We’ll Do Our Best To Rescue Chibok Girls If They Are Alive– Buhari

As the world marks one year of the abduction of about 276 schoolgirls from Government Secondary School, Chibok, President-elect Muhammadu Buhari has assured parents of the girls that his government will rescue and bring back their children.

“I say to every parent, family member and friend of the children that my government will do everything in its power to bring them home,” Gen Buhari said in a statement from Daura, Katsina State.

“What I can pledge, with absolute certainty, is that, starting from the first day of my administration, Boko Haram will know the strength of our collective will and commitment to rid this nation of terror, and bring back peace and normalcy to all the affected areas,” he said.

The world woke up to the sordid report of the kidnap of the schoolgirls writing their final examinations in the night of April 14, after hours of operating unchallenged.

Buhari, however, said that the rescue mission was dependent on whether the girls were still alive.

He also promised that his government would counteract the ideology of the militants whose name translates to ‘western education is evil.’

“We will ensure our citizens in the affected areas have improved educational opportunities as a direct counterbalance to Boko Haram’s twisted ideology.

“In particular, we will educate ever more young girls, ensuring they are empowered as citizens of Nigeria,” the president-elect stated.

The former head of state added that the anniversary of the girls’ kidnap should remind Nigerians “that the attack on Chibok was an attack on the dreams and aspirations of our young people.

“We stand united in our pledge to resist terror in Nigeria – not just through military means but also through the power of opportunity and the hope of a better future for all.”

Part of Buhari’s statement read: “Today, we remember the kidnapping of 276 girls from a school in Chibok one year ago. This crime has rightly caused outrage both in Nigeria and across the world.

“Today is a time to reflect on the pain and suffering of the victims, their friends and families. Our thoughts and prayers, and that of the whole Nigerian nation, are with you today.

“I want to assure all of them, and particularly the parents, that when my new administration takes office at the end of May, we will do everything we can to defeat Boko Haram. We will act differently from the government we replace: we hear the anguish of our citizens and intend to respond accordingly.”

He, however, said he did not know whether the Chibok girls could still be rescued – as their whereabouts remain unknown, and that as much as he wished to, he could not promise that they could be found, but that his government would do everything possible to look for them and bring them home.

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Chibok Girls Seen Alive in Gwoza – BBC Report

A BBC report indicated that more than 50 of the abducted Chibok girls were seen alive three weeks ago.

A woman who spoke with the BBC said she saw the girls in Gwoza town in Borno State before the Boko Haram militants were driven out of there by Nigerian soldiers and other regional forces.

Boko Haram sparked global outrage when it seized more than 219 girls from Chibok town a year ago.

The US, China and other foreign powers promised to help find the girls. However, the girls have never been traced, and little has been heard of them since they were taken from their boarding school.

In an open letter, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai called on Nigeria’s authorities and the international community to do more to secure the release of the girls.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said the girls had been converted to Islam and married off, fuelling concern that the militants had treated them as war booty and sex-slaves.

The woman, who lived under Boko Haram’s rule in Gwoza, told the BBC that she saw the girls in Islamic attire, being escorted by the militants.

“They said they were Chibok girls kept in a big house,” said the woman, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals.

“We just happened to be on the same road with them,” she added. Three other women also told the BBC they had seen the girls in Gwoza.

Boko Haram was believed to have turned Gwoza into its headquarters after it captured the town in August 2014.

Defence headquarters said troops recaptured the town last month.

The militants were suspected to have fled to the nearby Mandara Mountains, near the border with Cameroon. It is unclear whether the girls are with them there.

Another woman told the BBC she last saw some of the girls in November at a Boko Haram camp in Bita village, also in the north-east.

“About a week after they were brought to the camp, one of us peeked through a window and asked: ‘Are you really the Chibok girls?’ and they said: ‘Yes’. We believed them and didn’t ask them again,” the woman said.

“They took Qur’an lessons, cleaned their compound, cooked for themselves and they braided each other’s hair. They were treated differently – their food [was] better and water clean. “

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World Bank Backs Buhari to Probe NNPC, Others

The World Bank has thrown its weight behind President-elect, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to probe the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation over allegations of missing funds.

Speaking in a video conference from Washington to journalists from across Africa on the release of the bank’s analysis of issues shaping the continent entitled, ‘Africa’s Pulse’, top officials of the bank commended President Goodluck Jonathan for exhibiting political maturity after the March 28 presidential election that would end the tenure of his administration on May 29.

The World Bank’s Chief Economist for Africa, Mr. Francisco Ferreira, said looking into financial records of the country, especially allegation of corruption at the NNPC, would check impunity and build public institutions in the future.

He said, “One norm that has to change is the norm of impunity. I am from Brazil myself. So I am also used to a country where people could be corrupt and escape justice. That keeps the people to keep doing it.

“So, the current stand of the government-elect to look into what happened in the past hopefully will have consequences for the future. And those consequences will be that institutions will be stronger; norms will be cleaner and people will not have to steal millions of dollars from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

“People have alleged in the past that there had been major corruption scandals there. If that stops, then that will have very high returns in terms of the money staying around to be spent on education, health, roads and power that the poor people across the country need.

“So, my sense is that it will be good to promote cleanliness in politics.”

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Abducted Nigerian Women, Girls Forced To Join Boko Haram Attacks- Amnesty International …Submits Report To ICC

At least 2,000 women and girls have been abducted by Boko Haram since the start of 2014 and many have been forced into sexual slavery and trained to fight, said Amnesty International on the first anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok school girls.

Based on nearly 200 witness accounts, including 28 with abducted women and girls who escaped captivity, a new 90-page report, ‘Our job is to shoot, slaughter and kill’: Boko Haram’s reign of terror, documents multiple war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Boko Haram, including the killing of at least 5,500 civilians, as it rampaged across north-east Nigeria during 2014 and early 2015.

The Amnesty International report sheds new light on the brutal methods used by the armed group in north-east Nigeria where men and boys are regularly conscripted or systematically executed and young women and girls are abducted, imprisoned and in some cases raped, forcibly married and made to participate in armed attacks, sometimes on their own towns and villages.

“The evidence presented in this shocking report, one year after the horrific abduction of the Chibok girls, underlines the scale and depravity of Boko Haram’s methods,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

“Men and women, boys and girls, Christians and Muslims, have been killed, abducted and brutalized by Boko Haram during a reign of terror which has affected millions. Recent military successes might spell the beginning of the end for Boko Haram, but there is a huge amount to be done to protect civilians, resolve the humanitarian crisis and begin the healing process.”

The report contains graphic evidence, including new satellite images, of the scale of devastation that Boko Haram have left in their wake.

The 276 schoolgirls abducted from Chibok gained global attention with the help of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. But the missing schoolgirls are only a small proportion of the women, girls, young men and boys abducted by Boko Haram.

Boko Haram would take the women and girls they abducted directly to camps in remote communities or to makeshift transit camps such as one established in Ngoshe prison. From transit camps Boko Haram would move them to houses in towns and villages and indoctrinate them with their version of Islam in preparation for marriage.

Aisha, aged 19, spoke to Amnesty International about how she was abducted from a friend’s wedding in September 2014 along with her sister, the bride and the bride’s sister. Boko Haram took them to a camp in Gulak, Adamawa state, home to approximately 100 abducted girls. One week later, Boko Haram forced the bride and the bride’s sister to marry their fighters. They also taught Aisha and the other women and girls how to fight.

“They used to train girls how to shoot guns. I was among the girls trained to shoot. I was also trained how to use bombs and how to attack a village,” Aisha told Amnesty International. “This training went on for three weeks after we arrived. Then they started sending some of us to operations. I went on one operation to my own village.”

Aisha said that during the three months that she was held captive, she was raped repeatedly, sometimes by groups of up to six fighters. She also saw more than 50 people killed by Boko Haram, including her sister. “Some of them refused to convert. Some refused to learn how to kill others. They were buried in a mass grave in the bush. They’ll just pack the dead bodies and dump them in a big hole, but not deep enough. I didn’t see the hole, but we used to get the smell from the dead bodies when they start getting rotten.”

Mass killings 
Since the start of 2014, Amnesty International documented at least 300 raids and attacks carried out by Boko Haram against civilians. During their attacks on towns, they would systematically target the military or police first, capturing arms and ammunition, before turning on the civilian population. They would shoot anyone trying to escape, rounding up and executing men of fighting age.

Ahmed and Alhaji, aged 20 and 18, were seated with other men, waiting for their throats to be cut after Boko Haram took over Madagali on 14 December 2014. Ahmed told Amnesty International that even though his instinct told him to run, he could not. “They were slaughtering them with knives. Two men were doing the killing…We all sat on the ground and waited our turn.” Alhaji only managed to escape when a Boko Haram executioner’s blade became too dull to slit more throats. “Before they got to my group, they killed 27 people in front of me. I was counting every one of them because I wanted to know when my turn would come.” He said that at least 100 men who refused to join Boko Haram were executed in Madagali on that day.

In Gwoza, Boko Haram killed at least 600 people during an attack on 6 August 2014. Witnesses told Amnesty International how anyone trying to escape would be pursued. “The motorcycles went to surrounding areas, each street corner, where they will shoot you. They are only shooting the men.”

Thousands fled to nearby mountains where Boko Haram fighters hunted them down and forced them out of the caves where they were hiding with tear gas canisters. The women were then abducted. The men were killed.

Burning and looting: new satellite images of the destruction of Bama

Satellite imagery commissioned by Amnesty International has enabled the organization to document the scale of devastation wreaked by Boko Haram.

This includes new before and after images of Bama commissioned for the report. These show that at least 5,900 structures, approximately 70 percent of the town, were either damaged or destroyed, including the hospital, by retreating Boko Haram fighters as the Nigerian military regained control of the town in March 2015.

Witnesses interviewed by Amnesty International described how Bama’s streets were littered with bodies and how people were burned alive in buildings. One woman said: “When the military got close to the barracks [in Bama] and almost took over, they [the military] later withdrew. Then the insurgents started killing people and burning houses.”

Life under Boko Haram
The report documents the reign of terror for those under Boko Haram rule. Soon after taking control of a town, Boko Haram would assemble the population and announce new rules with restrictions of movement, particularly on women. Most households became dependent on children to collect food or on visits by Boko Haram members who offered assistance, distributing looted food.

Boko Haram enforced its rules with harsh punishments. Failure to attend daily prayers was punishable by public flogging. A woman who spent five months under Boko Haram control in Gamborou told Amnesty International how she had seen a woman given 30 lashes for selling children’s clothes and a couple executed publicly for adultery.

A 15-year-old boy from Bama, spared by Boko Haram due to his disability, told Amnesty International that he had witnessed 10 stonings. “They stone them to death on Fridays. They will gather all the children and ask them to stone. I participated in the stoning… They will dig a hole, bury all the body and stone the head. When the person dies, they will leave the stones until the body decays.”

The report also highlights growing tensions between Christians and Muslims. Many Christians interviewed by Amnesty International believe that Muslims have informed Boko Haram of their whereabouts or failed to share information about impending attacks and this has left a legacy of distrust between some communities that previously lived harmoniously side-by-side. Whilst Boko Haram has destroyed churches and killed Christians who refuse to convert to Islam, they have also targeted moderate Muslims.

Amnesty International is calling on Boko Haram to stop killing civilians and for the Nigerian government to take all possible legal steps to ensure their protection and restore security in the north-east. The international community should also continue to assist the new government of Nigeria in addressing the threat posed by Boko Haram.

“The change of government in Nigeria provides an opportunity for a new approach to security in Nigeria after the dismal failure of recent years,” said Salil Shetty.

“The abducted must be rescued, war crimes and crimes against humanity must be investigated. Bodies must be disinterred from mass graves, further killings must be prevented and those guilty of inflicting this unspeakable suffering must be brought to justice.”

The information on Boko Haram documented by Amnesty International should be considered by the International Criminal Court as part of its ongoing preliminary examination of the situation in north-east Nigeria.

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Sultan Snubbed Jonathan Before Election, JNI Says; Denies Receiving N12bn

The ?Jama’atu Nasril Islam, JNI, on Sunday dismissed speculations that it received N12 billion from President Goodluck Jonathan to support his re-election.

The group, led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Saad Abubakar, challenged the author {Obinna Akukwe} to produce evidence.

The organisation also threatened legal action if the author of the rumour failed to substantiate, withdraw the information and apologise to JNI.

This was contained in statement issued by the Secretary General of JNI, Khalid Aliyu, in Kaduna.

The statement said the allegation, publicised online by an individual, had gone viral on the social media and other electronic media platforms.

“The most unfortunate part of the article was its deliberate and scantiest reference in the paragraph JNI featured, details were not provided at all, whereas to some extent nitty-gritties were provided for the other stated organisations,” it read in part.

The JNI expressed worry over the allegation considering its gravity.

“We wish to place on record and for posterity that such has never occurred and we (JNI) don’t really understand the ill motives of those behind the release,” the JNI said.

“We did not understand or is it because some other faith(s) are said to have collected the presidential largesse?

“Hence, Muslims must be asserted to have collected same? Why do they want to discredit and smear the JNI at all cost?

“Why is the allegation coming now, despite knowing fully that the JNI never had any political romance with the government before and or during the elections.

“It is our firm belief that the purported write up was orchestrated to smear the name of Islam and Muslims who suffered undue discrimination and deliberate marginalisation under the outgoing government, and to cause bad feelings among the Ummah.

“Without mincing words, JNI is proud to make it known to all and sundry that the out-going President requested for an audience with its leadership and it was turned down outrightly by the leadership of the Muslim Ummah,” said the scribe.

While noting that the allegation was ill-timed, the JNI said it has serious reservations about the motives behind that meeting and its impending implications.

It challenged the writer of the article to name the particular person who was contracted to collect and share the said money in the name of JNI.

“Whoever has any relevant information as to who, where, when and how the said money was collected, should please come out with evidence.

“We expected that common sense was enough to refute such spurious and mischievous allegation, N12 billion is indeed a huge amount that cannot be transferred unnoticeable.

“In fact, it would be pertinent to ask, into which bank and or account could such amount be deposited without being known? Into whose office could such amount be kept for goodness sake?’’

“How many trucks do you need to carry such amount? For the avoidance of doubt, I swear by Allah (SWT), to every discerning mind that as the Secretary-General of JNI, nothing of such happened and nobody and or any party contacted us for the disbursement of any type of largesse.”

The body advised Muslims and the general public to disregard the information, describing it as false, baseless and without an iota of truth in it.

It warned that the JNI would certainly take legal action to protect its image, integrity, respect and honour if no genuine redress was made by those behind the script.


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President-elect Buhari Slams Okonjo-Iweala, Says His Ministers Will Declare their Assets

By SaharaReporters

President-Elect Buhari spoke exclusively with SaharaTV on how he plans to deal with corruption, the government’s finances, Boko Haram, and Nigeria’s economy. Most notably he blamed Minister Iweala for the financial situation in Nigeria, and that he will make his Ministerial appointees declare their assets to the public.

When asked about statements from Minister of Finance Iweala on the fiscal conditions and government spending in Nigeria, President-Elect Buhari told SaharaTV that “I’m afraid the Finance Minister has no cause to complain because the governors cannot force the central government to act outside the Constitution.”

President-Elect Buhari firmly stated that “all those that were governors, ministers, permanent secretaries, head of foreign staff and all those with political appointments will have to declare their assets on the assumption of their appointment and definitely with the courts. And once they leave they have to re-declare their assets.” He said this would ensure greater accountability among public servants.

However, he did tell SaharaTV that he does not plan to interfere with the judiciary and whatever action it may take pursuing corrupt public officials. He stated that his administration would not “become embroiled in investigation every ministry, then the government will not have time to move forward.”

On the contentious issue of Oil Block ownership in Nigeria, and an equitable distribution of the country’s wealth, he suggested that partisan politics in Nigeria is the cause of inequitability in the oil sector. President-Elect Buhari claimed that he wanted to professionalize the oil sector in Nigeria. He said that the “proliferation of oil fields to people who don’t even know what it is, is one of the messes partisan politics has brought.” Within the equitable distribution of wealth and job creation for youth, the President-Elect pointed to the APC manifesto calling for greater emphasis on mining and agriculture development.

When pressed on rumors that former president Obasanjo was exercising inordinate influence on Buhari’s administration he said, “I think that people have to accept the realities of Nigeria’s political development. General Olusegun Obasanjo is the only living Nigerian that led Nigeria for more than 11 years, so for anybody to think that General Obasanjo is irrelevant or he was trying to push his influence over issues, I think is being uncharitable and not being fair to Nigeria’s political development.”

President-Elect Buhari is now confronted with the challenge of appointing a ministerial and cabinet team, and he has stated publicly that PDP defectors should not expect to receive Minister appointments.

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Polls: Kwara Speaker Commends INEC, Security Operatives, Nigerians Over Peaceful Conduct

The Speaker of the Kwara State Assembly and Member-Elect of House of Representatives, Barr. Razak Atunwa has commended the Independent Electoral Commission over the successful conduct of the polls in Kwara and other states in Nigeria.
Atunwa who made this known when answering questions from newsmen after casting his vote at Berikodo Polling Unit of Asa Local Government, expressed satisfaction in the improvement made by INEC to make the elections more credible than the presidential election of March 28th.
“There are serious improvements on the path of INEC in the conduct of the governorship and state assemblies polls. The fact that INEC was able to correct major challenges recorded in the presidential polls has reinstated the commission’s commitment to a free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.
“During the presidential polls, in my polling unit, the card reader usage was very slow which affected the time voting commenced. This challenge was also recorded across Nigeria, as a matter of fact INEC had to resolve for manual accreditation process at some point during the March 28 polls. But at this governorship poll, there are improvements, the card readers are working very well and the accreditation has been fast and hitch free, no delay, no hiatus” he stated.
Atunwa who said there’s low turn out of voters also commended security operatives and voters across the nation for a peaceful conduct during the elections. Atunwa described this as a sign of maturity and noticeable growth in Nigeria’s democratic system, stating that the era of force and violence during election has gone while the era of peaceful casting of votes has commenced.
“Even though there is low turn out, I’m very impressed by the peaceful conduct of the election processes. So far, I have not heard of any snatching of ballot, fighting or shooting at polling units here in my local government and other parts of Kwara. This should be the case in other parts of Nigeria too. Our people are out peacefully, no tension, no display of anger or use of force. They have voted peacefully and accepted the results in the spirit of sportsmanship.
“This success wouldn’t have been possible without the contributions of security operatives. Those who are stationed in each Polling Unit and those who were patrolling from one Polling Unit to another. They have uplifted mission Nigeria above their selfish interests and quick gains, working rigorously to ensure peace is maintained throughout the elections. I also commend observers from local and international organizations who have shown interest in measuring our democratic growth and pass objective comments that will help the nation make amendments” he stated.
Further speaking, Atunwa said he is determined to make a difference and perform better at the National Assembly. He stated that he will serve the nation with accountability and sponsor bills that reflects the interest of his constituents and Nigerians at large.
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My Threat to Kill 10 Civilians for Any Policeman Killed Worked – AIG Mbu

The Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 2, Joseph Mbu, says the threat he issued to kill 10 people for every policeman killed made the governorship and assembly elections to be peaceful in Lagos.

Mbu spoke on Saturday after monitoring the elections in some parts of the state with journalists.

The AIG visited the Ikeja, Agege, Alimosho, Somolu, Ogudu, Yaba, Lagos Island and Gbagada areas of Lagos State, among others.

There was no chaos or fight in all the areas as residents cheered the police team.

However, three people were arrested in the Ikeja GRA for moving around in their cars, while a passerby, who attempted recording the scene, was equally apprehended.

His Smartphone was smashed on the ground by a policeman.

At the end of the tour, Mbu lauded the courage of policemen in the state and the orderly conduct of the elections.

Asked what was responsible for the peaceful conduct of the elections, Mbu said, “Generally, people are becoming more and more mature.

“Also, the statement I made, which people misconstrued, also helped the police because people say, ‘this man has come o, and whatever he says, he means it’, and that instilled fear in them. Go and check all the places where I served, how many people have died? We don’t kill anyhow.

“But you have to instill fear so that people will have more respect for the police.

“Now we have succeeded as far as I am concerned.”

The AIG acknowledged some fracas in the Agric, Ikorodu area of the state, saying it was minor and the police were able to arrest the situation.

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FG Names Presidential Transition Committee [See Who Made It]

The names of the 16-member Federal Government’s transition committee, and its secretary, have been released.

The committee to be headed by Vice President Namadi Sambo, the committee will work with the incoming government of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in ensuring a smooth transfer of power.

Major General Muhammadu Buhari of the APC defeated incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the March 28 general elections. The new government takes office on 29 May 2015.

The members of the committee include the Minister of Finance and Co-ordinating Minister of the economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala; the Minister of State for Finance, as well as the ministers of Justice, Transport,
Police Affairs, and the Niger Delta.

The list also includes the Managing Director of the Assets Management Company of Nigeria, the Head of Service of the Federation, the Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), as well as the Directors General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Nigeria Export Processing Zones
Authority(NEPZA) and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, will service as secretary.

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Military Kills 4 Voters In Kebbi State

Reports from citizen reporters are suggesting that the Nigerian military killed four voters in Bayan Dutse Polling Unit, Ginga Ward in the Suru Local Government of Kebbi State.

Nafiu Abubakar, the Police Public Relations Officer, confirmed the incident to journalists.

“Yes, we have received reports of the killings of four people allegedly killed by soldiers and I will give you details of the killings as soon we conclude our investigation,” he said.

Abdullahi Suru, the House of Representative-elect representing Suru federal constituency, also confirmed the deaths to journalists.

He said the incident happened around noon on Saturday, as accreditation was going on in the the APC-supporter area.

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Buses Labelled in the Name of PDP Governorship Candidate in Akwa-Ibom State Cart Away Electoral Materials

Several buses belonging to the Akwa Ibom Transport Company buses labelled UDOM EMMANUEL, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Governorship candidate in the state has carted away election materials in Onna Local Govt in the state, Punch is reporting.

This development occurred just as ballot boxes were reportedly taken to the home of the  Chairman of the local government area, Mr. Ufot Sunday.

Voters alleged that electoral materials were being thumb printed in the Chairman’s home.

Security operatives also barricaded the streets leading to the LGA chairman’s home, preventing movement in the area.

Meanwhile, Mr. Emmanuel who had earlier declined to grant newsmen interview on Saturday after his accreditation at Awa-Iman Ward 1, Unit 2 at Onna Local Government Area, was said to have arrived the area with hundreds of security operatives.

As soon as he completed his accreditation, he walked away in the midst of the heavily armed security operatives, while voters are seen roaming about without getting accreditation as electoral materials have been hijacked.

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South Africa to Return $15m Arms Money to Buhari’s Govt

A South African newspaper, The Mail & Guardian, reported on Friday that South Africa had begun to work out the process of returning more than R100-million in Nigerian money that it confiscated last year, or clearing the way to sell arms to the West African country.

The Mail and Guardian through diplomatic sources informed that South Africa has begun talks to work out a process to return the money in an effort to start off on a clean slate with the recently elected government of the Nigerian president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari.

South African law enforcement agencies seized $15-million in two batches: $5.7-million that had been wired to Standard Bank and $9.3-million in cash, which was confiscated. It was brought into the country through Lanseria airport in Johannesburg in three suitcases by a delegation said to represent the Nigerian government. In both cases, the money was suspected to be for illegal use.

Now South Africa wants to use the money to extend an olive branch to Buhari’s government and mend relations between the two countries, which became strained during the tenure of outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan.

“The positive thing about [Buhari] is that one of the people who supported him is Atiku Abubakar. That makes him our man and he will automatically work well with [President Jacob] Zuma,” a government source said.

Close connection
Abubakar is close to Zuma. He was Nigeria’s vice president during the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo, at the time when Zuma was Thabo Mbeki’s deputy.

“Also, this man [Buhari] is a [retired] military general. It is true that the military needs some beefing up to fight Boko Haram and we should help,” the source added.

So how will Nigeria know that it stands to benefit from an otherwise controversial transaction that had exacerbated tensions between the two countries?

Explained the government source: “Diplomatically you send a signal. Obviously they will have to make a request once they receive a positive signal, but the request will just be an official step to finalising the transaction.”

Buhari is due to take over the leadership of the country after winning the recent elections. Formal talks have not yet begun but South Africa has apparently started sending “positive signals” through its diplomats in Nigeria and to the Nigerian embassy in Pretoria.

Diplomatically favourable
To ensure that the process of returning the money or regularising the sale of arms looks as clean as possible, the Hawks investigation will continue, the source said, but will be managed politically to reach a conclusion that is diplomatically favourable.

“One way is to make the investigators say: ‘Yes, a law has been broken, but it’s true that the government [of Nigeria] is the owner of that money and genuinely wanted to buy arms legally. They might have flouted the rules, but it’s a genuine transaction.’ [We will say] this money does not come from dirty hands or rebels or arms dealers,” the source said.

“We will find a way to regularise the transaction and either return the money or give them arms.”

Nigeria wanted to buy arms such as helicopters and ammunition to strengthen its fight against Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.

Last year, the M&G reported that the head of the national conventional arms control committee, Jeff Radebe, who is also the minister in the presidency, was blamed by his colleagues in government for taking a unilateral decision to try to regularise the sale of arms to Nigeria to facilitate the release of bodies of South Africans who were killed when the TB Joshua church building collapsed in Nigeria.

At the time, Radebe denied it and said the committee had met in October and decided to propose unlocking the Nigerian arms trade.

‘Bona fide error’
The M&G quoted from two letters that Radebe had written to JP “Torie” Pretorius of the Hawks and Dumisani Dladla, the head of the arms control committee’s secretariat, in which he said the failed attempt on September 5 to pay an arms dealer in South Africa “was, in fact, a legitimate requirement from the government of Nigeria”. “Although the required administrative processes were not adhered to at the time, the government of South Africa deems it a bona fide error,” he wrote.

This week a government source told the M&G: “What Jeff did may have been unilateral, but it is now an avenue that South Africa is willing to explore. Even when we were doing damage control after your story, the discussion centred around how we can get a positive outcome out of this.”

The committee apparently met after the article was published in November last year and decided to use the return of the money or the sale of arms to appease the new government of Nigeria after the elections.

“After the story, they had to regroup and say: ‘How do we deal with this situation?’ You cannot let it hang forever; you must find a way to conclude it in a way that will satisfy both sides,” the source said.

Zuma has apparently been briefed by ministers who serve on the committee and has warmed to the idea. Efforts to get comment from Zuma’s spokesperson Mac Maharaj and from Radebe were unsuccessful.

Improved relations
Relations between Nigeria and South Africa have not been at their best, particularly between the Zuma and Jonathan administrations.

“[By returning this money] you get friendship, loyalty and an opportunity where he [Buhari] is willing to work with us to lead the continent and speak with one voice.

“Instead of Nigeria second-guessing us all the time, we will compare notes and stop fighting for things like the United Nations Security Council seat that’s not even permanent,” the source said.

“Nigeria is a strategic country that South Africa cannot ignore. It’s a big market. It’s possible South African companies make more money in Nigeria than in South Africa.”

When Buhari took on Jonathan in last month’s elections, Pretoria was already positioning itself for refreshed relations with Abuja.

‘Contributions to democracy’
The M&G has seen a letter that Buhari wrote to Zuma a few days before the elections, in which he complained about Jonathan’s alleged delaying tactics over the poll and the use of violence in an attempt to sway the vote in his favour.

“I thank your government and your mission in Nigeria for your contributions to Nigeria’s democratic process. While Nigeria’s democracy must be established and secured by the commitment to fairness and the rule of law of Nigerians, the goodwill and positive influence of your government have helped us on this difficult yet vital journey,” Buhari wrote. “It is not your business who wins elections in Nigeria, but we seek your help in making sure the election is a free and fair one for us to win or lose according to the people’s will.”

He is expected to hold a one-on-one meeting with Zuma on the sidelines of the African Union summit that South Africa is hosting in June, and it’s anticipated that the issue of the seized money will be discussed.

Either Zuma or Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will attend Buhari’s inauguration in May.

Asked for comment, department of international relations and co-operation spokesperson Nelson Kgwete said the department had not been in talks with Nigeria over the confiscated money and knew nothing about a proposal to either return the money or sell arms to that country.

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