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Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua has laid out the details of a 60-day amnesty programme for militants and criminals in the Niger Delta. Under the deal, all gunmen who lay down their weapons during a 60-day period ending in October will be immune from prosecution. The offer extends to those currently being prosecuted for militant-related activities, meaning Henry Okah – the suspected leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) – could also walk free if he agrees to renounce the notion of armed struggle.
Several factional leaders – including Ateke Tom, Farah Dagogo, Soboma George and Boyloaf – have said they accept the idea of amnesty in principle but want talks with President Yar’Adua to hammer out the details.
Advocates say such an amnesty would meet one of the key demands of militant groups and is the only way to bring an end to instability which costs Nigeria billions of dollars in lost oil revenues each year, prevents the development of the very communities the militants claim to represent and causes world energy prices to rise further, which ultimately falls back on the Nigerian consumer.
Critics say amnesty simply provides a get-out-of-jail free card to those responsible for kidnappings, acts of sabotage and banditry and that the promises to re-educate and reintegrate them into civilian society would require years of investment. The government has said it will not offer a “buy back” programme – money for surrendered weapons – but does the scheme reward those who have taken up the armed struggle while leaving peaceful protesters with nothing?
from Global News Journal:
A little while back, we asked who is and isn’t fighting corruption effectively in Africa. This week, a number of examples bring us back to the subject.
In Tanzania, two former ministers have been charged with flouting procurement rules over the award of a tender for auditing gold mining back in 2002. The pair, who deny wrongdoing, served in the government of President Jakaya Kikwete’s predecessor Benjamin Mkapa. One of them also served under Kikwete himself.
Richard Branson’s Virgin group, one of the highest-profile investors in Nigeria, is locked in a dispute with the government about which airport terminal the Virgin Nigeria airline can use. At the heart of the row is an agreement Virgin says it struck with the previous administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, which the new government of President Umaru Yar’Adua is questioning.
Nigerian officials say past deals with international investors have not always been in the best interests of the country and that Yar’Adua wants to ensure Nigeria is no longer “short-changed”. Virgin has said it is in talks to sell its stake in Virgin Nigeria.
Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua took office a year ago promising to pursue free-market reforms launched by his predecessor, Olusegun Obasanjo, vowing zero tolerance for corruption and listing seven national priorities including improving power supply and reducing food insecurity.
A year on, his critics say economic reforms are grinding to a halt, his anti-corruption efforts are just window-dressing and his cabinet is largely a collection of ineffective bureaucrats who are but a shadow of an all-star cast in the former administration.