Nigeria Papers Review: FG on Boko Haram, Continuing ASUU strike, Bakassi Ownership

The pledge by government to hand over Boko Haram suspects to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the lingering strike by university teachers and the formal handover of the Bakassi peninsular to Cameroon were the major stories in Nigeria this week.

‘We’ll hand over B’ Haram suspects to ICC – Presidency’ was the headline of the PUNCH on Saturday, with the story quoting the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, as saying that the Federal Government will hand over arrested members of the Boko Haram sect to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, Netherlands, for prosecution.

It said that Abati, who made the Presidency’s position known in an exclusive interview with Saturday PUNCH on Thursday, however, said the sect members would only be handed over to the ICC based on request.

He explained that the Federal Government had yet to receive such a request from the court.

The Defence Headquarters last week said it had over 1,000 Boko Haram suspects in its custody.

This revelation was made shortly after the ICC Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said there was enough reason to believe that crimes against humanity had been committed in Nigeria by the militant group.

She identified the crimes committed by the group as murder and persecution.

According to Abati, the statement by the ICC vindicated the Federal Government, adding that the statement was a further proof of international support of the government’s efforts at curbing terrorism.

A source in the Directorate of Public Prosecutions in the Federal Ministry of Justice said that the Federal Government was committed to its legal obligations to the ICC as stipulated under Article 89 of the Rome Statute of the ICC and Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Laws of Treaties.

Nigeria ratified the ICC statute on 27 September, 2001, giving the court the jurisdiction over relevant crimes committed in the country.

Being a state party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, and in line with Article 89(1) and 91 of the Rome Statute and Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Laws of Treaties, Nigeria has a legal obligation to cooperate with the ICC and the international community to enforce the warrant of arrest and surrender of persons indicted for crimes against humanity.

In its second story on Boko Haram, headlined ‘B’Haram deputy leader, father killed – Military’, the PUNCH reported that a key member of the Islamist militant group, Momogu Bama, has been killed by the Joint Task Force (JTF) in Nigeria’s north eastern Borno State.

He met his death the same day with his father, Alhaji Abatcha Flatari, described as one of the spiritual leaders of the sect in an operation between the sect members and the JTF operatives in Bama.

Momogu, the second-in-command to the sect’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, had a 25-million-naira bounty put on his head by security agencies for information that could lead to his arrest.

The Director of Defence Information, Brig.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, who confirmed his killing, described Momogu as a vicious Boko Haram leader who took delight in personally slaughtering the sect’s victims.

He added that Momogu was the expert in charge of mounting anti-aircraft weapons for the sect and coordinating members in Yobe and Adamawa states.

Olukolade said Momogu was identified by insurgents arrested during one of the recent encounters between the JTF and the insurgents in Bama.

He said, “As troops intensify pursuit of terrorists who have been unleashing mayhem in Borno and Yobe communities, the death of Momogu Bama, said to be the Second-in-Command to Shekau has been confirmed by other arrested terrorists.

Olukolade, who added that the JTF had intensified aerial patrol to secure communities in Borno and Yobe states, said that 17 insurgents were killed and 24 arrested during the Bama encounter.

The GUARDIAN ran its story on Boko Haram with the headline ‘Troops kill Boko Haram’s deputy leader, 17 others’.

On the lingering strike by university lecturers, the GUARDIAN headlined its story ‘ASUU Will Wait Until FG Gets Money, Says Ex-chairman’.

The story said the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will sustain its ongoing strike until the Federal Government gets the money to meet its demands, quoting an ex-officio member of the union, Prof. Aloysius Okolie.

Okolie, the immediate past chairman of the union at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, said Friday that the government should not allow a total collapse of tertiary education in the country even as the meeting between the Federal Government and ASUU in Abuja was postponed to Monday.

Okolie urged the government to see reason in fulfilling the promise it entered with ASUU in 2009 to enable the students and lecturers to go back to class.

He said the union was not making a fresh demand but for the government to implement the agreement it signed with the union in 2009.

The Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam, who chairs the universities needs assessment committee, told newsmen that both parties had rescheduled their negotiations for 19 August.

Suswam, who is the negotiator for the Federal Government, said that tremendous progress had been made in the negotiations.

In its second story on the strike, the GUARDIAN, with the headline ‘ASUU faults govt’s claim on N92 billion demand’, quoted ASUU as saying Wednesday that it never demanded for 92 billion naira as earned allowances in the 2009 agreement it reached with the Federal government (US$ 1 = 155 naira).

ASUU explained that the earned allowances jointly calculated with the Federal Government in the 2009 agreement amounted to 87 billion naira and covers allowances for three and half years for thousands of lecturers in the nation’s universities.

According to it, the 87 billion naira was a compromise made by the union to scale down from 127 billion naira.

It disclosed that the 87 billion naira was computed based on 15 per cent of the yearly recurrent expenditures of some Nigerian universities.

Meanwhile, a civil rights organisation, Anti-Corruption Network, has given the government Monday next week as deadline to release the money being demanded by ASUU or face a nationwide unrest.

The organisation threatened that if government fails to settle ASUU at the expiration of the deadline, it would mobilise students and youths across the country to protest against the non-challant attitude of the federal and state governments towards the striking lecturers.

Briefing journalists recently in Abuja, the group’s Director, Outreach Services, Chief Timi Frank, vowed that “state and federal ministries of education would be occupied by civil society organisations and students by Monday next week.’

The VANGUARD, with the headline ‘NANS passes vote of no confidence on Jonathan’, reported that NANS, through a statement made available and signed by the National P.R.O. Comrade Victor Olaogun, has passed a vote of no confidence on President Goodluck Jonathan over what they called his “ineptitude to handle and resolve the ongoing impasse between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.”

While berating the lackadaisical attitude of the Nigerian President towards the development of the youth and his insensitivity and inattentiveness to the pains and demands of Nigerian students and university lecturers, the Association called for instantaneous declaration of state of emergency on Nigeria’s education sector, saying “we can no longer condone his ineffectiveness, whereupon we pass a VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE on him.

“Also we pass a VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE on the Minister for Education, for not having the interest of Nigerian students at heart. We also condemn the Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Students and Youth Matters, Comr. Jude Imagwe, over his lukewarm attitude to the plights of the Nigerian students.

“As a former president of NANS, (though factional) we expect Comr. Jude Imagwe to use his good office to press for the demands of the students and even protect the interest of undergraduates who at this time are facing huge challenges as a result of the lingering strike action embarked on by the Academic Staff Union of Universities”

However the Association pleaded with ASUU to return to the classes while deliberation continues or drag the government to court, adding that the government should allocate a Special Intervention Fund to Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary education in Nigeria.

According to THISDAY, with the headline ‘FG Offers N30bn to Striking Lecturers’, the federal government is offering 30 billion as earned allowances to the striking university lecturers in a bid to end the lingering strike, which has shut down academic activities in the universities nationwide.

A top official from the Federal Ministry of Education told THISDAY on Thursday, that due to the dwindling revenue base of the government, it was ready to offer N30 billion to the striking lecturers under the auspices of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), to end the strike.

Government’s position is believed to be a sincere approach in ending the strike in the midst of dwindling revenue profile occasioned by oil theft and macro-economic measures aimed at diversifying the economy.

While all the demands of the striking lecturers had been resolved, the bone of contention had been ‘earned allowances’, which they have put at N87 billion.

According to sources, the N30 billion, which the federal government was offering, was in the conviction that considering the nation’s current revenue base, ASUU should make some sacrifices and go back to work in the interest of the students and the country at large.

Also during the week, the newspapers ran stories saying that Cameroon took full sovereignty over the disputed territory of Bakassi on Wednesday.five years after an agreement with Nigeria signalled the end of a bloody conflict over the land.

“The transitional period in the Cameroonian peninsula of Bakassi has come to an end,” said an announcement.

Nigeria formally ceded Bakassi to Cameroon on 14 August, 2008, halting 15 years of border conflict.

A UN-backed period of transition agreed by the two countries followed an agreement to allow Cameroon to develop an administrative presence in the area.

The peninsula in the west of the country was formerly part of south Cameroon, itself an area of Nigeria, until inhabitants voted to join Cameroon in 1961. It has around 40,000 inhabitants, including many Nigerian expatriates.

Nigerians living in the peninsula will now have to apply for a visa or apply for Cameroonian citizenship, and Cameroonians will have to register with the tax authorities.

In October 2002, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Bakassi, a 1,000-square-kilometre (386-square-mile) patch of Atlantic coastal swamp, was part of Cameroon, not Nigeria.

Nigeria relinquished any hope of legally reclaiming Bakassi last October, when the 10-year period to appeal the ICJ’s ruling expired.

The decision not to appeal sparked wide media criticism in Nigeria, including from local leaders who alleged that Nigerians in Bakassi had been abandoned by the federal government.