2014: What a year!


By Kehinde Oyetimi

The year 2014 has been a cornucopia of events: some compelling, some remarkable, some gruesome, others devastating. From the ruinous report of the kidnappers’ den uncovered in Ibadan, the devastating denouement of the abducted Chibok girls, the deaths of over 100 worshippers aftermath of the Synagogue Church building collapse, the Boko Haram ceasefire deal that never happened, the unifying national confab, the heartwarming triumph of Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare at the Commonwealth Games, to the ravaging resonance of the Ebola Virus Disease, it has been a mixed fruit basket. KEHINDE OYETIMI highlights these signposts of the year

Kidnappers’ den uncovered in Ibadan

Soka community in Ibadan, Oyo State, was shot into limelight when on Saturday, 22nd March, an abandoned property at Idi Mangoro area was discovered with people suspected to be victims of kidnapping.

About six guns and several cutlasses were also recovered from the house beside it said to belong to Black Horse Plastic factory.

Some people said to be looking for their family member, an okada rider, discovered the building when they heard voices coming from the undeveloped part of the community. Human bones were also found inside a well in front of the eight-room building.

Shoes, bags, clothes, identity cards were some of the items recovered from the scene of the incident.

One of the female inmates claimed that she was delivered of a baby on Friday and the baby was immediately taken away. Evidence of being a new mother could be seen as she had blood stains around her.

As operatives of Operation Burst and policemen from Sanyo arrived at the scene, four men who claimed to be security guards were arrested from the building belonging to Black Horse. Investigations are still ongoing regarding the incident.

National Conference

The 2014 National Conference was inaugurated by the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on 17th March with a cross section of over450 Nigerians withthe view to charting a way forward for Nigeria.

The Conference was headed by retired Chief Justice, Idris Legbo Kutigi. Following a plenary session that lasted for weeks, the Conference was broken into 20 committees and was brought to an end in August 2014 with an adoption of the final report by the delegates.

The confab focused on issues relating to agriculture and water resources, citizenship, immigration and related matters, civil society organisations, labour, youth and sports, devolution of power, economy, trade and investment, energy, environment and foreign policy and diaspora matters.

Boko Haram: Ceasefire deal gone awry

In October, the federal government had struck a ceasefire deal with insurgent group, Boko Haram. According to media reports, the ceasefire agreement was announced by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh at the end of the two-day Coordinating Conference on Cameroon-Nigeria Trans-Border Military Operations at the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), Headquarters in Abuja.

The Director of Defence Information (DDI), Major General Chris Olukolade, also confirmed the ceasefire agreement. In Badeh’s exact words, “Without any prejudice to the outcome of our three-day interactions and the conclusions of this forum, I wish to inform this audience that a ceasefire agreement has been concluded between the federal government of Nigeria and the Ahlul Sunna Li Daawa Wal Jihad.

“I have accordingly directed the service Chiefs to ensure immediate compliance with this development in the field.”

However, less than 24 hours after the announcement of the agreement, the sect struck again in Borno communities.

$9.3m arms deal

South African Revenue Service on Sept. 5, seized the amount from two Nigerians and an Israeli at Lanseria Airport, North-West of Johannesburg. South Africa’s City Press newspaper reported that bundles of unused $100 bills packed in three suitcases were transported in a small business jet from the Nigerian capital, Abuja. The three passengers said they were using it to buy arms for the Nigerian security services.

There were investigations into the deal as a result of claims of money laundering from various quarters and the findings were later clarified.

The president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, who was earlier indicted in the deal, over his ownership of the jet, was later cleared of all charges as the said plane was leased out at the time of the incident.

Synagogue building collapse

A five-storey building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) collapsed in September, killing over 100 people.

The founder of Synagogue Church, T.B. Joshua, blamed the building collapse on a strange aircraft while the Lagos State government insisted that the building was structurally defective.

An inquest has been instituted under the Lagos State Coroner’s System Law No. 7 of 2007 for the purpose of unraveling the cause of the incident.

Arisekola dies at 69

THE Deputy President General of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Abdul-Azeez Arisekola Alao,69, on Wednesday, June 18, died in London, few hours before he was due to return to Nigeria.

The prominent businessman and Islamic leader, who is the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, was said to have gone for medical check up in London, England, a week earlier.

Alhaji Azeez Arisekola Alao, who was not identified as an open supporter of any particular political party, maintained a sustained relevance in politics as he was directly involved in the sponsorship of candidates who he estimated could deliver the dividends of democracy for the benefit of the people in the state.

Ebola hits West Africa, current figures well over 7,000

Nigeria was not left out when thee bola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, a severe, often fatal illness in humans, reared its ugly head in March when the first cases were discovered.

The disease led to a mini outbreak and a major scare after a Liberian, Patrick Sawyer, who was infected with the virus, collapsed at an airport and was taken to First Consultant Hospital, Lagos, for treatment in July 2014.

While there was sad loss of lives as a result of primary and secondary contact with the late Liberian, including a senior consultant at First Consultant Hospital, Dr Stella Adadevoh, Nigeria was formally declared free of the disease by the World Health Organisation on October 20, 2014.

Shekau’s many deaths

In September, there were reports of the death of the leader of terror sect, Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, with the army officials of Cameroun and Nigeria at loggerheads over who was directly responsible for his death.

However, barely two weeks after the military announced that it has killed the sect leader, there was the release of a new video of Abubakar Shekau, who claimed he was alive and challenged the military to produce evidence of his death.

The Defence Headquarters, in its immediate reaction, insisted that the impostor, Mohammed Bashir, who had been posing as Shekau was killed by Nigerian Soldiers in Konduga on September 17, as corroborated by still photographs, video evidence, as well as terrorists, who were either captured or surrendered.

According to the 36-minute video whose exact date of recording could not be ascertained, Shekau boastfully said, “I challenge you, I challenge you. You even said I was killed. If you kill me, does that mean you kill (the) religion? You are not honest. You have no proof, you have nothing to say.”

Chibok girls

In April, Over 200 girls were kidnapped from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State. Responsibility for the kidnappings was claimed by Boko Haram.

On 17 October 2014, hopes were raised that the 219 remaining girls might soon be released after the Nigerian army announced a truce between Boko Haram and government forces. The announcement coincided with the six-month anniversary of the girls’ capture and followed a month of negotiations mediated in Saudi Arabia by Chadian president, Idriss Deby.

Eight months have rolled by and the girls are yet to be released, with fears mounting in various quarters that they may have been sold, married off or used in negotiating and suicide bombing activities.

NITEL sold

Following the opening of the bids to privatise telecommunications outfit, Nigerian Telecommunications PLC (NITEL) and the Nigerian Mobile Telecommunication (MTEL) by the federal government, the NATCOM company, in December, emerged the highest bidder with the sum of $252 million.

The Federal Government had initially rejected a $221 million bid from NATCOM before the company increased the bid to $252 million.

The Director General of Bureau of Public Enterprise , Benjamin Dikki, in his address at the occasion, expressed hope that highest bidder would not only meet the deadline for payment of the purchase consideration, but would ensure the improved rehabilitation and growth of the companies.

CBN crisis

As a result of his involvement in whistle-blowing activities regarding the diversion of government revenue by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was sacked from the apex bank.

Sanusi, who is now the Emir of Kano, had accused the corporation of diverting over $20 billion from crude oil sales alone.

Mr. Godwin Emefiele was appointed the new governor of the CBN in June.

Tambuwal’s defection imbroglio

In late October, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, defected from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), unleashing an avalanche of reactions.

As a follow-up to the defection which spurred various threats by the PDP, members of the House of Representatives, including the Speaker, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, were prevented from entering the complex on November 20.

As a result, members resorted to scaling the fence by preaching the police barricade set up in the complex, prompting the police to fire teargas at the lawmakers.

Justice Oputa dies at 96

A former Justice of the Supreme Court (JSC) and father of popular Nigerian musician, Charles Oputa, better known as Charly Boy, died in May at the age of 96 after recovering from an illness.

Oputa was appointed a judge in 1966 and was promoted to Justice of the Supreme Court in 1984, where he served until retirement in 1989.

He chaired the Human Rights Violation Investigations Commission which came to be known as the “Oputa Panel,” during the Olusegun Obasanjo regime.

Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, described the deceased as one of the nation’s finest legal minds.

Nigeria celebrates centenary

Modern day Nigeria emerged in 1914, following the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates of the former British colony.

To commemorate the 100-year anniversary of Nigeria’s existence as a nation, the federal government planned 12 months of celebration from February 2013 to January 2014 with the formal flag-off ceremony for the Nigerian Centenary Project held on February 4, 2013.

100 distinguished Nigerians were honoured with the centenary awards on February 28, 2014 and the Central Bank of Nigeria recently unveiled a new N100 note to commemorate the celebration.

Diezani’s rise as first OPEC female chair

At the 166th Meeting of the Conference of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) held in Vienna, Austria, on Thursday, 27th November, Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison- Madueke, was elected as the President of the organisation.

The Conference elected Alison-Madueke as President of the Conference for one year, with effect from 1st January 2015.

She is Nigeria’s first female Minister of Petroleum Resources, just as she was also the first female Executive Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC). She is the first woman ever to occupy that position in the history of the organisation.

Okagbare’s feat at Olympics

Nigerian Sprinter, Blessing Okagbare, whose impeccable performance at the Commonwealth games in Glasgow 2014 earned her 2 gold medals for winning the 100m, and 200m

Thus, Okagbare broke the 12-year record of 10.91 seconds set by Bahamian sprint athlete, by setting a new one at 10.85 seconds.

The fall of the naira

The fortunes of the national currency, took a sharp turn downwards in November as it fell by 270 kobo, with the parallel market exchange rate rising to N180 per dollar from N177.3. Since the beginning of November, the Naira has fallen against the US dollar by N7.9 at the interbank market, and N10 at the parallel market.

While stocks have also been hit by the situation, Interbank and parallel market operators attributed this sharp depreciation to restrictions introduced by the CBN to curb foreign exchange demand at the official market.

On October 28, in addition to a 10-kobo margin limit imposed on intervention dollars, the CBN banned banks from selling dollars to Bureaux de Change (BDCs). Furthermore, on November 6th, the CBN excluded importation of certain items from official foreign exchange, saying it would no longer sell official forex for their importation

Yobe massacre

59 students of the Federal Government College, Buni-Yadi, Yobe State were massacred in cold blood in February by insurgents.

The insurgents also burnt the hostels, classrooms and more than 40 houses during the attack.

Strong condemnations trailed the killing with many calling for proactive action on ending violence in the north.

INEC’s controversial 30,000 polling units

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in August, proposed the creation of additional 30,000 polling units across Nigeria, bringing the nationwide total to 150,000 units.

However, the Independent National Electoral Commission bowed to public pressure by recently suspending the creation of the polling units until after the 2015 general elections.

According to a statement issued by the INEC Secretary, Mrs. Augusta Ogakwu, “Taking everything into consideration – especially the controversy over creation of additional polling units that has been overheating the polity and the apparent inadequacy of time for the exercise, the commission took a decision to suspend the exercise until after the 2015 general elections.”

Maya Angelou dies

American author, poet, dancer, actress and singer, Maya Angelou, died on the morning of May 28, 2014. She had reportedly been in poor health and had canceled recent scheduled appearances.

Tributes to Angelou and condolences were paid by artists, entertainers, and world leaders, including President Bill Clinton, and President Barack Obama, whose sister was named after Angelou.

She was aged 86.

Immigration recruitment tragedy

In March 2014, applicants seeking employment into the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) who wrote the recruitment examination were sent to their early graves as a result of trampling with scores seriously injured.

According to investigation, over 5million Nigerians who paid an application fee of N1, 000 each applied for 4,000 NIS vacant positions and were all made to sit for the exams at venues on the same day.

Scores were said to have collapsed during an early morning stampede at the entrance gate to the stadium. A source at the National Hospital, Abuja, said 10 of them died.

The conduct of the exercise was condemned nationwide with many calling for the sack of the minister of interior, Abba Moro, and the comptroller-general of immigration, Mr David Shikfu Parradang,

The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) described the death of Nigerians during the exercise as a national disaster that shows the critical state of Nigeria’s unemployment.

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