Nigeria: Outrage over President Jonathan’s trip to Brazil for UN Earth Summit

June 20, 2012

Africa, International

Outrage over President Jonathan’s trip to Brazil for UN Earth Summit

By Niyi Odebode, Olusola Fabiyi, John Alechenu and Ihuoma Chiedozie
The Punch


The news that President Goodluck Jonathan jetted out of the country amidst violence in Kaduna and Yobe states provoked public outrage on Tuesday.

Jonathan on Monday traveled to Brazil to take part in a United Nations’ Earth Summit, leaving behind killings in Kaduna and Yobe. Opposition parties and other eminent citizens who spoke to The PUNCH on Tuesday described the trip as disappointing.

The House of Representatives also said the President could have delegated the trip to Vice-President Namadi Sambo or any of his senior aides since the trip was “not special or of economic interest.”

The spokesman for the House, Zakari Mohammed, told our correspondent, “A trip like that could have been delegated by Mr. President so that he can stay at home to take charge of security.

“We know that security agencies are supposed to do their job, but we cannot afford to compromise security. If our security is compromised, it is a failure of governance.”

Mohammed added that investors would not come to Nigeria if the country was not safe.

But the Senate said Jonathan was in order since he would need to honor`international commitments. Spokesman for the upper legislative chamber, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, said it was not the business of the Senate to determine whether Jonathan traveled or not since the Executive and legislature are different arms of government.

The Action Congress of Nigeria, in a statement by his National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, faulted Jonathan’s journey amidst what it described as a “national tragedy.”

“We are constrained to ask whether this President is getting quality advice from a myriad of aides surrounding him, or whether, like his benefactor, Olusegun Obasanjo, he has decided he may not even take any advice from his advisers. In other climes, the usual thing is for leaders to cancel foreign trips or rush home from such trips when their countries suffer tragedies,” the ACN said.

It described the President’s decision to travel “two days after innocent Nigerians, including women and children, were killed as a sign of insensitive and confused leadership.”

The ACN said that Nigeria’s paramount interest should make the President stay at home and oversees efforts to prevent the precarious situation in Kaduna from degenerating into an all-out religious war.

The Congress for Progressive Change also faulted the President, saying it was wrong for him to leave the country at the moment. It said the President’s trip was disappointing.

According to the National Publicity Secretary of the Party, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, who spoke with one of our correspondents, Jonathan ought to put off his scheduled travel because of the crises in the country.

He said, “President Jonathan got a mandate to defend or enhance the interest of the State, including diplomatic visits. However, it is impolitic for the President to leave the shores of the land at this time for any meeting, irrespective of the emergency situation in the nation.

“There is a dire security challenge in the nation. The President promised the nation that Boko Haram insurgency shall end in June. But with the recent escalation of the problem, that promise of Mr. President appears to be of no effect.”

Lawyer, Itse Sagay, noted that although the constitution permitted the President to travel anytime he wished, the timing of his Brazilian trip was wrong.

Sagay expressed concerns that Jonathan’s pronouncements on the activities of the Boko Haram sect suggested that he had lost control of the situation.

Sagay said, “Honestly, I don’t know. The situation in the country is very serious. He should sit down and face it.

“The impression one has now is that he has lost control; his responses have been weak. We expected something more forceful. We expected a decisive attitude towards a very serious problem.

“I don’t think it is the right time for him to travel because the situation is very critical.”


Northern crisis worsens

By Ademola Babalola and David Attah with agency reports

Violence in the northern states of Kaduna and Yobe spread on Tuesday, necessitating an imposition of a 24-hour curfew on the two states where the death toll in three days of attacks rose to 99.

The casualty figure is made up of 74 deaths recorded in Kaduna between Sunday and Monday and 25 killed in the Damaturu violence.

In Kaduna, soldiers deployed in the city averted a clash between Christian and Muslim youths even as there were reports of an explosion which resulted in a fire outbreak at the Panteka market.

Muslim youths reportedly took to the streets in Kaduna on Tuesday, firing AK-47s, burning tyres and destroying at least one church.

Intermittent gunshots were reportedly heard across the city throughout the day.

“We heard an explosion which led to a fire. An explosion which resulted in a fire outbreak has occurred at the Panteka market destroying many shops. This happened as the attacks were going on in Tudun Wada just before the curfew was reimposed,” Reuters quoted a resident, Bitrus Moses, as narrating.

Before soldiers intervened, youths said to be Muslims from Tundun Wada had set up a bonfire and threatening to avenge the killing of their kin on Sunday.

The youths were said to have also attacked traders at the Sheikh Gumi Central Market.

Our correspondents report that the youths shot at motorists and passers-by. The attacks created pandemonium as residents fled in different directions. Those who had gone to work after the relaxation of the 24-hour curfew by the government had to rush back home.

On learning that Muslim youths were massing for an attack, youths from the predominantly Christian southern part of the state also commenced mobilization for a confrontation.

Alarmed at the palpable tension, the state governor, Patrick Yakowa, promptly slammed another round-the-clock curfew on the state.

The governor had on Monday relaxed the initial 24-hour curfew it imposed on Sunday following the bombing of three churches and the consequent reprisal by Christian youths.

The violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram, has claimed responsibility for the attacks on the churches.

Red Cross spokesman, Nwakpa O. Nwakpa, told the AFP that his teams deployed in Kaduna had alerted him to “ongoing protests.”

In reintroducing total curfew on Tuesday, Yakowa’s spokesman, Reuben Buhari, said the decision of the government to reimpose the curfew was to allow the government to continue with its responsibility of safeguarding lives and properties.

The statement reads, “In view of certain new security challenges that came up today and based on the need for the state government to continue with its responsibility of safeguarding the lives and properties of its citizens, the state government is hereby reimposing a 24-hour curfew in all parts of the state.

“This curfew covers all the 23 local government areas of the state. As unpalatable as this decision is, the state government is doing it in the best interest of the state. Consequently, everybody is strongly advised to go back home now while security agencies continue with the task of ensuring total peace in the state.”

The Yobe State Government also imposed a 24-hour curfew on the state capital, Damaturu, following overnight gunfight between soldiers attached to the Joint Task Force on Operation Restore Order and Boko Haram insurgents in the state capital, Damaturu.

The statement announcing the curfew was signed by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Information, Alhaji Abdullahi Bego.

It directed members of the public to stay at home as security agencies work toward total restoration of law and order.

It called on members of the public to cooperate with the government and various security agencies to ensure that normalcy returned to the state.

In Damaturu, residents reported being confined to their homes due to sporadic gunfire.

A senior official at a Damaturu hospital told the AFP that the gunfire which broke out on Monday had claimed some casualties, but that the streets were too dangerous for rescue workers to move around.

The official, who requested anonymity, was quoted as saying, “We have been holed up in the hospital since yesterday. We can’t leave because it is not safe to go out. The morgue is empty now although there are dead bodies on the street. Fighting is still going on in some parts of the city and the streets are totally deserted.”

AFP also quoted the commander of a military task force in Yobe State, Colonel Dahiru Abdussalam, to have said that the Damaturu unrest started on Monday after authorities arrested a Boko Haram suspect.

“The arrest prompted other members of the group to respond by setting off explosives and shooting indiscriminately,” he said.

The Commissioner of Police in Yobe, Patrick Egbuniwe, on Tuesday confirmed that three policemen were killed while four others were wounded in Monday’s explosions and gun attacks in Damaturu.

He told the News Agency of Nigeria in a telephone interview that the civilian casualty had yet to be ascertained.

“We are still working on that,’’ he said.

The commissioner, however, described the situation in the state capital as “calm.”

“You know government has imposed a 24-hour curfew and we are doing everything possible to restore normalcy and order in Damaturu and the entire state,” he said.


Nigeria has 36 states and 1 capital Federal Territory (Abuja)

Nigeria has a population of 170,123,740 (July 2012 est.)
Nigeria is composed of more than 250 ethnic groups; the following are the most populous and politically influential ethnic groups: Hausa and Fulani 29%, Yoruba 21%, Igbo (Ibo) 18%, Ijaw 10%, Kanuri 4%, Ibibio 3.5%, Tiv 2.5%

Muslim 50%, Christian 40%, Traditional African Religion 10% (many Muslims and Christians may also follow Traditional African Religion along side their main faith)


Yobe is the 32nd most populated state in Nigeria with a population of 2,321,591

Damaturu is the capital city of the state with a population over 88,000.


Kaduna is the 3rd most populated state in Nigeria with a population of 6,066,562

The capital city is Kaduna with a population of over 760,000.


Video: President Jonathan to attend UN Earth Summit


Video: Reactions follow Boko Haram’s attacks on Christian churches in Nigeria


Video: President Jonathan reacts to Kaduna explosions

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