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Posts tagged ‘United Land of Nigeria’

Nigeria: Too soon to close camps for Boko Haram’s displaced

May 17, 2017

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Camps for tens of thousands of people displaced by Boko Haram will have to stay open beyond the end of this month as Nigeria’s military continues to fight the extremists in so-called liberated areas, officials say.

The governor of the northern state of Borno, Kashim Shettima, told reporters on Tuesday that it is not yet safe to return people to their homes in many places across the region. The government’s goal was to close all of the camps by the end of May. The humanitarian crisis is considered one of the worst in the world.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari late last year declared Boko Haram “crushed,” but the military now says operations continue to clear the extremists from their strongholds. “What we are doing now is mop-up of the fleeing Boko Haram terrorists who are running into the fringes of the forest as well as border areas,” said Maj. Gen. Lucky Irabor, who commands the counterinsurgency operation in the northeast.

Boko Haram continues to carry out suicide bombings in the Borno capital, Maiduguri, and has attacked the military in more remote areas. Hundreds of people have been killed since Buhari’s declaration. On Monday, police said three female suicide bombers detonated on the route between Maiduguri and the city of Bama, killing two people and injuring six.

Maiduguri is home to more than a dozen camps for those displaced by Boko Haram’s eight-year insurgency. Tens of thousands of people have been killed over the years. The United Nations refugee agency says 1.8 million have been displaced within Nigeria, with roughly one-third of them living in camps.

The insurgency also has spilled into neighboring countries. “We will not wait till eternity. We are very optimistic that very soon the entire Borno will be safe enough for full habitation,” Shettima said.

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Nigeria negotiating with Boko Haram for more Chibok releases

May 11, 2017

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Nigeria’s government is negotiating “seriously” for the release of more than 110 kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls still held by Boko Haram and will exchange more detained members of the extremist group for them if needed, an official said Thursday.

“We will not relent until all are back,” the minister of women’s affairs and social development, Aisha Alhassan, told reporters in the capital, Abuja. The mass abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls from a boarding school three years ago brought world attention to Boko Haram’s deadly rampage in northern Nigeria. Thousands have been kidnapped or killed in the group’s eight-year insurgency, with millions driven from their homes.

On Saturday, 82 of the Chibok schoolgirls were released. Nigeria’s government exchanged them for five detained Boko Haram commanders, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to reporters on the matter. Negotiations with the extremist group, mediated by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss government, also resulted in the October release of a first group of 21 Chibok girls.

Alhassan said Nigeria’s government had no regrets about exchanging Boko Haram commanders for the schoolgirls’ release. “We’ll do it again if needed,” she said in comments tweeted by Nigeria’s government.

Families in Chibok were meeting with community leaders to identify the newly freed schoolgirls from photos to determine if they will travel to the capital to meet them. The young women were joining those released earlier in government care in Abuja, where they were undergoing medical screening that will take a couple of weeks, Alhassan said. Some must undergo surgery, she said.

The government has been caring for 24 previously released girls and four babies, Alhassan said. A small number of the schoolgirls managed to escape on their own. The group of girls released in October were in “bad shape” and spent two months in medical care, the minister said.

Human rights groups have criticized the government for keeping them so long in the capital, far from their homes. Alhassan said they traveled to Chibok for Christmas but upon their return to the capital said they were scared to go back to their community.

The girls said they wanted to go back to school so a nine-month reintegration program was designed for them, the minister said. The newly released girls will join the program. The parents of the freed Chibok schoolgirls “are free to visit them at any time. We will never prevent them from seeing their daughters,” Alhassan said.

Some of the girls who escaped shortly after the mass kidnapping said some classmates had died from illness, and others were radicalized and didn’t want to come home. Human rights advocates have said they fear some of the girls have been used by Boko Haram to carry out suicide bombings.

Nigeria leader meets Chibok girls, leaves for medical trip

May 07, 2017

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari expressed joy Sunday night at meeting with the 82 Chibok schoolgirls newly freed from Boko Haram extremists — then jolted the country by announcing he was leaving for London immediately for medical checkups as fears for his health continue.

“We’ve always made it clear that we will do everything in our power to ensure the freedom & safe return of our daughters” and all captives of Boko Haram, Buhari said on his Twitter account. Minutes later, the 74-year-old president startled Africa’s most populous nation with the news of his departure. Buhari, who has missed three straight weekly Cabinet meetings, spent a month and a half in London on medical leave earlier this year and said he’d never been as sick in his life. The exact nature of his illness remained unclear.

“There is no cause for worry” about this latest medical leave, a statement from his office said, adding that the length of Buhari’s stay in London will be determined by his doctors. Photos released by the government showed the rail-thin president standing and addressing the Chibok schoolgirls at his official residence Sunday evening, a day after their release.

“The president was delighted to receive them and he promised that all that is needed to be done to reintegrate them into the society will be done,” adviser Femi Adesina said. “He promised that the presidency will personally supervise their rehabilitation.”

The young women have been handed over to government officials who will supervise their re-entry into society, Adesina said. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which helped negotiate the girls’ release along with the Swiss government, said they would be reunited with their families soon.

Five Boko Haram commanders were released in exchange for the girls’ freedom, a Nigerian government official said Sunday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to reporters on the matter. Neither Nigeria’s government nor Boko Haram, which has links to the Islamic State group, gave details about the exchange.

Parents of the schoolgirls were waiting for a government list of names of those who had been freed. Some parents of the kidnapped girls gathered in the capital, Abuja, to celebrate the release, while others expressed anxiety over the fate of the 113 girls who remain missing after the mass abduction from a Chibok boarding school in 2014.

The Rev. Enoch Mark, whose two daughters have been among the missing, was still awaiting word if they were among those freed. He emphasized that he considered all 82 of the girls to be his daughters “because most of them worship in my church.”

Some parents did not live long enough to see their daughters released, underscoring the tragedy of the three-year saga. And the recovery process is expected to be a long one for the girls, many of whom endured sexual assault during their captivity.

“They will face a long and difficult process to rebuild their lives after the indescribable horror and trauma they have suffered at the hands of Boko Haram,” said Pernille Ironside, acting representative of UNICEF Nigeria.

Boko Haram seized a total of 276 girls in the 2014 abduction. Girls who escaped early on said some of their classmates had died from illness. Others did not want to come home because they’d been radicalized by their captors, they said.

Human rights advocates also fear some of the girls have been used by Boko Haram to carry out suicide bombings. Last year, a first group of 21 Chibok girls was freed in October, and they have been in government care for medical attention, trauma counseling and rehabilitation. Human rights groups have criticized the decision to keep the girls in custody in Abuja, nearly 900 kilometers (560 miles) from Chibok.

It was not immediately clear whether the newly freed girls would join them. They should be quickly released to their families and not be subjected to lengthy government detention, Amnesty International’s Nigeria office said, adding that the girls don’t deserve to be put through a “publicity stunt” and deserve privacy.

Though Boko Haram has abducted thousands of people during its eight-year insurgency that has spilled across Nigeria’s borders, the Chibok mass kidnapping horrified the world and brought the extremist group international attention.

The failure of Nigeria’s former government to act quickly to free the girls sparked a global Bring Back Our Girls movement; U.S. first lady Michelle Obama posted a photo with its logo on social media.

The Bring Back Our Girls campaign said Sunday it was happy that Nigeria’s government had committed to rescuing the 113 remaining schoolgirls, and it urged the president to “earnestly pursue” the release of everyone held by Boko Haram.

Buhari late last year announced Boko Haram had been “crushed,” but the group continues to carry out attacks in northern Nigeria and neighboring countries. Its insurgency has killed more than 20,000 people and driven 2.6 million from their homes, with millions facing starvation.

Associated Press writers Haruna Umar in Maiduguri, Nigeria and Sunday Alamba in Abuja, Nigeria contributed.

Nigeria says 82 Chibok girls free in Boko Haram exchange

May 07, 2017

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Eighty-two Chibok schoolgirls seized three years ago by Boko Haram have been freed in exchange for detained suspects with the extremist group, Nigeria’s government announced early Sunday, in the largest release negotiated yet in the battle to save nearly 300 girls whose mass abduction exposed the mounting threat posed by the Islamic State-linked fighters.

The statement from the office of President Muhammadu Buhari was the first confirmation that his government had made a swap for the girls. After an initial release of 21 Chibok girls in October, the government denied making an exchange or paying ransom.

The April 2014 abduction by Boko Haram brought the extremist group’s rampage in northern Nigeria to world attention and, for families of the schoolgirls, began years marked with heartbreak. Some relatives did not live long enough to see their daughters released. Many of the captive girls, most of them Christians, were forced to marry their captors and give birth to children in remote forest hideouts without ever knowing if they would see their parents again. It is feared that other girls were strapped with explosives and sent on missions as suicide bombers.

As word of the latest release emerged, long-suffering family members said they were eagerly awaiting a list of names and “our hopes and expectations are high.” Before Saturday’s release, 195 of the girls had remained captive. Now 113 of the girls remain unaccounted for.

The freed girls were expected to meet with Buhari on Sunday in the capital, Abuja. A Nigerian military official with direct knowledge of the rescue operation said the freed girls were found near the town of Banki in Borno state near Cameroon.

“The location of the girls kept changing since yesterday when the operation to rescue them commenced,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make the announcement.

Boko Haram remains active in that area. On Friday, the United States and Britain issued warnings that the extremist group was actively planning to kidnap foreigners in an area of Borno state “along the Kumshe-Banki axis.”

The 276 schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok in 2014 are among thousands of people abducted by Boko Haram over the years. The mass abduction shocked the world, sparking a global #Bringbackourgirls campaign supported by former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and other celebrities. It has put tremendous pressure on Nigeria’s government to counter the extremist group, which has roamed large parts of the north and into neighboring countries.

“This is a very, very exciting news for us that we have over 80 of our girls coming back again,” Bukky Shonibare with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign told Sky TV. “Their life in captivity has been one that depicts suffering, it depicts the fact that they have been starved, abused, and as we have seen before some of those girls have come back with children, and some of them have also come back with news of how they have been sexually abused.”

The latest negotiations were again mediated by the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross, Nigeria’s government said. At the initial release of girls in October, the government said the release of another 83 would be coming soon. But at the three-year anniversary of the kidnapping in April, the government said negotiations had “gone quite far” but faced challenges.

Buhari late last year announced Boko Haram had been “crushed,” but the group continues to carry out attacks in northern Nigeria and neighboring countries. Its insurgency has killed more than 20,000 people and driven 2.6 million from their homes, with millions facing starvation.

Larson reported from Dakar. Associated Press writers Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria, and Hilary Uguru in Warri, Nigeria, contributed.

Nigeria president returns after weeks on medical leave

March 10, 2017

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari returned to the country on Friday after a medical leave of a month and a half that raised questions about his health and some calls for his replacement, but he made clear that whatever was ailing him was not yet over.

Buhari told reporters that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo would remain in charge of Africa’s most populous nation over the weekend as he rested, and he revealed the first details of his health condition, including blood transfusions. He hadn’t been so sick in decades, he said.

Photos of his arrival in the capital, Abuja, showed the lanky president smiling and walking without assistance. “I feel much better now,” Buhari said. “I have rested as much as humanly possible.” He said he would have “follow-up” in the coming weeks. Sahara Reporters, a New York-based Nigerian news agency, reported that Buhari indicated he would return to London for more treatments.

Few details had been released about Buhari’s medical leave in London. When he left Nigeria on Jan. 19, the government said it was for routine medical checkups and that he would return in early February.

Instead, the 74-year-old remained out of sight for weeks while anxiety rose in Nigeria, which is grappling with crises including Boko Haram extremist attacks and an economy that last year contracted for the first time in a quarter-century.

Some expressed anger at taxpayer-funded treatment for top officials overseas while people at home cope with poorly funded health care. “I have received, I think, the best of treatment I could receive,” Buhari said Friday.

Others in Nigeria suggested that Osinbajo, a 59-year-old lawyer and pastor who handled matters in Buhari’s absence, should stay on and lead the country, one of Africa’s largest economies and top oil producers

A statement Thursday from special adviser Femi Adesina said Buhari’s “holiday” had been extended on doctors’ recommendations for further testing and rest. It gave no details about the health of the president.

The statement also said Buhari expressed appreciation for Nigerians who have “prayed fervently” for him during his absence. Adesina said Friday that Buhari and Osinbajo would “continue to do the job together,” and he criticized some in Nigeria for causing “mischief” during the president’s absence.

The adviser said Buhari on Monday would send a letter to the National Assembly making his return to work “formal and constitutional.” During his long absence, Buhari spoke once by phone with President Donald Trump as the new U.S. leader reached out to a couple of Africa’s largest economies.

Nigerian governor says 2 kidnapped Germans are freed

February 26, 2017

KADUNA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigerian security agents have freed two German archaeologists kidnapped by gunmen at a remote dig, the governor of northern Kaduna state said Sunday. The two academics are now at the German embassy in Abuja and are doing well considering the circumstances, according to the German Foreign Ministry.

Governo Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai “commended the security agencies for their efforts in securing the release of the Germans,” said a statement. It did not say whether anyone has been arrested for the kidnapping.

Gunmen had been demanding a ransom of 60 million naira (about $200,000) for the release of Professor Peter Breunig and his assistant, Johannes Behringer. The two were abducted at gunpoint Wednesday and walked into the bush from an archaeological dig near Jenjela village in Kaduna state. Two villagers who tried to help the Germans were shot and killed by the kidnappers, the police said.

Breunig, 65, and Behringer, in his 20s, are part of a four-person team from Frankfurt’s Goethe University. The other two members, women, were not touched by the kidnappers. The Germans were collaborating with Nigeria’s National Commission for Museum and Monuments to recover relics of the Nok culture. The early Iron Age people, considered the earliest ancient civilization of the West African region that is now Nigeria, are famous for their terracotta sculptures.

Kidnappings for ransom are common in Nigeria, with ordinary residents and even schoolchildren targeted as well as foreigners. Victims usually are freed unharmed after a ransom is paid, though security forces have rescued a few high-profile abductees.

Nigeria’s acting President Yemi Osinbajo had summoned the federal police chief on Thursday for a briefing on efforts to find the Germans.

Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this story.

Nigeria leader to head delegation to resolve Gambia crisis

January 09, 2017

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari will lead three West African heads of state to Gambia on Wednesday in an effort to persuade its longtime leader to step down, officials said Monday.

A meeting Monday in Abuja agreed on the mission, Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyema said of the second presidential delegation from the Economic Community of West African States to visit Gambia since President Yahya Jammeh lost Dec. 1 elections.

Jammeh initially conceded the loss, but changed his mind. The West African bloc has said it has a military force on standby if Jammeh refuses to cede power when his mandate expires Jan. 19. Leaders meeting Saturday in Ghana said they were working on a diplomatic solution.

But Onyema told journalists on Monday that “every option is on the table” and “violence should be avoided, but nothing is ruled out.” He said the regional bloc is “prepared and determined to take advantage of any of the options that it feels is appropriate” to install election winner Adama Barrow as the rightful president.

The United States, European Union and others have condemned Jammeh’s stance and supported efforts to enforce Gambia’s Constitution. Monday’s meeting included the presidents of Liberia and Senegal, which would lead any military intervention.

The leaders expressed particular concern over the deteriorating security situation. Jammeh has mobilized troops, closed radio stations and ordered arrests, leading to a “mass exodus” of Gambians to their country’s interior and to neighboring countries, Onyema said.

Nigeria also has said scheduling conflicts prevent it from sending judges to Gambia on Tuesday to help consider a petition from Jammeh’s party challenging the election that Barrow won. Gambia’s Supreme Court has been dormant for over a year and has only one sitting judge, Chief Justice Emmanuel O. Fagbenle.

“Our Justices are usually scheduled to sit in your Supreme Court in the months of May and November,” Nigeria’s Acting Chief Justice W.S.N. Onnoghen wrote to Fagbenle in a letter dated Jan. 5. “I regret to inform you that the re-scheduled date for this sitting session of your Supreme Court is unfavorable to us as it will greatly affect our schedule and case management.”

Jammeh seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994, but is accused of gross human rights violations that include arbitrary detentions, torture and the killings of his opponents in the country of 1.9 million people.

AP Writer Abdoulie John in Dakar, Senegal contributed.

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