Fethullah Gülen: ‘I Call For An International Investigation Into The Failed Putsch In Turkey’

Fethullah Gülen

On the night of July 15, Turkey went through the most catastrophic tragedy in its recent history as a result of the attempted military coup. The events of that night could be called a serious terror coup.

Turkish people from all walks of life who thought the era of military coups was over showed solidarity against the coup and on the side of democracy. While the coup attempt was in progress, I condemned it in the strongest terms.

Twenty minutes after the military coup attempt surfaced, before the real actors were known, President Erdogan hastily blamed me. It is troubling that an accusation was issued without waiting for the event’s details and the perpetrators’ motives to emerge. As someone who has suffered through four coups in the last 50 years, it is especially insulting to be associated with a coup attempt. I categorically reject such accusations.

I have been living a reclusive life in self-exile in a small town in the United States for the last 17 years. The assertion that I convinced the eighth largest army in the world – from 6,000 miles away – to act against its own government is not only baseless, it is false, and has not resonated throughout the world.

If there are any officers among the coup plotters who consider themselves as a sympathizer of Hizmet movement, in my opinion those people committed treason against the unity of their country by taking part in an event where their own citizens lost their lives. They also violated the values that I have cherished throughout my life, and caused hundreds of thousands of innocent people to suffer under the government’s oppressive treatment.

If there are those who acted under the influence of an interventionist culture that persists among some of the military officers and have put these interventionist reflexes before Hizmet values, which I believe is unlikely, then an entire movement cannot be blamed for the wrongdoings of those individuals. I leave them to God’s judgment.

No one is above the rule of law, myself included. I would like for those who are responsible for this coup attempt, regardless of their identities, to receive the punishment they deserve if found guilty in a fair trial.  The Turkish judiciary has been politicized and controlled by the government since 2014 and, consequently, the possibility of a fair trial is very small. For this reason, I have advocated several times for the establishment of an international commission to investigate the coup attempt and I have expressed my commitment to abide by the findings of such a commission.

Hizmet movement participants have not been involved in one single violent incident throughout its 50-year history. They haven’t even taken to the streets to confront Turkish security forces while they have been suffering under the government’s “witch hunt,” to use Mr. Erdo?an’s own words, for the last three years.

Despite being subjected to a smear campaign and suffering under state oppression for the last three years in the hands of a politically controlled law enforcement and the judiciary, Hizmet movement participants have complied with the law, opposed injustices through legitimate means and only defended their rights within the legal framework.

Turkey’s legal and law enforcement agencies have been mobilized for the last three years to investigate and reveal an alleged “parallel state” that they claim that I run.

The administration called the 2013 public corruption probe an organized attempt by Hizmet sympathizers within the bureaucracy to bring down the government. Despite detaining 4,000 people, purging tens of thousands of government employees and unlawfully seizing hundreds of NGOs and private businesses, authorities were unable to find a single piece of credible evidence to prove their claims.

Turkey’s prime minister called an opportunity to meet with me “heaven-sent” in May 2013; however, after the public corruption probe emerged in December 2013, he began using hate language such as “assassins” and “blood sucking vampires” when referring to Hizmet movement participants.

After the treasonous coup attempt of July 15, the attacks have become unbearable. Turkish government officials also began referring to me and people sympathetic to my views as a “virus” and “cancer cells that need to be wiped out.” Hundreds of thousands of people that have supported institutions and organizations affiliated with the Hizmet movement have been dehumanized in one way or another.

Their private properties have been confiscated, bank accounts taken over and their passports cancelled, restricting their freedom of travel. Hundreds of thousands of families are living through a humanitarian tragedy due to this ongoing witch hunt. News reports show that nearly 90,000 individuals have been purged from their jobs and 21,000 teachers’ teaching licenses have been revoked.

Is the Turkish government forcing these families to starve to death by preventing them from working and prohibiting them from leaving the country? What is the difference between this treatment and the pre-genocide practices throughout European history?

I’ve witnessed every single military coup in Turkey and, like many other Turkish citizens, have suffered during and after each one. I was imprisoned by the order of the junta administration after the March 12, 1971 coup. After the coup of September 12, 1980, a detention warrant was issued against me and I lived as a fugitive for six years.

Right after the February 28, 1997, post-modern military coup, a lawsuit asking for capital punishment was filed against me with the charge of “an unarmed terrorist organization consisting of one person.”

During all of these oppressive, military-dominated administrations, three cases accusing me of “leading a terror organization” were opened and, in each case, I was cleared of the charges. I was targeted by the authoritarian military administrations back then, and now, I face the very same accusations projected in an even more unlawful manner by a civilian autocratic regime.

I had friendly relations with leaders from various political parties, such as Mr. Turgut Ozal, Mr. Suleyman Demirel and Mr. Bulent Ecevit, and genuinely supported their policies that I found to be beneficial to the larger community. They treated me with respect, especially when recognizing Hizmet activities that contribute to social peace and education.

Even though I distanced myself from the idea of political Islam, I praised the democratic reforms undertaken by Mr. Erdogan and AKP leaders during their first term in power.

But throughout my life, I have stood against military coups and intervention in domestic politics. When I declared 20 years ago that “there is no turning back from democracy and secularism of the state,” I was accused and insulted by the same political Islamists who are close to the current administration. I still stand behind my words. More than 70 books based on my articles and sermons spanning40 years are publicly available. Not only is there not a single expression that legitimizes the idea of a coup in these works, but, on the contrary, they discuss universal human values that are the foundation of democracy.

Emancipating Turkey from the vicious cycle of authoritarianism is possible only through the adoption of a democratic culture and a merit-based administration. Neither a military coup nor a civilian autocracy is a solution.

Unfortunately, in a country where independent media outlets are shut down or taken under government custody, a significant portion of Turkish citizens were made to believe – through relentless pro-government propaganda – that I am the actor behind the July 15 coup. However, world opinion, which is shaped by objective information, clearly sees that what is going on is a power grab by the administration under the guise of a witch-hunt.

Of course, what matters is not majority opinion but the truths that will emerge through the process of a fair trial. Tens of thousands of people, including myself, who have been the target of such gross accusations, would like to clear our names through a fair judicial process. We do not want to live with this suspicion that was cast on us. Unfortunately, the government has exerted political control over the judiciary since 2014, thereby destroying the opportunity for Hizmet sympathizers to clear their names of these accusations.

I openly call on the Turkish government to allow for an international commission to investigate the coup attempt, and promise my full cooperation in this matter. If the commission finds one-tenth of the accusations against me to be justified, I am ready to return to Turkey and receive the harshest punishment.

Participants in the Hizmet movement have been overseen by hundreds of governments, intelligence agencies, researchers or independent civil society organizations for 25 years and have never been found to be involved in illegal activity. For this reason, many countries do not take seriously the accusations of the Turkish government.

The most important characteristic of the Hizmet movement is to not to seek political power, but instead to seek long-term solutions for the problems threatening the future of their societies. At a time when Muslim-majority societies are featured in the news for terror, bloodshed and underdevelopment, Hizmet participants have been focusing on raising educated generations who are open to dialogue and actively contributing to their societies.

Since I have always believed that the biggest problems facing these societies are ignorance, intolerance-driven conflicts and poverty, I have always encouraged those who would listen to build schools instead of mosques or Quran tutoring centers.

Hizmet participants are active in education, health care and humanitarian aid not only in Turkey, but also in more than 160 countries around the world. The most significant characteristic of these activities is that they serve people of all religions and ethnic backgrounds – not just Muslims.

Hizmet movement participants opened schools for girls in the most difficult areas of Pakistan and continued to provide education in the Central African Republic during the country’s civil war. While Boko Haram took young girls hostage in Nigeria, Hizmet participants opened schools that educated girls and women. In France and the French-speaking world, I have encouraged people who share my ideas and values to fight against groups that embrace radical Islamic ideologies and to support the authorities in this struggle. In these countries, I strived for Muslims to be recognized as free and contributing members of society, and have urged them to become part of the solution rather than be associated with the problems.

Despite receiving threats, I categorically condemned numerous times terrorist groups such as Al Qaida and ISIS who taint the bright face of Islam. However, the Turkish government is trying to convince governments around the world to act against schools that have been opened by individuals who did not take part in the July 15 coup attempt, and who have always categorically rejected violence. My appeal to governments around the world is that they ignore the Turkish government’s claims and reject its irrational demands.

Indeed, the Turkish government’s political decision to designate the Hizmet movement as a terrorist organization resulted in the closure of institutions such as schools, hospitals and relief organizations. Those who have been jailed are teachers, entrepreneurs, doctors, academics and journalists. The government did not produce any evidence to show that the hundreds of thousands targeted in the government’s witch hunt supported the coup or that they were associated with any violence.

It is impossible to justify actions such as burning down a cultural center in Paris, detaining or holding hostage family members of wanted individuals, denying detained journalists access to medical care, shutting down 35 hospitals and the humanitarian relief organization Kimse Yok Mu, or forcing 1,500 university deans to resign as part of a post-coup investigation.

It appears that, by presenting the recent purges as efforts that target only Hizmet participants, the Turkish government is in fact removing anyone from the bureaucracy who is not loyal to the ruling party, while also intimidating civil society organizations. It is dreadful to see human rights violations occurring in Turkey, including the torture detailed in recent reports by Amnesty International. This is truly a human tragedy.

The fact that the July 15 coup attempt – which was an anti-democratic intervention against an elected government – was foiled with Turkish citizens’ support is historically significant. However, the coup’s failure does not mean a victory for democracy. Neither the domination by a minority nor the domination of a majority that results in the oppression of a minority nor the rule of an elected autocrat is a true democracy.

One cannot speak of democracy in the absence of the rule of law, separation of powers and essential human rights and freedoms, especially the freedom of expression. True victory for democracy in Turkey is only possible by reviving these core values.

English translation of the op-ed by Mr. Gulen originally published in Le Monde on August 10, 2016.

*Fethullah Gülen is an intellectual, preacher and a social advocate.

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Senate Discusses Malnutrition In N/East …Challenges International Partners To Intervene

The Senate today weighed in on the malnutrition crisis that is plaguing the North East,  following the Boko Haram insurgency that ravaged the zone.

At its plenary on today (Wednesday), Senate debated a point of order raised by Sen. Baba Kaka Garbai (APC – Borno Central), which was aimed at addressing the acute malnutrition in the country and resolved that the Ministry of Finance should release necessary funds to the North East while the Federal Government should  coordinate donations from the private sector to the region.

Writing on his social media pages, Saraki noted that it was unacceptable for an average of 134 children to die everyday from starvation-related causes. He called on private sector and international partners to support the federal and state governments in the rehabilitation, resettlement and rebuilding efforts in the area in order to curb the humanitarian crisis brought about by malnutrition.

“We do not need to lose more lives to malnourishment. Hence, Nigeria must adopt a public-private-partnership driven approach to combat the issue of malnutrition”, he said.

The Senate President commended the military for the successes recorded thus far, and also praised the Borno State government for the work that it has done to alleviate the malnutrition crisis in the State.

Senate Majority Leader, Ali Ndume, while contributing to the debate, harped on the fact that the Federal Government needed to do something immediately as the situation was becoming serious.

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Meet 13 Nigerians Who Got International Recognition

Since inception of Nigeria as an independent geopolitical entity we have had Nigerians who have distinguished themselves in various areas of human endeavour through their outstanding commitment to what they were or are still into, and have either affected lives or attracted attention beyond the shores of this country, winning international accolades. LEADERSHIP Friday deems it fit to use ‘the pen’ to celebrate ‘our own’, especially those that have excelled and won famous awards at the international level. Abah Adah writes:

Ahmadu Bello (Knight of the British Empire)

Sir Ahmadu Bello KBE (June 12, 1910 – January 15, 1966) was a Nigerian politician who was the first and only premier of the Northern Nigeria region. He also held the title of Sardauna of Sokoto. Bello and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa were major figures in Northern Nigeria pre-independence politics and both men played major roles in negotiations about the region’s place in an independent Nigeria. As leader of the Northern People’s Congress, he was a dominant personality in Nigerian politics throughout the early Nigerian Federation and the First Nigerian Republic.

Bello was made a Knight of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II of England in 1959.

Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire)

Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, KBE (December 1912 – January 15, 1966) was a Nigerian politician from Bauchi, and the only prime minister of an independent Nigeria. Originally a trained teacher, he became a vocal leader for Northern interest as one of the few educated Nigerians of his time. He was also an international statesman, widely respected across the African continent as one of the leaders who encouraged the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Nicknamed the Golden Voice of Africa because of his oratory, he stands one of the only three National Heroes of the Nigerian Nation.

In January 1960, Balewa was knighted by Elizabeth II as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE). He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Sheffield in May, 1960.

In 1957, Balewa was appointed Chief Minister, forming a coalition government between the NPC and the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), led by Nnamdi Azikiwe. He retained the post as Prime Minister when Nigeria gained independence in 1960, and was re-elected in 1964.

He was overthrown and murdered in a military coup on January 15, 1966, as were many other leaders, including his old companion, Ahmadu Bello. Today, his portrait adorns the five Naira Note. The Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in Bauchi is named in his honour.

Abubakar Gumi (King Faisal International Prize)

Abubakar Gumi (COFR) (1922–1992) was an outspoken radical Islamic scholar and Grand Khadi of the Northern Region of Nigeria (1962–1967), a position which made him a central authority in the interpretation of the Sharia legal system in the region. He was a close associate of Ahmadu Bello, the premier of the region in the 1950s and 1960s and became the Grand Khadi partly as a result of his friendship with the premier. In 1967, the position was abolished.

Apart from his national award, he received the King Faisal International Prize from Saudi Arabia for his translation of the Quran into Hausa language.

At a time in his political career, after his closest political ally, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Sadauna of Sokoto had exited finally by the January, 1966 coup that brought the First Republic to an abrupt end, he became a supporter of women’s rights to vote.

Wole Soyinka (Nobel Prize for Literature)

Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka (born 13 July, 1934), popularly called Wole Soyinka is a Nigerian playwright and poet. He was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature, the first African to be honoured in that category.

After study in Nigeria and the UK where he bagged his BA in Literature at the University of Leeds, he worked with the Royal Court Theatre in London. He went on to write plays that were produced in both countries, in theatres and on radio. He took an active role in Nigeria’s political history and its struggle for independence from Great Britain.

Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, becoming the first African laureate. He was described as one “who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence”.

Philip Emeagwali (Gordon Bell Prize winner)

Philip Emeagwali (born in 1954) is an Igbo Nigerian-born engineer and computer scientist/geologist who was one of two winners of the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize, a prize from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), for his use of a Connection Machine supercomputer to help analyse petroleum fields. He performed the world’s fastest calculation at 3.1 billion calculations per second.

This calculation was remarkable not only because it was twice as fast as the previous world record, but also because of the method used to achieve this phenomenal task. Rather than use a multimillion dollar supercomputer, Emeagwali used the Internet to access 65,536 small computers simultaneously (called massively parallel computers).

This technology is revolutionising the oil industry as it is used to help simulate how to recover oil from oilfields, thus helping oil producing nations to efficiently extract more oil and increase their oil revenues. It is also applicable to the field of meteorology as it can be used to help predict weather patterns for the next 100 years forecast.

Nwankwo Kanu (Olympic Football Gold Medalist)

Nwankwo Kanu (born 1 August, 1976), popularly called Papilo, perhaps owing to his willowy physique, is a retired Nigerian footballer of Igbo extraction who played as a forward. Kanu’s magnum opus was his leading Nigeria’s U-23 football team (otherwise referred to Dream Team I) to victory at the 1996 summer Olympics thereby becoming the winner of the Olympic soccer gold medal of that year. He was a member of, and later captained, the Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles, for 16 years from 1994.

Kanu’s international success includes a FIFA under-17 World Cup title in 1993 and the 1996 Olympic football gold medal, UEFA Champions League medal among several others. He is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

He announced his retirement from international football at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The 1996 Summer Olympics were a summer multi-sport event held in Atlanta, Georgia, United States from 19 July to 4 August 1996. A total of 10,318 athletes from 197 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) competed in 271 events in 26 sports.

Chioma Ajunwa (Olympic Gold Medalist)

Chioma Ajunwa-Opara, popularly known as Chioma Ajunwa, is a Nigerian former athlete who specialised in the long jump. Ajunwa hails from Ahiazu Mbaise in Imo State.   After various setbacks in her career, she achieved fame when she became the first athlete in her country to win an Olympic gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and to date remains Nigeria’s only individual Olympic gold medalist. Ajunwa is also an officer with the Nigerian Police Force.

As a professional sportswoman, Ajunwa originally played football for the Nigerian women’s team and was a member of The Falcons during the Women’s World Cup in 1991.

Ajunwa performed as a track and field athlete and specialised in 100m, 200m and long jump, eventually competing at the African Championships in 1989 and the All Africa Games in 1991 where she won the gold medals in the long jump.

Agbani Darego (Miss World)

Ibiagbanidokibubo ‘Agbani’ Asenite Darego,  popularly called Agbani Darego, (born December 22, 1982) is a model, best known as the first black African to be crowned Miss World in 2001. Darego hails from Abonnema, Rivers, and was born into a family of eight children.

Darego managed to divide her time between her official duties with her education at the University of Port Harcourt where she was studying Computer Science, and she represented Nigeria in the 2001 Miss Universe competition, held in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. She placed among the top 10 semi-finalists, finishing seventh. She was the only black semi-finalist that year – and the only finalist to wear a maillot swimsuit. In November 2001, Darego was crowned Miss World, beating Miss Scotland and Miss Aruba in the final round.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Commomwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book/ Orange Prize for Fiction)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (born September 15, 1977) is a writer whose first two novels won literary awards. She is a native of Abba, in Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State. At the age of 19, Adichie left Nigeria and moved to the United States for college and studied at Drexel University in Philadelphia. In 2003, she completed a master’s degree in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. In 2008, she received a Master of Arts in African studies at Yale University. Chimamanda is a 2008 MacArthur Fellow. Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, was published in 2003 and won the 2005 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, named after the flag of the short-lived Biafran nation, is set before and during the Biafran War. It was published by Fourth Estate in the UK and by Knopf/Anchor in 2006 and was awarded the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction.

Mike Adenuga (African Entrepreneur of the Year)

Michael Adeniyi Agbolade Ishola Adenuga Jr (born 29 April 1953), popularly called Mike Adenuga, is a Nigerian business tycoon, and the second richest person in Nigeria. His company, Globacom is Nigeria’s second-largest telecom operator, and also has a presence in Ghana and Benin. He also owns stakes in the Equitorial Trust Bank and the oil exploration firm, Conoil (formerly Consolidated Oil Company). Forbes has estimated his net worth at $3.2 billion as of September 2015 which makes him the second wealthiest Nigerian behind Aliko Dangote, and the sixth richest person in Africa

In August of 2007, Adenuga was named the African Telecoms Entrepreneur of the Year for his courageous and rapid investment in the telecom sector. The recognition was given at the 2007 maiden Africa Telecoms Award event held in Lagos and witnessed by prominent Africans.

Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye (Knight International Journalism Award)

Who says there are no competent journalists of international standard in Nigeria?

Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye, a Mandela Washington Fellow from Nigeria, recently received the 2014 Knight International Journalism Award by the United States-based International Centre for Journalism (ICFJ). This prestigious award recognises outstanding investigative journalistic ability that makes a difference in the lives of people around the world.

Her stories are not just award-winning — they have catalysed positive change. In one of such, she published a piece on infant mortality rates at a top hospital in Lagos that pressured the hospital to purchase more incubators for high-risk new-borns.

Recently, March 9, 2016 to be precise, she received the Presidential Precinct’s inaugural Young Leader Award.

The Presidential Precinct, which announced the creation of the Young leader Award in January 2016 presented her with it in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Ogunseye is a two-time winner of the CNN/Multichoice African Journalists Award and several other national and international awards.

Aliko Dangote (African Person of the Year)

Aliko Dangote GCON (born 10 April 1957) is a Nigerian billionaire, who owns the Dangote Group. The company operates in Nigeria and other African countries, including Benin, Ethiopia, Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, Togo, Tanzania, and Zambia. As of January 2015, he had an estimated net worth of US$18.6 billion.

Dangote was named as the Forbes Africa Person of the Year 2014. In 2013, Alhaji Dangote and six other prominent Nigerians were conferred Honorary Citizenship of Arkansas State by Governor Mike Beebe who also proclaimed May 30 of every year as Nigeria Day in the US.

Oba Otudeko (Africa CEO of the Year)

Ayoola Oba Otudeko, CFR (born, August 18, 1943) is a Nigerian investor and entrepreneur whose domestic and foreign interests cut across diverse sectors of the economy. The Nigerian business mogul, who is the chairman of Honeywell Group beat seven other finalists, including Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, to clinch the coveted prize of Africa Chief Executive (CEO) of the Year (2016) at a meeting of more than 800 chief executives across the continent held in Abidjan, the capital of Cote d’Ivoire.

Set up in partnership with the AfDB, the Africa CEO Forum is an event organised jointly by Groupe Jeune Afrique, publisher of Jeune Afrique and The Africa Report, and Rainbow Unlimited, a Swiss company specialising in organising economic promotion events.

Credit: Leadership

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Mr. Nigeria International Drums Up Support For Governor Yahaya Bello

The Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, has been asked to use the divine mandate given to him by God and the people of Kogi for the benefit of all his constituents. The current Mr. Nigeria International, Matthew Monday, said this in a congratulatory message he sent to the Governor on the occasion of his victory at the just concluded elections tribunals.

The Nigerian ambassador, who is an indigene of Kogi State, said he was proud of his governor and takes great pride in spreading the ‘New Direction’ mantra of His Excellency.

“I humbly wish to congratulate you on the recent victory, and I am so happy to have a man, who believes in restoration and transformation, a young enterprising gallant governor, who is the youngest governor in the Nigeria, as a Father,” he said.

“Because I believe in him, everywhere I go, I speak about the ‘New Direction’ government in my dear state of Kogi. My people have finally chosen a man of great intellect, with a panache for fairness, equity and justice; someone with a golden heart and incorruptible mind. I’m so glad this court case is over and he can now settle down to deliver on his promises and I’m sure he will do just that.”

Matthew further described Gov. Bello as a source of inspiration, a symbol of honour and dedication, and thanked God for blessing his generation with such a man.

Amongst 40 contestants across the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Matthew Monday represented Kogi State as The Mr. Nigeria International Kogi and went on to win the first position in the last edition of the Mr and Miss Nigeria International Pageantheld on the 4th October, 2015. He is therefore, the current MR. NIGERIA INTERNATIONAL and he holds that title with high esteem as a true son of Kogi State. He is from Dekina Local Government Area

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Six International Beauty Queens Storm Kwara For Kids

International beauty queens from six different countries are set to storm Kwara state, the state of Harmony in support of the Kits for Kids Africa education intervention targeted at helping over 5,000 kids in public schools. The event will hold from May 23-26, 2016.

Beauty queens from the USA, Canada, South Africa, India, Botswana and Puerto Rico, will be in the state to offer special support appearances at the event.

According to Miss Tomi Salami, the CEO of Aurora Charity Foundation, organisers of the Kits for Kids Africa initiative, the education intervention is targeted at helping over 5,000 needy children in public schools across Kwara state.

Miss Salami stated that items to be provided will include, brand new school bags, sandals, stockings, exercise books and stationery. Other items such as, lunch bowls, tooth brushes, water bottles and lots more will also be provided to the children.

Miss Salami said, “We have celebrities joining us as Goodwill and Tourism Ambassadors so it’s going to be absolutely amazing… the experience of a lifetime for the children.”

The 4-day event will include courtesy visits to the Governor of Kwara State, traditional rulers and indigenous dignitaries, strategic Kwara State Government development and infrastructure projects and a Media tour.

It will also feature a 2-day Kits for Kids educational intervention in partnership with Microsoft Corporation and will conclude with an official photo shoot at West Africa’s Highest Waterfall, the Owu Falls, located in Kwara state.

Since 2013, Kits for Kids Africa has been impacting thousands of lives positively and it’s set to do it again by enhancing the face of education in Africa, as well as inspiring and supporting the Leaders of Tomorrow.

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Ovation International: 20 Years Of Making A Super Brand By @DeleMomodu

Great things often start like a joke. There is no better way to depict the birth of Ovation International in London. As illustrated last week in the first part of these anniversary notes, I was on the run from the dreaded military regime headed by maximum ruler, General Sani Abacha. My involvement in the struggle for the revalidation of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election mandate which the people of Nigeria freely gave to Chief Moshood Abiola, landed me in big trouble. Unlike former President Ibrahim Babangida, it was impossible for anyone to express his innocence to Abacha. There was no negotiation. I just developed wings and took off pronto.

Specifically, I was accused of being one of the brains behind Radio Freedom (which later metamorphosed into Radio Kudirat) after the cold-blooded murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola. But truth is I was not a member of the Radio Freedom crew considered a huge menace to the dictatorial government. At least not at the stage I was initially accused.  The story of how I later joined the gang of highly dedicated and committed operatives of that ubiquitous pirate radio would be told subsequently.

Thus, having fled to England without any plans other than for immediate personal safety, I was in grave peril of expiring from human scourge, hunger, as I was jobless.  It was this fear of joblessness and its consequences on my family that drove me and my team to take the leap of faith that manifested in the production of what would become one of Africa’s most ambitious media projects. We were under no illusion that the journey would be easy. We knew the road would be rough. We expected funding to be the biggest threat to our existence for a long time to come. We needed £150,000 to start small scale but could barely raise about £20,000. With a shortfall of around £130,000, we would have to crawl slowly but steadily. A man who’s down should fear no fall was our attitude. Our options were few and limited. But we were determined to make the impossible possible. Thanks to my co-travellers Adedamola Aderemi, Olusegun Fatoye, Adeyemi Aderemi, Damilola Abiodun and Bayo Williams (of blessed memories) we were set for an epic journey.

The first and very crucial task was how to assemble a crack Editorial team. We decided to scout for and assemble a star-studded assemblage of writers. We succeeded in attracting the legendary writers and polemicists, Sonala Olumhense and Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo, who were both working for the United Nations. We got the highly cerebral Ike Okonta. We found the flowery Alaba Yusuf. A Nigerian lady, Uzoma Umesi, wrote some great pieces. We got the experienced media gurus Richie Dayo Johnson and George Noah, our neighbours in highbrow Docklands where we domiciled our effervescent office. We secured the gist merchant Kunle Bakare to control Nigerian operations. We got my former boss and the Queen of celebrity reporting May Ellen Ezekiel Mofe-Damijo and the king of African movies Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD).

Everything appeared to be going well until suddenly, my former boss May Ellen had a fatal surgery and died in Lagos. I had spoken to her in the US and tried to straighten our ruptured relationship activated by my controversial removal as Editor of Classique magazine. I was happy we made up. She wasted no time in agreeing to be our Contributing Editor which I considered a great honour. Same with RMD who instantly agreed to support our dream. Little did I know it was going to be my last conversation with May Ellen.

We decided our magazine was going to be a masterpiece crafted like a work of art, and sold as a timeless and ageless piece. Every issue was going to be a collector’s item. We were going to locate the best printers in England and cover as many African stories as possible. The production of the maiden issue was meticulously executed. We wanted to report the lives and lifestyles of rich and famous Africans. We decided that we would expose and promote authentic African stars who would not be given prominence on the covers of Hello, Ok, GQ, Esquire, etc. We chose a plush cover story and placed Mohammed Al-Fayed, the Egyptian luxury store king at Harrods, graciously on the front. We got Ike Okonta, a brilliant poet, to get lost inside Harrods, one of the most expensive departmental stores in the world and pen his dreamlike experience for our readers. His piece was titled JUST DREAM. The man could not buy a pin in Harrods.

The beautiful magazine started with GOOD DAY AFRICA by Sonala Olumhense. Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo sent a comprehensive report from war-torn Somalia and highlighted efforts of the United Nations at bringing peace to the nation. We had a panel of the best gossip poachers including Deun Solarin and Funmi Ayandokun. They compiled our juiciest snippets on the 100 Stormy Women in Nigeria. It was a compendium of who’s who. It was meant to cover a broad spectrum of society ladies and ignite an instant debate in high society. We succeeded.

The magazine was an instant hit. Our friends, Gbenga Olunloyo , Kayode Akinyele, Dayo Olomu and others, were marvellous in spreading the magazine to different parts of London. We lived like communists and worked and ate together. Funmi Akinyele cooked lunch for us regularly. My energetic wife was heavily pregnant and still had to keep company of our fist son. Exile was hellish but we were undaunted. Holding the first copy of Ovation was worth all the diamonds in the world. We were in Cloud 10.

We sent copies to the of Chairman of Harrods and we were surprised to receive a very powerful response from Mr Al-Fayed, titled AN OVATION FOR OVATION, and a basket of goodies including vintage wines and chocolates. The historic letter praised Ovation as a welcome positive development as opposed to the purveyors of negativity. The second issue of the magazine was even more dramatic. We got an exclusive access to the family of famous singer SEAL in Lagos. The foreign media had always seen him as a Brazilian. We got phone calls from the world media as soon as our special report put together by super reporter, Azu Arinze, who was then at Encomium magazine, hit the streets.

It was incredible receiving calls from the National Enquirer, the largest circulating tabloid in America (4 million copies weekly). The publication requested our permission to cull our SEAL story and even offered to pay us. We approved but rejected the offer of payment and settled for the bold acknowledgement of Ovation in their widely circulated paper. We secured the same deal with The Mirror in London and it gave us massive exposure. For a new magazine named Ovation, it was a loud ovation for us from the beginning.

We experienced the miracle of God everywhere we turned because we were able to capture stories that money cannot easily buy. For example, I was having a drink in 1996 with Nduka Obaigbena at The Dorchester, the posh hotel on Park Lane, when the celebrated boxer, Chris Eubank, walked in. Chris was such a flamboyant celebrity and I approached him for an interview request. He told me I needed to approach his media agents which I knew I couldn’t afford. But Nduka came to my rescue. In his usual never-say-die spirit, he lectured Chris on why he should support the laudable business of a Black brother. Chris fell for Nduka’s charms and agreed to a major photo-shoot and interview the following morning at The Dorchester. That was it. We got another scoop.

We soon shifted our focus to the extraordinary Ghanaian fashion designer on Saville Row, Ozwald Boateng, who made no fuzz in agreeing to an Ovation coverage. We moved from Ozwaild to the glamorous football star John Fashanu who was staying in St. John’s Wood and gave us exclusive access. We did so much with so little cash and we soon reached a cul de sac. We simply ran out of gas, perhaps to put it mildly. Several times we thought the end had come but God created ways where there were none. I will never forget three of such. Top on the list as always was Dr Mike Adenuga, my God sent benefactor in the days of tribulations. He never forgot to send his contribution for the three years I spent in exile and I’m eternally grateful.

There is no money-guzzler like the media. I was totally frustrated one terrible evening when Jimi Akinniyi, one of our most committed reporters, walked in and told me what could have been a powerful message from God. He said he had earlier met a friend of his, Gbenga Adesanya, who offered to help us with some money without being close to me. I was delirious. The other and major miracle came when my friend, Dele Balogun, a businessman and educationist in London, invited me to a home in Surrey to interview a prominent Nigerian politician, Dr Bode Olajumoke. I met a very simple and unassuming gentleman who picked his words slowly but assuredly. In the course of our divine interaction, he told me his wife loves Ovation to bits but they could see we were just struggling with it. I told him the whole truth and departed.

A few weeks later, I got a call from Dr Olajumoke and he said his mind has been with me since we met and he has been thinking of my challenges. He then asked what he could do to help and I responded that he should act as God directed him. He said he likes my personality and was ready to grant me an interest free loan. He asked for my account details which I faxed urgently. He redeemed his pledge and I was elated.

The loan improved our status but as usual with the media business, it was like the abiku child, it comes and goes. No matter how much you pumped in, it was bound to evaporate in little time. Not many people understood how this business works, but I like to describe it as the ultimate casino. You have to be a gambler of sorts to make appreciable impact and success in the media industry. There are just too many variables, especially if your operations are as humongous and international like ours. The loan soon evaporated and it became a ding dong affair as we barely scratched the surface. To my greatest surprise, Dr Olajumoke did not only write off the loan, he later gave me more to keep us going. He believed so much in our ability to compete with the best of the world.

Between 1996 and 1998, we worked assiduously to stay afloat. We were hit on the solar plexus several times by blows that would have felled a giant but we had become resilient to the vagaries of the industry and knew how to absorb the rude shocks. The fact that I could not visit Nigeria made matters worse. I had to depend on others for most things.  I was lucky that most of the people I turned to were willing to help but another man’s eyes can never be the same as one’s own eyes!

However, in between working on Ovation, I never slowed down on my political activities. I worked feverishly to attack the dictatorial and repressive regime of General Sani Abacha. I joined the Radio Kudirat team and ran the Yoruba segment. I went by the pseudonym Saliu Elenugboro, Eni Olorun o pa! I worked closely with the NADECO chieftains and spent any free moment I had with Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Tokunbo Afikuyomi. We were in the vanguard of the battle for the actualisation of the June 12 which was definitely won by Chief Moshood Abiola.

On June 8, 1998, General Sani Abacha was pronounced dead. It first started like a false rumour, the kind of which social media is now replete with, and I instantly dismissed the story.  However, I got a call from Chief Segun Osoba who confirmed the shocking news. I was soon invited over to the CNN studio around Tottenham Court Road for my comments on the late military ruler. I felt a tinge of somnambulism and was in an emotional state, totally confounded by the development. There were rumours that Chief Moshood Abiola would soon be released. And we were naturally expectant.

Then the big bang came on July 7, 1998 and I crashed to earth with a thud, filled with indescribable sadness, nay devastation, as reports that Chief Abiola had died suddenly and mysteriously ruled the airwaves. Ovation had to do a special cover as the authority on Abiola. It was titled GOOD BYE TO A GOOD MAN. The Magazine disappeared from the streets as it sold out as soon as it went out.

I knew it was time to end my life in exile…

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Ovation International: 20 Years of Celebrating Africa By @DeleMomodu

Fellow Africans, please, join me in thanking God for this baby of circumstance that was born through some excruciating pain 20 years ago in the city of London. The genesis of Ovation International could only have been by divine conception. I won’t know any other way to describe it. The original idea was first ignited after my controversial exit from my high flying job as the Editor of Nigeria’s foremost celebrity journal, Classique magazine, owned by May Ellen Ezekiel Mofe-Damijo, now of blessed memory. That is a story for another day.

My first impulse was to birth my own magazine, like most journalists would. There is nothing more addictive than journalism, the reason most journalists find it inconceivable to try other trades. So, I decided it was time to challenge fate and come up with a journal that would mirror the lifestyle of the rich and famous. There were already several such publications in circulation, including Prime People, Vintage People, Fame, Today’s Choice, Climax, Quality, Classique, Poise, and so on. There was also a very popular romance magazine called Hints which was owned by Dr Ibe Kachikwu and Edited by Mr Kayode Ajala. But I felt, there was enough space for an authoritative magazine for newsmakers.

Fame had started from my apartment in Ikeja, Lagos, as the brainchild of Mayor Akinpelu, Femi Akintunde-Johnson and Kunle Bakare. Kunle Bakare was the Society Editor of Classique when I was Editor and he had moved in to stay with me. We were inseparable and it was only natural that I would be concerned about a business he and others were starting. I eventually became a Contributing Editor in Fame after I left Classique while working quietly on my own project.

Kunle Bakare had played a pivotal role in finding a title for my magazine by bringing out a Thesaurus and we searched at random for any catchy word depicting celebrity status. We came across so many but we stumbled on ovation and my reaction was spontaneous; I screamed “Ovation… loud… for a purpose…” I was excited if not delirious. That was it…

The next action was how to get the much needed funding… That is another story for a different day. I remembered my unlettered mum teaching me early in life that “money says we should never make plans in its absence”. It is the first lesson to learn in business. You can write the most brilliant plans and proposals but it would all evaporate without cash. The second lesson I learnt was the importance of pragmatism in business. You can hardly argue with a benefactor who’s willing to invest in your dream. I was too idealistic and rigid and lost out on what would have been a good and comfortable deal. My core investor had wanted me to alter a few things but I was stubborn and we could not conclude the deal. Ironically, years later, the same benefactor would become the biggest supporter of all times, and he is no other than Dr Mike Adenuga Jnr.

That was in 1992 and I had been out of job since September 1991. Mercifully, I was able to start a Public Relations outfit through the help of my friend, Mr Abdul-Lateef Kolawole Abiola, who signed me to handle the media launch of Summit Oil International. I got my next assignment from the Spirit of Africa, Dr Michael Adeniyi Agbolade Isola Adenuga, who was already controlling two banks, ETB and DEVCOM, and the first indigenous company, Consolidated Oil, to discover oil in commercial quantity. My next job was the invitation from Prince Nduka Obaigbena, the prodigiously gifted and extremely brave Publisher of the defunct Thisweek magazine, who invited me to be the pioneer Editor of Leaders & Company which metamorphosed into Thisday newspapers. I was saddled with the responsibilty of recruiting many of the core staff that started Thisday from scratch. This was in December 1992.

Everything was going smoothly until early 1993. I was in Nduka’s house one evening when word reached us that Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola had dived into the Presidential race and he was ready to run on the platform of the Social Democratic Party. As my mentor and adopted father, I plunged myself into his campaign. Nduka was tolerant of my decision despite being a member of the opposing political party, National Republican Congress Party. Chief Abiola went on a blistering campaign and eventually emerged the candidate for his party while Alhaji Bashir Othman Tofa became the candidate of NRC. It was funny as Nduka and I working from the same office on Norman Williams Road in Ikoyi campaigned for different candidates.

The June 12 Presidential election was the turning point in our lives. I thought I was only on sabbatical and hoped to return to my desk after the elections but it was not meant to be. I was so involved in the Abiola saga that I soon became one of the earliest victims of the ensuing military repression and I was thrown into the gulag called Alagbon Detention centre between July and August 1993. That is a special story on its own. I was soon released after being charged before a Magistrate court in Igbosere and discharged to sin no more. But nothing could stop me from joining so many well-meaning Nigerians seeking the revalidation of the watershed election won by Abiola.

In 1994, Chief Abiola himself was arrested and kept in solitary confinement. By this time I had totally lost interest in my work at Leaders & Company and Nduka understood and appreciated my unflinching loyalty to Abiola. I was ready to throw everything into the ring. Life was hard and tough but God would always look after his own. In the midst of these conundrums, I was still able to find some odd jobs here and there.

I was fortunate to also meet the whiz kid, Mr Hakeem Belo-Osagie, through his affable cousin, Mr Ademola Adekogbe (may his soul continue to rest in peace) and Keem gave me the complicated task of sorting out the spate of media attacks against him after acquiring majority shares in Africa’s global bank, UBA. I gladly undertook this great challenge and God helped me to accomplish what was thought to be an impossible mission. Unknown to me, I was being prepared on an epic journey. I had totally perished the idea of ever publishing my own magazine. But man proposes and God disposes.

Little did I envisage a development that would change my life, and that of my family, forever. I had travelled to Abeokuta to visit former Governor Olusegun Osoba, my professional godfather. I had always prayed to be as successful as Osoba in journalism. And we shared a similar passion in politics. I was in Abeokuta overnight as we discussed late into the night. I left Abeokuta in the early hours of July 22, 1995 and headed back to Lagos. On getting to Lagos I ran into my wife on the way home and she gave me the most shocking news that some good Samaritans had come to alert and tip her off about my impending arrest by the Abacha junta. She was sternly advised to tell me to vanish into thin air immediately. The obvious look of panic and agitation on her face said it all. I turned back from that point and never entered that house again.

It was a strange journey. I never planned to live outside my beloved country. I had to go quickly into a bunker. My wonderful friends, the Orolugbagbes, took me in and kept me away from trouble. I had to plot my exit. I contacted my comrade in the struggle, Mr Tokunbo Afikuyomi, one of the smartest human beings I would ever meet. He had earlier escaped the wrath of the military by running off to London. He gave me a list of all that would be needed to make the Odysseus journey. Again, money was needed. I was fortunate to have my God-sent Spirit who took the risk of sending some money to get me out of Siberia to freedom. My friends in London, led by Prince Adedamola Aderemi and Mr Gbenga Olunloyo were also busy raising funds in readiness for my kamikaze trip. On July 25, 1995, I took the leap of faith.
My first son, Oluwapekansayemi, was barely ten months old. As I bade my wife and this innocent kid goodbye, I had to keep that straight poker face of a supposedly strong man but within me I was totally squeamish. I didn’t know if I would be caught on the way by the goons that littered everywhere at the time. I was accompanied by three extremely kind-hearted people; Captain Rotimi Seriki (God bless his departed soul), Mr Bola Orolugbagbe and Mr Kunle Bakare. I camouflaged like a farmer while they provided not only the cover for me but also sufficient distraction from me to the security guys. We managed to meander through a smugglers’ route at Seme border and crossed into Benin Republic. And then, I wept bitterly. My mind was doing some acrobatics. I didn’t know what could suddenly happen to me and spin my life around again, like a rollercoaster.

We made our way to Cotonou but I was just too scared to stay long in the very next country to Nigeria and a stone throw from Lagos. My friends left me in Cotonou and went back to Lagos while I carried on to Lome in Togo. I never felt that lonely in my life. From Lome, I found my way to Accra, Ghana and checked in at the Noga Hill hotel in Dzorwulu. It was my first contact ever with Ghana and I was very impressed with the orderliness and sanity. I will return to that some other time.

I spent three nights in Ghana planning my major move to London. I was able to purchase my flight ticket. I had traced an old Ghanaian friend, Mr Fritz Baffour who had spent time in Nigeria and was very famous. A taxi driver had led me to a joint where he said I would definitely find him and it was a happy-bitter reunion for both of us because of my predicament. Fritz accompanied me to the airport on July 28, 1995, and it was very kind of him to bid me farewell. I landed at Gatwick Airport in the early hours of July 29, 1995. Unknown to me at that moment, I would be constrained to live in London for the next three years. My wife and baby subsequently managed to escape from Nigeria through the skin of their teeth. The next challenge would be how to survive in the unpredictability of England.

The early months were good as friends and family rallied round us. We were lucky to have senior refugees ahead of us. Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Lt. General Alani Ipoola Akinrinade and Hon. Tokunbo Afikuyomi were very helpful. We enjoyed the cordiality of Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, Chief John Oyegun, Commodore Dan Suleiman, Chief John Oyegun, Hon. Wale Oshun, Rev. Peter Obadan, and many others. But soon it was time to face the harsh reality of living in London. We needed to find something more permanent to do.

The divine intervention would come from my much younger cousin, Mr Segun Fatoye. We had gone to his house one Sunday afternoon and spent quality time with his family. I would never know what got into him but Segun called me to a corner and asked me a question I had not been able to confront candidly: “Sir, have you decided on what you would do for a living in London…? I answered “no” and he fired another salvo. “Bros, you have to do something urgently or end up washing plates and such menial jobs.” He was that brutal. Then, he provided the solution himself: “But you were such a great journalist back home, why don’t you start something here…”

That was it but where is the money to start anything? I was practically penniless. I approached a friend, Mr Doyin Iyiola, who was a senior staff at the London office of African Concord and the African Economic Digest, owned by Chief Moshood Abiola. He agreed to work on the business plan. He also told me he had registered a company called Stallion Communications and he was ready to bring me on board. My cousin called his dad, my uncle Chief Ezekiel Olasunmoye Fatoye, and surprisingly, he blessed us with the first £10,000. Our business plan showed we needed about £150,000 to start small but that was way beyond our reach. We had a few friends chip in their bits and pieces but we ran into our first major turbulence when Mr Doyin Iyiola decided to pull out on the eve of our take off. We were badly shaken by the experience. I couldn’t blame him; he was not a risk-taker like me. He found my ideas too fanciful and flamboyant. The only option left to us was to start our own company from scratch.
Between Prince Adedamola Aderemi, Segun Fatoye and I, we regrouped and went ahead with the plans to set up Ovation International. 20 years after, there is plenty to tell about the daredevil adventures that gave rise to what is unarguably one of Africa’s biggest brands…

(To be continued)

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Amnesty International Accuses FG Of Obstructing Justice For 640 Boko Haram Detainees Murdered By Soldiers

Global rights group, Amnesty International (AI) has accused the Federal Government of withholding justice for the 640 detainees slaughtered by soldiers in Maiduguri barracks two years ago.

AI stated that Nigerian authorities have failed to conduct an effective, impartial and independent investigation into the killings after they were slaughtered by Nigerian soldiers.

Amnesty International in a statement stated that it has repeatedly called on the government to initiate an independent and effective investigation into the crimes under international law but despite repeated promises by the government that AI’s report will be looked into, no concrete step have been taken to begin an independent investigation.

It stated, “?Two years after at least 640 recaptured detainees were slaughtered by soldiers of the Nigerian Army, the authorities have failed to conduct an effective, impartial and independent investigation into the killings, said Amnesty International.

“The detainees – men and boys, many arbitrarily arrested in mass screening operations – were killed after they fled the barracks in Maiduguri, Borno state on 14 March 2014 following a Boko Haram attack. The majority were shot. The others had their throats cut. To mark the anniversary of this massacre, Amnesty International campaigners will be gathering outside Nigerian embassies around the world to call for independent investigations and prosecutions.

“It is shocking that two years after these horrific killings there has been no justice for the victims and their relatives,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for Africa.

“The lack of an independent investigation has meant that no one has been held to account for the killings, strengthening an already pervasive culture of impunity within the military.”

“Amnesty International has extensively documented the events of 14 March 2014, interviewing dozens of witnesses, verifying video evidence of the killings and their aftermath and confirming the locations of mass graves through satellite imagery.

“In June 2015 Amnesty International published extensive evidence of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity committed by the Nigerian military. The report found that the military extrajudicially executed at least 1,200 men and boys, and almost certainly many more, between 2012 and 2014. A further 7,000 detainees died in military detention as a result of starvation thirst, disease, torture and a lack of medical attention. Torture is routinely and systematically used by security forces in Nigeria, both during arrest and in detention. Soldiers arbitrarily arrested more than 20,000 suspects since 2011 and detained the overwhelming majority of them without access to their families or lawyers, without formal charges and without ever bringing them to court.

“Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Government of Nigeria to initiate independent and effective investigations into its evidence of crimes under international law and to implement critical safeguards against human rights violations.

“Yet, despite repeated promises by President Buhari and his government that Amnesty International’s report would be looked into, no concrete steps have been taken to begin independent investigations. Many safeguards remain absent, for example suspects continue to be held in military detention without access to their lawyers or families, without charge and without being brought before a judge.

“After more than nine months in office, President Buhari must take urgent action to provide justice for the conflict’s thousands of victims and prevent such violations occurring again.

“In the two years since the Giwa killings, the pattern of unjustified use of lethal force by the military has continued with no one held accountable,” said Netsanet Belay.

“From Giwa to Zaria, from the north east to the south east, the time has come to break the cycle of impunity that has gripped Nigeria. This should start with justice for the Giwa 640.”

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Toyin Saraki decorated By Rotary International, Tasks Rotary On Maternal And Child Health

In acknowledgment of her humanitarian efforts both in Nigeria and globally, Rotary International has decorated and welcomed into the Rotary family, the Founder/President of The Wellbeing Foundation Africa and Wife of Nigeria’s Senate President – Her Excellency, Mrs. Toyin Saraki.

Performing the decoration, President of Rotary International, Mr. Ravi Ravindran commended Mrs. Toyin Saraki whose credentials in selfless humanitarian service, he said, clearly spoke for her. He called on more Nigerians to imbibe the culture of Rotary International and commit to making lasting change in the world. 
It would be recalled that Mrs. Toyin Saraki has over the years, particularly during her time as First Lady of Kwara State, Nigeria, partnered with Rotary International to provide succour to disadvantaged children and women, in polio eradication and special needs education infrastructure; efforts which at the time earned her Honorary Membership into Rotary International. 
The decoration ceremony was part of a private Luncheon Reception for the Rotary International President and his wife, Vanathy,  hosted by Business Mogul and humanitarian, Sir Emeka Offor – Chairman of Chrome Group, with other distinguished guests and Rotarians in attendance, as part of the Rotary President’s 2-day visit to Nigeria.

Responding, Mrs. Toyin Saraki thanked Rotary International for the decoration and pledged to continue to support the philanthropic goals of the Club in Nigeria and globally. In her role as Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives, She however tasked Rotary International to support more causes relating to maternal and child health especially the welfare of Midwives whom she described as first frontline health nurturers and without which safe and successful birthing outcomes at Nigeria’s health establishments will continue to be at risk.

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International Women’s Day: @SpeakerDogara Promises Women Friendly Legislation

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon, Yakubu Dogara, has assured Nigerian women of his dedication and that of the Eighth House to ensuring that their needs are reflected in the ongoing constitution review process.

In a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Turaki Hassan, the Speaker said that the International Women’s Day is not just a day set aside globally to celebrate women, but to also reflect on the challenges they face, and implement workable solutions towards solving them.

“Women make up over half of Nigeria’s population, and their contribution to sustaining democracy has been very meaningful. According to the nation’s electoral umpire, INEC, women vote in larger numbers than their male counterparts and we therefore owe it as a duty to our women to neither trivialize nor ignore their challenges”, he said.

The Speaker further said that issues such as poverty and lack of education, which affect women more, are also of deep concern to the House, and that the Eighth Assembly would work assiduously towards enacting legislation which would aid in correcting the situation.

“The representation of women in government leaves a lot to be desired, but on our part, the women in the House hold key positions in their respective committees and this is just one step towards demonstrating that indeed, the Eighth House does not subscribe to gender bias and acknowledges the strength in not just the women who are Members, but in Nigerian women as a whole.”

The Speaker then called on political parties to enact policies which would enhance the participation of women in politics, so that equitable representation may be achieved in the next election cycle.

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Amnesty International And The Nigerian Army: Separating Facts From Fiction By Philip Agbese

Last week there was a reported meeting between the Nigerian Army and the international non-governmental organization (NGO), Amnesty International (AI) in Abuja, Nigeria. From what we gathered was at the instance of the Nigerian Army.

Although it was a closed door meeting, feelers from the meeting pointed to the fact that the Nigerian Army briefed the organization and also answered all the questions it raised in its numerous reports and documentaries.

The meeting was indeed a welcome development as both sides acknowledged that it was first of its kind; it was the first time that any armed service of any country accorded the NGO such respect.

Similarly, for the Nigerian Army, noted for its tendency to insulate itself from exposure to such organizations in the past, the interaction was the first time.

Therefore, there were high hopes and expectations especially from the military and the citizenry as it provided an opportunity to explain or answer the allegations levelled against it over time by the AI.

For whoever has doubt about the genuine intentions of the Nigerian Army under the leadership of its Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, needs to have a rethink as he has always matched words with deeds. They have defeated the terror group Boko Haram making it possible for many communities to return home picking the pieces to continue with their lives. A feat that could not be achieved in six years was accomplished within six months!

The concerted efforts to improve civil-military relations brought about renewed vigour in interfacing with so many stakeholders, NGOs, Civil Society Organizations and the media. It has also been collaborating with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)  and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) amongst others. The collaboration led to training workshops and continued consultation for the benefit of the society.

It is not surprising that the Army initiated a meeting the AI. Unfortunately, the comments of the leader of the delegation to the meeting were to say least, very disappointing. After acknowledging the commendable commitment of the Army for a thorough investigation of all the allegations and explaining the line of action taken or disciplinary measures meted out to those found wanting, the NGO was not satisfied but brought new sets of unrealistic demands.

It is really curious to understand the motive and interest of AI or what they want to achieve. Whatever it is, such motives I dare say, were not in the best interest of our collective wellbeing or for the peace and security of our great nation. Apart of being rude, the posture of Amnesty really left so many questions as to its sincerity.

Moreover, there a lot of loopholes in the process of its investigations to discredit any report produced from such exercise. The Nigerian press and indeed all Nigerians should be very cautious of the AI. Their reports mainly were based on hearsay. Those that AI decided to access and interact with in arriving at its conclusions are those criminals and misguided elements that propagate anarchy and misinformation.

AI needs to review its mode of investigations. It must recognise sovereign states and the legally constituted organs of the government like the Nigerian Army. It must recognise the layers of administration and authority within such government institutions.

The Nigerian Army has its established legal system. Therefore, infringements, if any, on the rights of individuals by personnel of Nigerian Army are independently and impartially investigated by the higher administrative command of those involved. The AI must accept this and respect every institution of a sovereign state. In similar vein, our local human rights organisations are advised not to blindly echo antagonistic positions of the so-called human rights watchdogs at the detriment of national security and our sovereignty.

I think it is about time that AI should critically examine all those allegations and know that they were nothing but cheap blackmail and should therefore consigned to the dustbin of history. AI officials should also apologise to the Army and all the officers they falsely accused.

I shall at this point echo the wise words of General Yakubu Gowon, former Head of State that “AI should also apologize to Nigerians and the Army and all the officers they falsely accused.

“The Army should make its investigations and the punishments meted out to all those found wanting public to enable Nigerians and indeed the whole world appreciate its efforts.”

*Agbese is an international public affairs commentator and contributed this piece from Cebu City, PHILLIPPINES.

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Domesticating International Treaties in Nigeria by Olawale Rotimi

International treaties will continue to be mere documents in countries who are signatories to them if their significance is not felt by the people in those countries. It is not enough for a sovereign state to ratify a treaty in the international community framework, it is more important for such state to adopt the international treaty into her domestic legal system, integrate the treaty into her national standard and make it domestic law. Over the decades, Nigeria has ratified several international treaties on environment, violence, child right, trade e.t.c but many of these treaties are not operational in the country because they have not been domesticated, thus remain ordinary document in the nation’s legal framework. Since they are not domesticated, these treaties are not national law and therefore cannot be employed in defence of cases involving their violations before courts of law in the country neither can they be used for advocacy of rights within the country. Further to this, violators, maybe state institutions or individuals cannot be held accountable for any international treaty that has not been domesticated in the country.

From a broad perspective, international treaties are prepared with varieties of specific and conventional issues taken into consideration. For example, some are drawn from the experience and practices of values of countries. This explains why it is always put to many experts and worked on for many years. As these international instruments are agreed upon it promises to provide for world peace as it is respected in various countries, it will foster mutual understanding in the community of nations. Thus, a move by a nation to domesticate an international treaty is an apparent commitment that a nation is committed to keeping the world peace starting with persons within her defined borders. No doubt, domestication of international treaty strengthens, protects, promotes, and brings to high focus the nation’s agenda of that international law.

Nigeria has given herself actively to participating and signing of international treaties as it applies to the nation, but lesser attention is given to domestication of such treaties signed by the country, even after many years of such international agreements. For example, the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa is a treaty of the African Union that addresses internal displacement caused by armed conflictnatural disasters and large-scale development projects in Africa. The Convention was adopted in October 2009. As of 2015 it has been signed by 40 and ratified by 24 of the 54 member states of the African Union. Article 5(4) specifically establishes state responsibilities for the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons, whose displacement is the result of “natural or human made disasters, including climate change. However, Nigeria among other African nations signed and approved the ratification of the African Union’s Kampala Convention for the Protection and Assistance of IDPs in Africa on 17th of April 2012, yet this convention has not been domesticated despite the vulnerability of IDPs.

This is a critical issue, internal displacement is at high level in Nigeria, in the last few years, millions have been displaced in Nigeria due to violence and climate change, between July and October 2012 alone, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in a published report, 7.7 million were affected by flood across Nigeria out of which 2.1 million were internally displaced. Despite the large number of displacement in Nigeria and the challenges confronting them, the country is yet to domesticate the Kampala treaty on IDPs which will give a clear sense of legality to the recovery and rehabilitation of displaced persons. This among other salient issues have been signed at international level for many years but not domesticated in the country.

Section 12 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 about implementation of treaties states that “No treaty between the Federation and other country shall have the force of law except to the extent to which any such treaty has been enacted into law by the National Assembly”, this further strengthens the fact that a treaty, no matter how salient the issue it addresses is, is not applicable in the nation’s domestic legal system until it is domesticated by the National Assembly. Therefore, if bogus national funds are committed to salient issues at international level, and treaties are signed and ratified by Nigeria, such treaty should be subjected to domestication through the National Assembly in order to allow Nigerians at all levels benefit from international activities of the government. International treaty needs corresponding national laws, systems that comply with international law, and domestic enforcement to have real impact on the lives of the masses. The previous governments in Nigeria have signed several treaties yet to be domesticated, it’s important that such treaties are domesticated. In recognition of the effort of the Law Review Committee by the current (8th Assembly) House of Representative Committee on Justice, saddled with the responsibility of identifying international treaties for domestication, such move as set by the committee Chairman, Rt. Hon. Razak Atunwa after so many years is laudable and should be sustained by future chairmen of the Justice Committee.

Conclusively, it is not enough to domesticate international treaties ordinarily, but there is the need to sensitize legal practitioners on the laws as well as to provide the people with informed knowledge of what the laws constitute. Every level of government – from a local to state and federal government – is responsible for seeking enforcement of those obligations for the progress of the nation. Civil society should also join such advocacy, in their circles of influence, to push not only for domestication of international treaties but sensitization of masses to know what is in for them.

 Olawale Rotimi can be reached through phone with 08105508224 or email: olawalerotty@gmail.com

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