Sunday, 15 May 2011

Nigeria: Politics, moves to check money laundering dominate Nigerian media

Lagos, Nigeria - Developments from the April general elections, moves to check money laundering, the rising external reserves and the desire for a single West African Stock Exchange dominated the Nigerian media this past week. During the three-phase April general elections, violence erupted across some States in the northern part of the country in which many Nigerians, especially the ad-hoc staff engaged by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as electoral officers, were killed. Those ad-hoc staff were mainly members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), undertaking their mandatory one-year service for fresh university graduates who are posted to serve in States other than theirs.
'N5m for each slain corps member’s family', was the headline of the Vanguard newspaper on Wednesday. According to the paper, President Goodluck Jonathan, whose election triggered the violence, on Tuesday recounted the violent riots that claimed the lives of 10 NYSC members and declared that there would be no hiding place for the killers.

He also announced a 5 million naira (about US$ 34,000) compensation for each slain corps member’s family when he hosted them at the Presidential Villa where he formally condoled them on the loss of their loved ones and unveiled some of the goodies which the government has set aside to compensate them.

But the families, which included a widow and four children, insisted that the best compensation for their slain loved ones was to ensure that all those who were involved in the heinous act were brought to face the full weight of the law.

The Sun also reported the story under a similar headline 'Jonathan approves N5m for each slain corps member’s family'.

But Thisday newspaper saw the story from a different angle, headlining its story 'Jonathan: We’ll Go after Killers of Corps Members'.

According to the paper, President Jonathan has vowed to do all within the power of his administration to ensure that the perpetrators of the election violence in which 10 members of the NYSC were brutally killed were brought to book “no matter how highly placed”.

He said corps members who were injured in the attacks and were still recuperating in hospitals would be given automatic employment once they were done with their service year as their own reward for serving their fatherland.

In an emotion-laden speech, Jonathan regretted the loss of the corps members but asked their families to be consoled by the fact that they died as martyrs whose honour would be in the living resolving to live peacefully with each other.

The Guardian, Nation, Punch, Sun, Thisday, Trust and the Vanguard ran stories on the probe panel, established on Wednesday by President Jonathan on the election violence.

According to the papers, the Federal Government has constituted a 22-man investigation panel on election violence and civil disturbances to investigate pre-election violence as well as civil unrest in some states following the 2011 presidential election.

According to a government statement, the panel is headed by Sheikh Ahmed Lemu.

The terms of reference of the panel are: To investigate the immediate and remote cause(s) of the pre-election violence as well as the tide of unrest in some states of the federation following the presidential election and make appropriate recommendations on how to prevent future occurrence; to ascertain the number of persons who lost their lives or sustained injuries during the violence; to identify the spread and extent of loss and damage to means of livelihood and assess the cost of damage to personal and public property and places of worship and make appropriate recommendations; to investigate the sources of weapons used in the unrest and recommend how to stem the tide of illegal flow of such weapons to the country; and to examine any other matter incidental or relevant to the unrest and advise government as appropriate.

However, the Guardian on Friday captioned its story as 'CPC says panel on polls violence illegal, coalition seeks Buhari’s trial'.

The paper reported that the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), whose supporters were suspected to have carried out the attacks, had declared the 22-man panel set up by the Federal Government to probe the post-election violence in some states in the North illegal.

Citing a Supreme Court ruling, the CPC said the Federal Government lacked the power to set up a panel to probe any crisis outside the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). It also accused President Jonathan of playing politics with the crisis, adding that the 5 million naira compensation for each of the 10 members of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) killed during the violence was peanut.

But the Northern Coalition for Democracy and Justice (NCDJ) on Thursday said the CPC and its leaders cannot be exonerated over the crisis, noting that the utterances of its presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, his running mate, Pastor Tunde Bakare, National Secretary, Buba Galadima, before and after the mayhem showed that they were not innocent.

The Sun's headline on the story was 'Electoral violence panel: We won’t tolerate interference – Lemu'. The paper quoted the Chairman of the presidential panel Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, as demanding protection of the 22-man panel. He said the panel would not entertain any interference from any quarters during its assignment.

The panel will submit its report on 26 June after six weeks of assignment.

Still on politics, the Independent and Thisday newspapers reported that the Court of Appeal, constituted as the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal, will begin sitting in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, on 17 May.

INEC sources said the sitting was moved from 11 May because of the death last Saturday of Mimi, the wife of Chief Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu.

At the inaugural sitting of the panel, preliminary issues, including the application by the CPC to inspect electoral materials, will be disposed of to pave the way for the hearing of the substantive petition.

The CPC is seeking the nullification of the election of Jonathan as President on the grounds of substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.

It wants the INEC to conduct a fresh vote between its Presidential candidate, Buhari, and Jonathan.

It contests, among others, the results in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and 18 states – Kaduna, Sokoto, Nasarawa, Kwara, Adamawa, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Cross River, Rivers, Ebonyi, Bayelsa, Delta, Imo, Anambra, Benue, Lagos, and Plateau.

In another development, the Sun reported that INEC had plans to invoke a section in the amended Electoral Act to de-register more than 50 political parties, leaving only 10 in the country.

The Sun headline was 'INEC hammer falls', with the riders '52 political parties to go', and 'PDP, ACN, CPC, 7 others to survive'.

Part V, Section 7 of the Electoral Act 2011, as amended, stipulates: “The Commission (INEC) shall have powers to de-register political parties on the following grounds: (i) breach of any of the requirements for registration, and (ii) for failure to win a seat in the National Assembly or state Assembly election.”

In the last elections, 63 political parties participated and were expected to win at least one seat in the National Assembly or state Houses of Assembly or risk de-registration.

Results of the elections showed that only 10 parties fulfilled the requirement. They are the PDP, CPC, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Labour Party (LP), Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN), All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Accord Party (AP), Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) and the KOWA Party.

On the economy, Thisday reporting under the headline 'CBN Cash Limits to Check Money Laundering – Report', said on Wednesday that the new policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which sought to limit the daily cash withdrawals and lodgements in the country, would bring about a drastic reduction in money laundering, terrorist financing and other economic and financial crimes in Nigeria.

Quoting a report by the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing (AML/CFT) compliance, Thisday reported that the CBN had pegged daily cash withdrawals or lodgements by any individual or corporate body at 150,000 naira (about US$ 1,000) and 1 million naira (about US$ 7,000) respectively. The policy is expected to be effective from 1 June, 2012.

The paper also ran stories on the rising external reserves, saying under the headline 'External Reserves Rise by $1bn in Three Days'. It said the rise in crude oil prices at the international market on Monday impacted positively on Nigeria’s external reserves, which increased significantly by US$ 1.093 billion within only three days.

It said the the reserves advanced by 3.35 per cent to US$ 33.722 billion on Monday, from the US$ 32.629 billion last Thursday.

Thisday checks also revealed that the external reserves stood at US$ 33.5 billion as at April, as against the US$ 33.2 billion it recorded at the end of March after it rose to US$ 36.4 billion by mid-March. The reserves had grown by US$ 3.1 billion in March.

Its findings coincided with CBN’s assurance that it would continue to defend the naira with the external reserves.

And on the single West African stock exchange, the paper reported that the Chairman of the Board of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, has said SEC was working with other regulators in the West African region to facilitate the formation of a single stock exchange in order to take care of  the challenges of  cross border listings on exchanges in the region.

Udoma , speaking at the ongoing Thomson Reuters Foundation Journalism Training Programme in Lagos, said regulators in the region were currently looking at securities rules in various countries with a view to harmonising them to ensure the success of the plan.



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