raids in Ghana than I have in Nigeria, but it's possible that i've been living in the dark. It's one thing to be an international trafficking hub, like we were in the 80s, when most of the drug seizures were from consignments destined for the international market; but for these drugs to be so readily available on the streets of Nigeria (rural communities too!), is a whole other thing.
Drug intelligence is a costly endeavour but with so many hungry mouths at the Federal Govt's doorstep, it seems the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) gets the short end of the stick. According to Ahmadu Giade (Chairman), only 13 vehicles are available to the Agency throughout the whole country to fight drug crime, while the personnel receive meagre salaries, which he fears could lure them to the side of drug traffickers. I thought that was bad till I realised there's even less $$ (sorry, NN) going into the rehabilitation sector. Most rehab clinics are private and your average Nigerian can't afford that luxury. The few public ones are underfunded and over-stretched; and NGOs are (un)fortunately too busy dealing with more pressing issues like HIV/AIDS that drug addicted persons end up alone and stuck in a downward spiral of addiction (we all know Nigerian extended families have very low tolerance for drug addiction). Not quite sure what can be done about this, but just thought The Afro Beat should put a spotlight on the situation and get your thoughts.

Nigeria's Drug Trade, Just what they needed - The Economist

A FAIRLY typical recent morning at Murtala Mohammed, Lagos's main airport, saw four traffickers carrying cocaine, heroin or marijuana caught, arrested and X-rayed before noon. All but one of them lived abroad, in Belgium, India and Spain. Stuck without money or just looking for more, they had agreed to swallow the stuff or slip it into their luggage. Since the beginning of the year, Nigeria's Drug Law
Enforcement Agency has made 234 similar arrests at this Lagos airport. But this, according to the agency's director-general, Lanre Ipinmisho, is just grazing the surface of the country's booming drug trade.

West Africa is the newest centre for trafficking drugs into Europe. European demand for cocaine and heroin is rising fast and dealers, faced with intense scrutiny on familiar import routes, have been obliged to find new ones. Cocaine from the Andes is arriving at west Africa's ports, airports and border crossings. Heroin from Afghanistan is coming in too.

Nigeria is not the only victim of the growing trade. Guinea-Bissau, a small country emerging from civil war and a string of coups, has seen its tiny export economy overrun by illegal drugs. But as the economic hub of west Africa, Nigeria has, inevitably, also become its drug-trafficking hub. Last year 44% of the west African
drug-traffickers arrested in Europe were Nigerian (compared with 3% from Guinea-Bissau). Drugs have been trickling across Nigeria's borders since the 1980s, but over the past few years the trickle has become a torrent.

Nigeria's history of fighting the scourge is not the sort to discourage dealers. Its drug agency, founded in 1990, was immediately immersed in scandal when its own top people were themselves found to be involved in trafficking. At the end of October the country's independent commission on corrupt practices called in the agency's former chairman and eight other officials for questioning over money and drugs missing from an exhibit.

Organised criminals have also got into the business. The country's anti-graft body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, says it often stumbles upon drugs during money-laundering raids. The most powerful crime syndicates are involved, says Lamorde Ibrahim, the commission's director of operations in Lagos. A six-person group from his office and the drug-enforcement agency work incognito, unknown even
to colleagues.

The network of gangs and dealers means that drugs are increasingly available on Nigeria's streets. At the Lagos State Rehab and Vocational Training Centre former junkies tell stories of taking to drugs while at university, or jobless, or under pressure from the city's notorious gangs of "area boys". Enough cannabis to roll one cigarette can be found on the streets for as little as 20 naira (about 15 cents). The UN's drugs office estimates that heroin and cocaine cost slightly more,
at 20 to 50 naira and 80 to 100 naira a pinch.

Reform of the drug agency may have begun to be serious. Pointing to a change, Mr Ipinmisho says that traffickers are often confused by their arrest, having been promised safe passage through the airport by junior officers, who can now no longer sneak them through. The intentions may be better, but the agency still complains of its lack of equipment and manpower.

Nigeria is the only west African country on America's list of major drug-producing and transit countries. It is concerned enough to have sent Tom Schweich, the State Department's international drugs man, to Nigeria last month. He promised to supply the latest body-cavity X-ray machines to four of Nigeria's international airports. New technology like this will be installed first at the airports and then, more slowly, at ports and land borders. Not too slowly, Nigerians hope. Their country is already notorious for corruption and financial crime; the last thing it needs is narcotics too.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Festival of Death...

Came across this on

Just before 8:30 a.m. on February 13, 1976, the following curious announcement was heard on Radio Nigeria:

"Good morning fellow Nigerians, This is Lt. Col. B. Dimka of the Nigerian Army calling. I bring you good tidings. Murtala Muhammed's deficiency has been detected. His government is now overthrown by the young revolutionaries. All the 19 military governors have no powers over the states they now govern. The states affairs will be run by military brigade commanders until further notice.
All commissioners are sacked, except for the armed forces and police commissioners who will be redeployed. All senior military officers should remain calm in their respective spots. No divisional commanders will issue orders or instructions until further notice. Any attempt to foil these plans from any quarters will be met with death. You are warned, it is all over the 19 states.
Any acts of looting or raids will be death. Everyone should be calm. Please stay by your radio for further announcements. All borders, air and sea ports are closed until further notice. Curfew is imposed from 6am to 6pm. Thank you. We are all together."

Just prior to this broadcast, then Head of State, General Murtala Ramat Muhammed, along with his ADC (Lt. Akinsehinwa), Orderly and driver, had been assassinated on his way to work in a thin skinned black Mercedes Benz car without escorts. The unprotected car had slowed down at the junction in front of the Federal Secretariat in Ikoyi, Lagos, when a hit team which allegedly included Lt. William Seri and others, casually strolled up and riddled it with bullets.

Following confirmation of Muhammed's death, Lt. Col. Buka Suka Dimka, of the Army Physical Training Corps, who (along with some others) had been up for most of the night drinking champagne, then made a quick trip to the British High Commission at about 8 am where he demanded to be put in touch with General Gowon in Britain.


TIME/CNN snapshot of the March 1976 executions of the coup plotters involved in the assassination of Murtala Mohammed.

Usually, Bar Beach on Nigeria's Victoria Island is dotted with sun umbrellas and gaily painted food stalls. Last week it became the scene of a kind of festival of death. Thousands of Nigerians, chanting "Traitors, traitors," jammed the beach, trampling the candy-striped awnings underfoot. A similar throng gathered not far away at Kirikiri Prison, just outside Lagos, the capital. Both high-spirited crowds were assembled to witness the public executions of some 30 soldiers, including four lieutenant colonels and six majors, and a lone civilian. A special military board had convicted them of planning the abortive coup of Feb. 13, in which Head of State Murtala Mohammed was assassinated (TIME, March 1).

"The condemned men are all in mufti," a Lagos radio correspondent announced crisply, giving a running account of the executions on Bar Beach. "Most of them look sober. Some manage to smile at newsmen." Religious confessions, Christian and Moslem, were received by two priests and a mallam (a Moslem religious leader). While the throng looked on, the 15-man firing squad opened up. The shooting lasted ten minutes, as one by one the coup plotters slumped to the blood-soaked sand.

With the executions, Lieut. General Olusegun Obasanjo, who took over the government of Black Africa's largest and richest country after the killing of Murtala, made good on his promise to dole out military justice to those found guilty. Surprisingly, one of the executed officers was former Defense Minister I.D. Bisalla, who had helped bring Murtala to power in an earlier, successful coup last July. Bisalla and many of the others were apparently implicated in the plot by Lieut. Colonel B.S. Dimka, the man who led the Feb. 13 overthrow attempt. Dimka managed to stay at large for three weeks, despite a nationwide manhunt, but he was captured at a roadblock in eastern Nigeria earlier this month.

During the investigation of the coup attempt, 125 people were arrested; 40 have been released. Aside from those already executed, several dozen others are still being interrogated, including Dimka himself. According to the Nigerian government, Dimka has also implicated Yakubu Gowon, the former head of state who was exiled after the coup that brought Murtala to power last July. Gowon, according to the government's charge, instructed Dimka to get together with Defense Minister Bisalla and attempt to overthrow the government. Their reasons for acting, said Nigeria's new defense chief, Brigadier Musa Yarduah, was the government's plan to cut the size of the army by almost half, a move that would transfer the 100,000 soldiers affected to other jobs, but which might leave a number of them out of work.

In England, where he is a political science student at Warwick University, Gowon denied any involvement in the coup attempt. Nonetheless the Nigerian government, which, after all, overthrew Gowon in the first place, seems bent on punishing him. Lagos radio said last week that "legal and diplomatic steps" are being taken to extradite Gowon to Nigeria, though it seems highly unlikely that the British government will accede to the request.

Nigeria's hate-hate affair with military rule (1966-1999) saw the loss of many great lives, and not much by way of economic development and improved standards of living for the populace. As many things as are wrong with this country, let's be thankful that we have closed the door (and thrown away the key?) on those dark days and now live in a time where we have freedom of speech and can at least demand accountability from our leaders.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

World AIDS Day

Came across this on and thought it would be great to share. Catholic Relief Services/Nigeria
supports local organizations in addressing social injustices in communities throughout Nigeria. One such social injustice is the plight of the HIV/AIDS-infected in Nigeria. Statistics tend to be just that - stats! So we thought a personal account of what it's like to have HIV/AIDS in Nigeria would be more befitting today.

In Nigeria, A Chance Meeting, A Saved Life - By Lane Hartill

BENIN CITY, Nigeria — Sara had a plan.

After picking up her HIV medication at the hospital, she would go to her two-room house, pull the small package out of her purse, tear it open, then swallow the rat poison. That would be it. She wouldn't have to endure the whispers or the rejection. She wouldn't have to hear her husband yell at her, calling her a skeleton.

About four months ago, her husband started coming home late. When she questioned him, the shouting started."I'm ashamed, I'm ashamed. You are like a skeleton," he thundered. "How can I stay in this house, you are like a skeleton. Who will I call my wife? Everyone is talking about you in the street. You look so skinny!"

Sara cried herself to sleep, remembering when her life was different.

Sara — not her real name — grew up in Warri. Her mother was a fruit seller, her father, a Nigerian Marine. She was the baby in a family of five and they showered her with attention. She came to Benin City in 1988 to join her father, who was originally from here. One evening, she wandered into a restaurant and ordered potato chips and a bottle of orange Fanta. A man sat down and started talking to her. She didn't know he owned the place. Or that he was interested in her. Two days later, he came to her house. Two years later, they were married.

When she became pregnant in 1991, she was thrilled. "When I discovered I was pregnant, I was so happy because I really loved children. After [I delivered] they told me it was a baby girl. I love baby girls because of their fancy clothes and everything."

Four year later, a second girl. The three of them were inseparable. They grinned at the animals at the Ogba Zoo here. They put on their best dresses and sipped Cokes at the swish Palmeria Hotel.

Life was good and so was Sara's business. She frequently traveled to Cotonou, where she bought gently used clothes — baled and shipped from the US and England — and sold them here. She was a working mom and life couldn't have been better.

So when the headaches started in 2002, she brushed them off. But then came the fever. And the weight loss. She went to see her sisters in Lagos. Maybe they could help. They were married to wealthy men. She hoped she could see the doctor at her brother-in-law's international company.

The Sting of Rejection

The reception caught her off guard. "Why did I come to Lagos? Why did I not call her?" Sara says her sisters shouted at her. Already a willowy woman, Sara had lost weight. Her svelte frame had been reduced to rail thin.

Her sisters were relentless with their accusations, their disgust.

"In the whole of Benin, don't they have a hospital?" they asked. "How can you come to Lagos with the way you are looking? My friends will soon be around."

Sara slowed again. "That stigma … I started crying," she says, flatly. "I said, 'You are my blood. How can you do this to me?' "

They hid her in a room, and said they would talk about it later. When they returned, they gave her about $150 and told her to return to Benin and take an HIV test. She did. Her husband, at that time, was brimming with support.

"I told my husband I wanted him to follow me to the hospital," she says. "When we were on our way, my husband was saying I should not fear anything. Even if the result comes out positive, people still survive with AIDS. They live a normal life."

But when her sisters found out that she had contracted HIV (Sara believes it was through a blood transfusion after a car accident in 2001), the storm of insults started again.

"They were shouting: 'How did you contract such a deadly disease? You've put a stain on the family name.' They said I was careless [that] I went close to the person with AIDS. I wasn't cautious."

Family bonds run deep in Africa. So when your family turns on you, there are few other places to go. This stigma of HIV in Nigeria freezes people with fear. Some HIV-positive Nigerians tell stories of villages scattering upon the arrival of an HIV-positive member. Husbands have been known to dump wives and leave home.

Sara felt this sting of rejection and it so pervaded her life, she wanted to end it. She had shrunk to 35 pounds. Her daughters had to carry her to the toilet. But it was the rejection, she says, that made her consider suicide.

During this time, she turned to her mom. But the stigma weighed so heavily that she couldn't bear to tell her mom she'd contracted HIV. Her mom took her to seven different "native doctors," — one required a trek through the bush to reach — who prescribed concoctions of herbs mixed with gin. Her mother spent more than $1,500. Unbeknownst to her, Sara didn't drink a drop.

It had all become too much. That's why she bought the rat poison.

But thanks to James, she never ate it. James, which is not his real name, is part of a support group that is facilitated by the health team at the Catholic Archdiocese of Benin City. CRS supports the Archdiocese which formed and supports this group — and the outreach team — to work with HIV-positive Nigerians.

The prevalence rate among adults in Nigeria is 3.9 percent, or about 2.9 million people. Of those, more than 92,700 people are on antiretroviral therapy. Through CRS' Seven Dioceses Community-Based Care and Support project, HIV-positive Nigerians receive home-based care from trained volunteers. They do everything from help bathe babies and deliver school supplies to counsel patients on the finer points of HIV and the importance of antiretroviral therapy.

'I'm Not Going to Die Anymore!'

Sara remembers exactly how James and his antiretroviral therapy message came into her life.

"He walked by," she says, remembering she was sitting in the hallway of the clinic. "Then he turned and looked at me. Maybe it was the tears that were in my eyes that attracted him."

He asked to see her for a moment.

She just wanted to be left alone, she said. She just wanted to end her life. He was a scam artist, and she knew it. She thought he, too, was out to make her feel bad.

"I was shouting on him. 'What do you want to see me for? I've never seen you before.' "

In his calm voice, James told her he knew her problem.

"I'm a victim too," he whispered.

She didn't believe him. James was healthy, even stocky. "I thought everybody that had the problem must be skinny like I was."

James told her he once looked like her. He'd been so sick he couldn't walk, reduced to crawling around his house. This got her attention.

He told her she could live a long time if she took her antiretroviral drugs and ate the right food. He assured her she'd be just fine.

To drive home his point, he pulled his HIV test out of his pocket. "I became calm," says Sara. "I was now interested in what he was saying." He asked for her address. He told her he would come see her. Stunned, Sara couldn't believe someone was comforting her and not rejecting her.

When she got home, James was standing in front of her house.

"I thought: Which type of human being is this?" she says. "When I opened the gate I said maybe God sent this man to restore hope to my life. Let me just give him a chance and see."

Sara opened her heart to him. She told James she'd hit bottom. She needed someone to turn to. James suggested the HIV support group at the Archdiocese of Benin City.

"On the first day that I came and I saw women as fat as this," she says, holding her hands wide, signaling they were broad across the beam. "I saw a lot of people, they were so beautiful. Wow! So these people have this problem? Me too, I will live. Oh! I'm not going to die anymore!

She hit a rough patch after she started taking the antiretroviral therapy. But soon, Sara's life was transformed. She's even working now, baking donuts and egg rolls and selling them at a school. The rice, beans and vitamins that CRS helps to provide has meant she saves almost $120 a month. She's now looking for money to buy a deep freeze. She wants to sell ice blocks and ice cream in the market. They're popular items, and she knows she can make good money.

"If CRS had not been there, a lot of people would have been long gone," she says. "They paid our children's school fees. The first day they paid my children's school fees I was so surprised. They brought books. I said, 'Wow!' "

Her husband has changed too. He calls her every day now. He's ready to come back home.
Lane Hartill is the West Africa regional information officer for Catholic Relief Services. He has visited CRS programs in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Lane is based in Dakar, Senegal.