Britain, Italy and Greece have admitted that a claim by a Nigerian Islamist group that it had killed seven foreign hostages appears to be true, and have condemned the act as barbaric and cold-blooded.
The Ansaru group last Saturday announced the deaths of all the expatriates abducted from a construction site of Lebanese company, Setraco on February 16 in Bauchi State.
Ansaru, considered an offshoot of the Nigerian Islamist group, Boko Haram, backed up its claim with ‘screen captures of a forthcoming video showing the dead hostages’, SITE Intelligence Group said.
“In the communique, the group stated that the attempts by the British and Nigerian governments to rescue the hostages, and their alleged arrest and killing of people, forced it to carry out the execution,’ SITE said.
Nigerian police last month said the hostages were four Lebanese, one Briton, a Greek citizen and an Italian. A company official later said the Middle Eastern hostages included two Lebanese and two Syrians.
British Foreign Secretary, William Hague said all the hostages were “likely to have been killed’ by their captors.
“This was an act of cold-blooded murder, which I condemn in the strongest terms,’ “he said, expressing his determination to work with the Nigerian authorities ‘to hold the perpetrators of this heinous act to account, and to combat the terrorism which so blights the lives of people in northern Nigeria and in the wider region’.
The Italian Foreign Ministry, in a statement, branded it ‘a horrific act of terrorism for which there is no explanation except barbaric and blind violence’.
‘No military intervention to free the hostages was ever attempted by the interested government,’ it said, adding the killings were ‘the aberrant expression of a hateful and intolerable fanaticism’.
The Greek Foreign Ministry also said that ‘available information suggests that the Greek citizen abducted in Nigeria alongside six nationals of other countries is dead’.
‘Based on the information we have, there was no rescue operation,’ it added.
Meanwhile, the presidency, Nigeria Police, State Security Services (SSS)and the Joint Task Force (JTF) have remained silent following the claims by Ansaru that it had killed the seven foreign hostages kidnapped last month
The terror group Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis-Sudan, known as Ansaru, is a splinter from the larger Islamist group Boko Haram, which has killed over 1,500 people killed since 2009.
Led by the little-known Abu Ussamata al-Ansary, “the Vanguard for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa” was formed after a disagreement with Boko Haram at the tactic of killing fellow Muslims.
While Boko Haram (“western education is a sin” in Hausa) has aimed to destabilise the government of Goodluck Jonathan by undermining his ability to guarantee the security of Africa’s most populous nation, Ansaru appears determined to drag foreign governments into an otherwise domestic conflict by kidnapping and killing foreigners, according to Sola Tayo, an associate fellow at the Chatham House thinktank.
“This is the biggest and most shocking attack yet on foreigners by Muslim militants in Nigeria,” she said. “It’s timing is very significant because it comes just after Goodluck Jonathan declared there is no way he could offer any amnesty to these groups. This will bring international pressure on the president because one of the only things preventing people talking about Nigeria as the next Afghanistan has been the fact that the majority of people killed have been Nigerian.”
Boko Haram has focused on targeting police and security agents and Christians and Muslims working for or accused of co-operating with the government. It has bombed newspaper offices and the United Nations building in the capital, Abuja, attacked beer halls, robbed banks and burned down schools.
Tayo said there is not yet proof that Boko Haram or Ansaru is a full-blown franchise of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has been fighting to take control of Mali, but she said the organisations are in contact and that the prime minister of Niger has said there have been Nigerian militants training with AQIM in Niger.
Ansaru was behind the 2011 kidnapping of British construction worker Christopher McManus, 28 and his Italian colleague, Franco Lamolinara, 47, while they were working on a central bank building project in Bernin Kebbi, northern Nigeria. In a hostage video, McManus asked the UK government “to meet the demands of al-Qaida”.
The two men were executed by their captors during a failed rescue mission involving British special forces in February last year.
The group also abducted French national, Francis Colump, 63, in December last year after a dynamite attack on a well-guarded compound.
90% Of Money Laundered Via Real Estate, EFCC Reveals
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says about 90 per cent of money laundering is done through the real estate sector.
The commission’s Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, stated this while featuring on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, yesterday,
According to him, although the sector is monitored via the special control unit, more needed to be done.
According to Bawa, “One of the problems we have now is the real estate. 90 to 100 per cent of the resources are being laundered through the real estate.”
He said there are so many issues involved, but that they were working with the National Assembly to stop what he called “the gate keepers” as there would be reduction in looting if there is no one to launder the money.
Bawa, the EFCC boss, gave an example of a minister who expressed interest in a $37.5million property a bank manager put up for sale.
He said, “The bank sent a vehicle to her house and in the first instance $20million was evacuated from her house.
“They paid a developer and a lawyer set up a special purpose vehicle, where the title documents were transferred into.
“And he (the lawyer) is posing as the owner of the property. You see the problem. This is just one of many; it is happening daily.”
The EFCC chairman also revealed that he receives death threats often.
Asked to respond to President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent “Corruption is fighting back” expression, Bawa said he was in New York, USA, last week, when someone called to threaten him.
“Last week, I was in New York when a senior citizen received a phone call from somebody that is not even under investigation.
“The young man said, ‘I am going to kill him (Bawa), I am going to kill him’.
“I get death threats. So, it is real. Corruption can fight back,” he said.
On corruption in the civil service, he said there were a lot of gaps, especially in contracts processing, naming “emergency contracts” as one.
Bawa said, “A particular agency is notorious for that. They have turned all their contracts to emergency contracts.”
However, he said, EFCC has strategies in place to check corruptions, one of which is “corruption risk assessments of MDAs”.
According to him, “I have written to the minister and would soon commence the process of corruption risk assessments of all the parastatals and agencies under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look at their vulnerability to fraud and advise them accordingly.”
Asked if the scope of corruption in the country overwhelms him, Bawa, the EFCC boss said, “Yes, and no.”
We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says his administration has spent N9billion in upgrading structures and installation of new equipment at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH).
He said the fact that 40 per cent of the 2021 budget of the state is dedicated to provision of quality healthcare delivery was a further demonstration of the priority placed on the sector.
Wike made the explanation at the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at RSUTH, last Friday.
The governor said he made promise to Rivers people that the best would be provided to them in all sectors of the society within his capability because of the mandate they gave to him.
“As we came on here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9billion in this teaching hospital.
“If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the Rivers State Government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget.”
Speaking further, Wike said the state government cannot afford to implement free medical service programme in the present economic circumstance.
While dismissing the request for a subvention for RSUTH, Wike, however, commended the chief medical director and his team for their commitment to turnaround the fortunes of RSUTH.
“I have never seen anywhere that health services can be totally free. They’re telling me that people who come here can’t pay. I have never declared that this state is going to take over the health fees of anybody.”
Also speaking, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who performed the flag-off, noted that Wike’s achievements in the health sector in particular, surpass what former governors of the state had done.
Sekibo said that the governor has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that was positioning the state as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike for his interest in the health of Rivers people.
He noted that the renal centre, when completed, would become another landmark development project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney-related ailments.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, commended Wike for approving the renal centre.
Aaron explained that chronic kidney disease was a major burden globally with estimated 14 million cases in Nigeria.
According to him, over 240,000 of these cases require renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.
The CMD said the building that would house the centre was expected to be completed in six months and consists of two floors.
The ground floor, according to him, would house the haemodialysis unit with eight haemodialysis machines.
He further explained that the first floor of the centre would house the surgical component where most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant would be installed.
Aaron said Wike has released the funds required to build, equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.
Power Generation Falls 23% To 3,172MW
Power supply in Nigeria has failed to improve on last week’s performance, as it fell by 22.9 per cent from peak generation of 4,115Megawatts on Saturday to 3,172.20MW as at 5pm, yesterday, latest data from the System Operator has shown.
According to the data, most power plants were operating far below capacity due to gas shortage with Olorunsogo Power Plant 335MW capacity; and Sapele Power Plant, 450MW capacity; completely out.
Egbin was generating at 746MW; Omoku 37.20; Omotosho (NIPP) at 105MW; while Afam was generating at 80MW.
The data showed that on the average power generation in the past seven days were 4,120.9MW on Sunday, June 6; 4,249.4 on Monday, June 7; 4,000.9MW on Tuesday, June 8; 3,720.7 on Wednesday, June 9; 3,517 on Thursday, June 10; 3,765MW on Friday, June 11; and 4,115MW on Saturday, June 12.
The International Oil Companies (IOCs), had last warned that despite Nigeria’s huge gas reserves a lot needs to be done to attract investment to the sector to develop gas reserves to boost power generation in the country.
Speaking at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria/MD SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, said with 203trillion Cubic Feet of gas reserves, what was needed in the country is to deliver projects that would produce the gas.
“The challenge is not just growing the reserves but in producing these reserves for the benefits of our country. Essentially growing the reserves and delivering on the production is a function of two or three elements.
“I like to see infrastructure that is required for the development of these resources at two levels. Soft infrastructure is often the one that is more important than and that is the one that is actually drives most of what you see at site.”
“Soft infrastructure refers to the enabling environment and nothing pleases me as much seeing both the Senate President and the speaker of the house give very firm commitments about trying to pass the PIB this month.
“That is probably the big one of the enabling environment to provide the kind of stability we also need all sorts of other issues we need to that we have discussed severally in terms of sanctity of contract, stable policies and collaboration and I think we are well on our way there”, he added.
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