Jonathan receives Certificate of Return from INEC


PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan has collected his Certificate of Return, following his declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
as the winner of last Saturday’s presidential election.

It was given to him during a short ceremony on Tuesday at the Commission’s Airport Road Collation Centre in Abuja by the Chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, who also presented a Certificate of Return to Vice-President Namadi Sambo for his emergence as the vice-president-elect.

In his remarks on the occasion, the president commended Professor Jega and his team for conducting a credible election that had been praised by both local and international observers, saying the success of the exercise was the beginning of good governance in the country.

According to him, “we really have to commend INEC. Professor Jega and his team have made Nigeria proud. Before now the international observers used to paint our elections in tainted colours but this year’s elections, first, that of the National Assembly and then the presidential, the information we have received and what we have read in the papers is that they have given us a pass mark.

“It has to be so because of the competence of INEC officers and the position of not compromising your independence. We thank you. All Nigerians are happy because you have placed us on higher rung of the ladder and others have seen us as people who conduct credible elections.

“This is the beginning of good governance. This is the beginning of economic development. This is the beginning of major changes in this country,” he said.

While thanking God for the grace to conduct the election, President Jonathan hoped that the next leg of the exercise would be better than the last two, saying, “we hope that, by the grace of God, the last leg of election coming on the 26th will be better than the presidential election. We thank God. It is God that made it possible. If it is man, it wouldn’t have been possible.”

He commended Nigerians for coming out en masse to participate in the exercise and for their cooperation with government and INEC, as well as for voting for him, saying that it was a clear demonstration of their patriotism.

Commenting on the riots in parts of the North over the election outcome, Jonathan said the development was regrettable, coming against the background of commendation from international observers who witnessed the election, but added that his administration would, in the next four years, focus on issues like that to prevent recurrence.

“It is regrettable that when international observers are commending us for credible elections, we witnessed some skirmishes in parts of the country. It is really regrettable. This is what happened in the late 50’s when some parts of the country witnessed things like this. But that is what the new generation leaders have to face.

“We will make sure that in the next four years, issues like this will not lead to riot. We assure Nigerians we will carry everyone along. We will run an open government where all Nigerians will play a key role, irrespective of party affiliations,” he said.

The president also addressed the issue of victims of the violence in the riots in the North and said that the government would take inventory of the lost properties, provide assistance for victims’ families and ensure that it would never happen again.

He called on religious and political leaders to condemn the riots, saying that government would work towards providing jobs for the nation’s unemployed youths, to prevent them from being used by unscrupulous politicians.

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SHARIA TRIAL FOR SOMALI HOSTAGE


Two French security advisers seized in Somalia will be tried under Sharia law, an official from their captors, the Islamic al-Shabab militia, says. The unnamed spokesman said they would be tried for spying and “conspiracy against Islam”. The two, who were training government troops, were kidnapped by gunmen in a Mogadishu hotel on Tuesday and later handed over to al-Shabab insurgents.

SHARIAAl-Shabab and its allies control much of southern Somalia. The al-Shabab official said no date had been set for the trial of the two men. They were on an official mission to train the forces of the interim government, which has recently appealed for foreign help to tackle Islamist insurgents.

Moderate Islamist President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was sworn in in January after UN-brokered peace talks. He promised to introduce Sharia law but the hardliners accuse him of being a western stooge. Somalia has not had a functioning national government since 1991.

SOURCED FROM BBC

DARFUR REBEL GROUP RELEASE 60 SOLDIERS, POLICE


A major Darfur rebel group released 60 captured government soldiers and police on Saturday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said, a move that could help clear a logjam in troubled peace talks. The insurgent Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) handed the captives to Red Cross officers who passed them on to government officials on Saturday afternoon, the humanitarian group said.

somali“JEM has released 55 Sudan Armed Forces soldiers and five policemen,” Red Cross spokesman Saleh Dabbakeh told Reuters. Talks between JEM and Sudan’s government, which started in Doha in February, have stalled over the timing of confidence building measures, including the release of each other’s prisoners and a ceasefire.

JEM has said it wants Khartoum to release captured rebel fighters before any ceasefire is agreed, while Khartoum says it needs an end to hostilities ahead of other moves. The rebel group told Reuters the release took place close to the north Darfur settlement of Kutum, adding it was ready to free more captives if the government reciprocated by releasing imprisoned JEM fighters.

“We are fulfilling the goodwill agreements we signed in Doha,” senior JEM official Ahmed Tugud said. “We still have many government captives and are willing to release them if similar steps are taken by the other side.” No one was immediately available from Sudan’s government to comment on the release.

SOURCED FROM REUTERS

KENYA AUTHORITIES SEIZED HOARDED IVORY


Kenyan authorities have seized 300kg (660 lbs) of illegal ivory hidden in coffins on a plane bound for Laos. The haul included 16 elephant tusks and black rhinoceros horns. Officials said the blood on the ivory suggested the animals had been killed very recently.horns

The flight – which stopped in Nairobi – originated in Mozambique and was bound for Thailand and then Laos. The haul of ivory may have had a value of about $1m (£614,000). Officials from Kenya’s Wildlife Service said the ivory might have come from Tanzania or South Africa. The black rhino is found only in eastern and southern Africa. The international ivory trade has been banned since 1989. The sale of ivory is illegal if the ivory is not from pre-1989 stockpiles. However, some countries have done little to enforce the ban.

SOURCED FROM BBC


NIGERIA’S REBELS DECLARE EIGHT WEEKS OF CEASEFIRE


militantsThe main rebel group in Nigeria’s Niger Delta is to observe a 60-day ceasefire in its attacks on the oil industry. Mend – the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta – said the move was in response to the freeing of rebel leader, Henry Okah, on Monday.

Mr Okah was released from jail as part of a government amnesty; he’d been held for more than a year on charges including treason. The Mend ceasefire is set to come into effect from Wednesday, a statement said.

On Sunday, just hours before Henry Okah was freed, militants in speedboats attacked the main oil depot serving Lagos – well away from the usual area of operations in the Niger Delta. Mr Okah said he regarded that attack as a gesture, welcoming him to freedom. But he said the Niger Delta needed a kind of peace process. People there, he said, were fighting so that the government would recognise the poverty and injustice that exists.

Asked if he would favour a partial decommissioning of weapons, he said: “Yes, yes, I would. But the government must start attending to our problems.”

Numerous attacks by Mend on installations in the Niger Delta in recent years have seriously disrupted the Nigerian oil and gas industry. Mend says it is fighting for a fairer distribution of the wealth from Nigeria’s natural resources, but in the past the government has dismissed the militants as criminals.

In a bid to end the attacks, the government offered militants an amnesty three weeks ago. Officials said any rebel willing to give up weapons by October would benefit from a rehabilitation programme, including education and training opportunities. The government’s critics say the amnesty is unlikely to work because the unrest is not a straightforward political struggle.

TWO FRENCH NATIONALS KIDNAPPED IN SOMALIA BY GUNMEN


Somali armed men stormed into a hotel in the capital Mogadishu on Tuesday and kidnapped two French security consultants working for the government, a hotel worker said. The two French men, whose names were not immediately available, were initially thought to be journalists. But a government official told Reuters that they had pretended to be reporters for their own protection.

“They were security consultants who arrived in Somalia to train state house security guards, not journalists,” said the official.

Several gunmen, some in uniform, entered the Sahafi Hotel threatened the hotel guards and took away the Frenchmen from their hotel rooms, the hotel manager, who declined to be named told Reuters.

“The two males told me they were journalists,” he added.

The hotel is popular with ministers in the government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, and several live there and were in their rooms during the early morning raid.

A police officer who did not want to be named told Reuters that they had captured one of the three cars used by the gunmen.

“We have captured one of the cars,” he said, adding that he did not know where the French men had been taken.

Another witness said the gunmen, some of whom were dressed in uniform similar to that worn by Somali government troops, drove towards Mogadishu’s Bakara market, an Islamist stronghold, he added.

Hardline Islamist insurgents who are fighting the government control all but a few blocks of the capital. Fighting in Somalia since Ethiopian troops ousted the Islamic Courts Union in late 2006 has killed at least 18,000 and sent hundreds of thousands more fleeing from their homes.

SOURCED FROM REUTERS

KIDNAPPERS REQUEST FOR $2 MILLION


Kidnappers of two female aid workers in Sudan’s Darfur region have demanded $2 million for their release, but the government is determined not to pay, a minister said on Tuesday. KIDNAPPERSThe two workers for Irish aid group GOAL were seized by armed men on July 3 from their base in the north Darfur town of Kutum — the third abduction of foreign humanitarian staff in the region in four months.

“The kidnappers are asking for $2 million. But our policy is not to pay ransom. We feel that would encourage others to do the same,” said state minister for humanitarian affairs Abdel Baqi al-Jailani.

The minister said Darfur officials were using local leaders to negotiate with the kidnappers, adding he was still expecting a positive outcome. “Our main priority remains the safety of the two women”

Irish negotiators and government officials have sent teams to Khartoum and El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, to help free the women, named by GOAL as Hilda Kawuki, 42, from Uganda, and Sharon Commins, 32, from Dublin. Two groups of foreign aid workers kidnapped in Darfur earlier this year were released unharmed after a period of negotiation.

SOURCED FROM REUTERS