All through the 1990s, when Islamic militants waged a ferocious war on the Algerian state and nightlife died in the city that once called itself “The Paris of Africa,” the Hanani bar and restaurant stayed open. It was “an act of resistance,” says owner Achour Ait Oussaid.
Yet today, at a time when the bloodshed has ebbed, local authorities have shuttered the hole-in-the-wall bar. “This same state has done what the Islamists never managed to do,” Ait Oussaid said, standing amid abandoned tables and empty shelves gathering dust.
At least 40 bars, restaurants and nightclubs have been closed in the past year around Algiers alone, according to local media. The government insists that the closures are strictly a matter of safety and hygiene, but suspicion is widespread that Muslim conservative pressure is to blame.
Ait Oussaid, a Muslim like almost all of Algeria’s 32 million people, contends that officials caved in to a petition circulated in his seaside neighborhood of La Perouse demanding that the Muslim prohibition of alcohol be enforced.
Many see this as one of a series of measures the government is taking in Algiers and other cities to soothe Muslim sensitivities and isolate the militants who still carry out bombings and assassinations.
The North African country has a history of tolerance and secular-leaning government, but its nightlife has gone through several ups and downs.
When it was a French colony it boasted countless classy nightclubs and restaurants. The fun went on in the early years of independence in the 1960s, lost its flair when doctrinaire socialists ran the country, made an exuberant comeback, and then was devastated by the so-called “Black Decade” of Islamic violence and government countermeasures that left up to 200,000 dead.
The fighting erupted in 1992 when the army canceled elections that Islamic candidates were expected to win. In the ensuing years, bars, nightclubs and anything else the militants deemed Western could be targeted.
Ait Oussaid says he defied death threats to keep Hanani open. “For me, it was an act of resistance, a way to defend the Algerian state,” he said.
Youcef Kerdache, a construction entrepreneur who still drops by Hanani for old times sake, calls the bar a victim of “the ostentatious Islamization of Algerian society.”
Mohamed El Kebir, Algiers’ regional governor, declined to comment for this report, but speaking to the French-language Liberte newspaper, he said safety regulations are the only consideration, not “religion or other pressures.”
Still, other signs point to increasing enforcement of a stricter, more visible version of Islam. Several workers were prosecuted last fall for smoking in public during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Groups of Algerian Muslims have recently been put on trial for converting to Christianity.
Censorship of sexual content on national TV has become stricter, and although women aren’t officially obligated to cover their heads, students at provincial universities complain of being pressured to wear head scarves.
While the affluent elite can unwind at Algiers’ costly private clubs or international hotels, the closures appear to be hitting lower-income neighborhoods hardest.
In the Boumerdes province next to Algiers, Gov. Brahim Merad has pledged not to approve a single liquor license. “Even better; I won’t miss a single opportunity to close the existing establishments,” the French-language El Watan newspaper quoted him as saying in June.
Rundown Boumerdes remains one of Algeria’s most violent areas, with several killings and roadside bombings a week on average, blamed on Al-Qaida-linked militants.
The programme of “national reconciliation” put forward by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in 2005 is widely credited with ending the worst of the civil strife. But Rachid Tlemcani, a political science professor at Algiers University says: “We’re witnessing the slow growth and triumph of Islamism through society.”
E-Call Up System: Truckers Raise Alarm Over Extortion
Experts in the haulage and logistics supply chain of the maritime sub-sector have raised alarm over alleged hike of the e-call up system introduced by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and managed by Truck Transit Park (TTP) Limited.
The experts lamented that the official N10,000 charges collectible by TTP Limited allegedly goes for N25,000 per truck, adding that multiple taxation and extortions from the various associations may trigger further hike in charges of container laden trucks if not properly addressed.
According to them, gladiators in the political arena are allegedly engaging thugs along the corridors of ports to extort truckers ahead of the 2023 elections .
Chief Executive Officer, Nedu Logistics Solutions Limited, Mr. Kelvin Okechukwu, in a chat with our correspondent in Lagos lamented that despite paying huge amount on call up system to evacuate containers , multiple extortions from the thugs under the guise of representing various associations in haulage activities create more problems for genuine operators in the clearance of cargo from the ports.
He alleged that the monies collected for the call up in recent time have been extremely high for the truckers to pay, calling on the relevant authorities to review the charges because the current N25,000 rate will not go down well for genuine operators.
Okechukwu reiterated that the call up charges now attract about N25,000 officially and with a break down of the new collection, he alleged that “They collect the call up in three phases and each phase attract N10,750 while we the truckers are to pay twice with additional N5,000”.
He further alleged that there are about twelve points manned by security agencies and the touts thus demand and extort N1000 from truckers at every point along the port corridors.
Along the Apapa/Oshodi corridor, he said, every 500 meters attract a N1000 levy or ticket payable to the various touts claiming to be members of haulage associations and security agencies.
Calling on the government to find lasting solutions to end touting along the port corridors, he said, “I’m telling you authoritatively that those touts on the roads are working for politicians.
“We have done so much to push them out but at the end of the day, they are still there on the road because they have the political backing above.
“We go to police, they will say there is nothing they can do, even when we go to the navy, they will even give them protection.
He lamented that the Police, LASTMA and NPA personnel are not left out of frustrating the genuine haulage operators against the backdrop of the objective of the call up system.
While expressing frustration over the bottlenecks and extortions on cargo movement from the ports in Lagos, the logistics service provider stated that the call up system was aimed to reduce the challenges faced by truckers and not to create setbacks for operators .
He urged the Federal Government to prioritize the port corridors construction to enable smooth vehicular movement of haulage trucks, noting that the call up has potential to enhance movement of cargoes from the seaports
On his part, a chieftain of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Arthur Igwilo, lamented that the multiple extortion has led to the hike in the cost of manufactured goods in Nigerian markets.
Igwilo decried the humiliation and molestation of truck drivers and their assistants in the hands of thugs, even as he appealed to the government to put motion in place to eliminate the hiccups affecting trade facilitation.
Attempts to contact officials of TTP Limited proved abortive as messages sent was not replied as at the time of filing this report.
By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos
Usman Challenges NPA, Staff To Prove Alleged N40bn Fraud
The suspended Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, has challenged the management of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and staff to show proofs of her alleged N40 billion fraud.
Usman also debunked claims that while in office, the agency did not remit N40bn, $921.61m and £289.931.82 into the Federal Government accounts as alleged.
In a statement she personally signed, erstwhile MD claimed that reports of unremitted monies into the federation account by the NPA when she was MD were meant to tarnish her image.
According to her, “Media reports alleging that the Auditor-General of the Federation issued some queries regarding monies being owed the NPA by Terminal Operators have come to my attention.
“Ordinarily, the NPA should clear the air about these allegations, and for this reason, I have refused to make any comments since the news broke.
“However, it is becoming more apparent that tarnishing my image is the primary mission of promoters of the story.
“For instance, several people sent me a social media post with the title: ‘NPA Audit indicts Hadiza Bala Usman for not remitting N40b, $921.61m and £289.931.82 to federal government accounts’.
“I make bold to say that this report is untrue and a fallacy from the imagination of anyone spreading the falsehood.
“I also challenge anyone with proofs of this allegation to present them in public”, she stated.
She further explained that even if there are monies unremitted into the federal government’s accounts, these monies will remain in the Treasury Single Account (TSA) where all revenues generated by the Authority domiciles. In addition, the Authority will have explanations for any audit queries that may arise, whenever they do.
“The report claimed that the imaginary allegations of abuse of office, corrupt enrichment and failure to account for billions of naira led to my purported sack”, she emphasized.
On her sack as the MD, NPA, Usman said she has not received any information or letter of sack from any quarters until this moment.
“I state without any equivocation that I have not received any information about my purported sack from any quarters until this moment.
“I have also not been indicted for any offence as alleged in these increasing lies.
By: Chinedu Wosu
E-Naira Acceptance Faces Poor Mobile Networks, Other Threats
Poor mobile networks as well as limited spread of Internet-enabled devices, among others, are currently threatening the acceptance of eNaira across the country, according to a report by Omaplex Law.
Recall that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had in October 2021 introduced its digital currency, called the eNaira, saying it hoped to increase financial inclusion and make cross-border payments easier for enterprises.
The CBN disclosed 400,000 accounts were created and over 12,500 transactions were made within a month of launching eNaira.
The report, titled “Omaplex 365: Nigeria 2022 socio-economic and technological outlook”, stated that the lack of quality mobile networks and the limited spread of Internet-enabled devices have been a significant bottleneck in the acceptance of the eNaira.
“This is so because in most rural regions of Nigeria, network penetration is still heavily dependent on 2G and 3G networks, which spells difficulty for eNaira transactions hinged on the internet.
“Again, owing to the indigent status of a significant fraction of the Nigerian populace, owning Internet-enabled devices may be put on hold in favour of more immediate necessities.
“Accordingly, if the primary stated purpose of the creation and launch of eNaira is to promote financial inclusion, the highlighted issues may pose a threat to achieving that goal”, it stated.
The firm, however, commended the CBN’s efforts to overcome some of the existing obstacles.
“In this circumstance, it is highly commendable that the CBN in a bid to overcome these obstacles has elected to deploy the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data approach in 2022 to reach the most remote parts of the country without relying on network penetration or possessing an internet-enabled device before users can access the numerous benefits that the eNaira provides,” it said.
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