Archive for November 2, 2017


OCTOBER 22, 2017

Government has accepted offers by the Turkish authorities to set up new schools and hospitals in Nigeria.

Malam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, confirmed this development in a special feature tagged; Key Takeaways from President Muhammadu Buhari’s 4-day engagement in Turkey.

The Government of Turkey, on July 28, 2016, had alerted the Federal Government on the existence of schools and hospitals owned by suspected “terrorists” in Nigeria and demanded that the facilities be shut down.

The Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Hakan Cakil, who gave the alert when he received the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Shehu Sani, said the owners of the schools allegedly sponsored the July 15, 2016 failed coup in Turkey.

Cakil said the institutions, which ranged from schools to hospitals, were allegedly owned by the Fethullah Gulen Foundation, adding that similar schools established in Turkey had been shut down.

The presidential aide, however, stated that a new investor, the Maarif Foundation for education was introduced to the Nigerian delegation to take up the establishment of schools and hospitals in Nigeria.

He disclosed that a delegation from the foundation would visit Nigeria to commence the process of registration as well as following the procedures of establishing the new schools.

“The two countries agreed to expand cooperation in exchange of scholars, exchange of students and exchange/sharing of ideas, skills and education technology and to improve scholarships for Nigerians to study in Turkey,’’ he added.

Shehu revealed that Nigeria and Turkey also agreed to resolve the issues relating to Nigerian students in Turkish universities that were facing exclusion due to visa challenges.

He said: “Nigeria and Turkey have equally agreed to strengthen and promote investments in health institutions and this, as promised by the President will proceed quickly.

“That is as soon as the details of the various agreements reached in the bilateral discussions are laid on his table.”

On defense, the presidential spokesman said the two countries agreed to strengthen defense and military cooperation initiated a few years ago.

“This had already led to the establishment of the Defense section in the Turkish Embassy, Abuja in 2013 and Nigeria’s Defense section in Ankara in 2016.

“In the latest rounds of discussions, Nigeria and Turkey penned an agreement on military training,’’ he said.

Shehu said the two countries also agreed to collaborate towards the upgrading of the Defense Industries Corporation (DIC) in Kaduna into a Military Industrial Complex of Nigeria.

He said that two Turkish companies were already collaborating with the DIC in the production of arms and ammunition.

“Of the two companies, one is establishing a rifles production line and the supply of raw materials, technical assistance and training.

“The second one is partnering the DIC in the conceptualization, designing, consulting, invention, manufacturing, marketing, sale, exportation and sale of military industrial products.”

On the just concluded ninth summit of the D-8 member countries, Shehu said the members also used the event to mark the 20th Anniversary of the organization.

He said the event witnessed the handover of the baton of its leadership from the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Sahid Khaqan Abbasi to President Recep Tayyep Erdogan of Turkey.

“At the end of the Summit, the Heads of State and Government adopted a communique which spelt out the direction of the organization for the coming two years under Turkey.’’

Source: Vanguard.

Link: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/10/gov-tambuwal-appoints-committee-sale-govt-quarters/.

OCTOBER 19, 2017

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday vowed to ramp up security and and economic cooperation between Ankara and Africa’s most populous nation.

Speaking after talks at Erdogan’s palace, Buhari and the Turkish leader vowed to increase investment and cooperate in the fight against extremist groups including Boko Haram jihadists.

“There are a lot of potentialities in terms of investment. Already a lot is being done in the education and the health sectors,” said Buhari.

“This will be strengthened and Nigeria is prepared to receive Turkish business people to come and explore more of Nigeria’s potentialities,” he added.

Erdogan said he believed both sides would push trade volumes above $1.245 billion. “Turkish business people are ready to take on the development of Nigeria,” he said.

At a time of tense relations with the European Union and the United States, Turkey has been moving to broaden its influence in Africa, opening new diplomatic missions and air links.

Erdogan has himself been a frequent visitor to the continent, most recently travelling to Tanzania, Mozambique and Madagascar in January.

Erdogan said Turkey saw no difference between Boko Haram and Islamic State (IS) and the group of the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen blamed for the 2016 failed coup.

“These organizations are the killers who feed off the blood of the innocent,” he said. Asked how Turkey could help Nigeria defeat Boko Haram, Erdogan replied that intelligence cooperation was of the utmost importance.

Boko Haram’s quest to establish a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria has left at least 20,000 dead and threatened regional security.

Buhari will on Friday travel to Istanbul to attend a summit of the Developing-8 (D-8), a grouping of growing mainly-Muslim countries first envisaged by Erdogan’s late political mentor and former Turkish premier Necmettin Erbakan.

It comprises Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey.

Source: Vanguard.

Link: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/10/erdogan-buhari-ramp-nigeria-turkey-cooperation/.

October 13, 2017

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — A Nigerian court has convicted 45 Boko Haram members in the largest mass trial in the Islamic extremist group’s history. The closed-door proceedings have raised the concerns of human rights groups about whether the trials of the 1,669 people will be fair.

These are the first results of the mass trials that began early this week at a military barracks in northern Nigeria. The judges are drafted from civil courts, while the barracks are being used for security reasons.

The 45 people were sentenced to between three and 31 years in prison, the country’s information minister said in a statement Friday. Another 468 suspects were released, but the court ordered that they undergo deradicalization programs.

The government has not said what exactly the hundreds of suspects are charged with. Nigeria is trying to show it is making progress against the extremist group that has killed more than 20,000 people during its eight-year insurgency. Boko Haram has yet to comment publicly on the mass trials.

Nigeria has arrested thousands of suspected Boko Haram members in recent years, and military detention facilities are overcrowded. Human rights groups say most of those detained have been picked up at random and without reasonable suspicion, including women and children.

Former detainees have described malnutrition, mistreatment and deaths in the facilities. Boko Haram’s attacks have spilled into neighboring countries and displaced more than 2.4 million people in the Lake Chad region, creating a vast humanitarian crisis. Some fighters have allied with the Islamic State group.

While Nigeria’s military has arrested many Boko Haram top fighters and last year declared the extremist group had been “crushed,” leader Abubakar Shekau remains elusive. The group in recent months has carried out a growing number of deadly suicide bombings and other attacks, many carried out by women or children.

October 13, 2017

PARIS (AP) — The election of UNESCO’s new chief has been narrowed down to two candidates, one from Qatar and the other from France. The winner to be selected on Friday will succeed outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova, whose 8-year term leading the U.N. cultural agency was marred by financial woes and criticism over Palestine’s inclusion as a member.

The final vote comes the day after the U.S. and Israel said they plan to pull out of the Paris-based organization over perceived anti-Israel bias. Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari and France’s Audrey Azoulay are vying to get the needed 30 votes from UNESCO’s executive board.

Arab countries have long wanted to lead the organization, but the Palestine issue has complicated the election. UNESCO’s general assembly will have to sign off on the board’s pick.

October 26, 2017

Several Israeli companies are in talks with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia about business opportunities in the Kingdom’s new “smart city”, according to documents obtained by the Jerusalem Post.

The Israeli daily claims to have seen correspondence confirming economic cooperation between Arab diplomats and businessmen in Tel Aviv; Israeli firms will reportedly be competing under the table for billion-dollar contracts from the Saudi government.

“The Saudis are not so willing to cooperate with the Israelis formally, but … it’s much easier to create all kinds of cooperation on water, energy, ag-tech, food tech. This is the stuff that the prince of Saudi Arabia [Mohammed Bin Salman] wants to promote in the smart city,” said a source in Israeli venture capital who is familiar with the project.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia officially launched the NEOM, a developmental project to create an economic zone spanning the country and parts of Egypt and Jordan. Designed to free the Kingdom of its dependency on oil, it will focus on industries including water, biotechnology, food, advanced manufacturing and entertainment; at an estimated cost of $500 billion.

The project is part of Bin Salman’s 2030 economic vision for the country, which he has also promised will come with modernization.

The news comes amid increased rumors of a burgeoning relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel; causing controversy in recent weeks. The normalizing of relations between the two countries remains a proposal that has repeatedly been rejected by the Saudi public.

Yesterday Major General Anwar Bin Majed Bin Anwar Eshki, a former government advisor, was reported to have confirmed suspected relations when he said diplomatic and intelligence cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Israel were solely based on non-political matters.

Last week, Israeli officials also confirmed that Bin Salman had secretly visited Tel Aviv in September. The suggestion was vehemently denied by Saudi officials who insist that settling the Palestinian issue must take place before any normalization of relations.

Last month, leaked documents by the Twitter account Mujtahidd spoke of the country’s plans to “accept Israel as a brotherly state”, causing widespread controversy. The rumors were again denied by state officials. But recent months have witnessed an informal economic rapprochement between Riyadh and Tel Aviv, with former Saudi businessmen and former senior officials visiting Israel.

Israel has also supported the current blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt on Qatar. Tel Aviv has repeatedly called on Doha not to host prominent Palestinian figures, a view now shared by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171026-israel-companies-in-talks-to-invest-in-saudi-arabias-smart-city/.

13.10.2017

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticized a landmark reconciliation agreement hammered out this week in Cairo between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, claiming the deal would “make it harder to achieve peace”.

“Israel opposes any [Palestinian national] reconciliation in which the terrorist organization Hamas does not disarm and end its war to destroy Israel,” Netanyahu declared late Thursday on his official Facebook page.

“Reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas makes peace much harder to achieve; it is part of the problem, not part of the solution,” he said.

Naftali Bennett, Israel’s hardline education minister, also blasted the deal, saying: “The Palestinians today [Thursday] decided to form a terror government.”

He went on to assert that, by partnering with Hamas, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — who serves as chairman of both Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA) — “turns the PA into a terror authority”.

“Israel must sever any connection to this terror authority,” Bennet said in a statement carried by the Times of Israel news website. “From now, any Israeli cooperation with Abbas is cooperation with Hamas.”

He added: “This must be said ahead of expected international pressure to resume [Israel-Palestine] negotiations in light of the Palestinian agreement.”

Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz also slammed the reconciliation deal, describing it as “a convenient cover for Hamas to continue its… activity as a terror organization while relinquishing civilian responsibility for the Gaza Strip”.

On Thursday, Hamas and Fatah signed a landmark reconciliation agreement in Cairo aimed at ending ten years of deep inter-Palestinian political division.

Under the deal, the Ramallah-based Palestinian unity government will assume political and administrative responsibility for the Gaza Strip no later than Dec. 1.

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip have remained politically and administratively divided since 2007, when Hamas wrested control of the strip from Fatah following several days of bloody street fighting.

Hamas’s capture of Gaza in 2007 ended an earlier — if short-lived — unity government established after Hamas swept 2006 Palestinian legislative polls.

Source: Anadolu Agency.

Link: http://aa.com.tr/en/politics/israeli-pm-blasts-palestinian-reconciliation-agreement/934916.

October 18, 2017

BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar security forces killed hundreds of men, women and children during a systematic campaign to expel Rohingya Muslims, Amnesty International said in a new report Wednesday that calls for an arms embargo on the country and criminal prosecution of the perpetrators.

More than 580,000 refugees have arrived in Bangladesh since Aug. 25, when Myanmar security forces began a scorched-earth campaign against Rohingya villages. Myanmar’s government has said it was responding to attacks by Muslim insurgents, but the United Nations and others have said the response was disproportionate.

The continuing exodus of Rohingya Muslims has become a major humanitarian crisis and sparked international condemnation of Buddhist-majority Myanmar, which still denies atrocities are taking place. Based on interviews with more than 120 fleeing Rohingya, Amnesty International said at least hundreds of people were killed by security forces who surrounded villages, shot fleeing inhabitants and then set buildings alight, burning to death the elderly, sick and disabled who were unable to flee.

In some villages, women and girls were raped or subjected to other sexual violence, according to the report. The witnesses repeatedly described an insignia on their attackers’ uniforms that matched one worn by troops from Myanmar’s Western Command, Amnesty International said.

When shown various insignia used by Myanmar’s army, witnesses consistently picked out the Western Command patch, it said. The 33rd Light Infantry Division and border police, who wear a distinctive blue camouflage uniform, were also frequently involved in attacks on villages, along with Buddhist vigilante mobs, witnesses said.

Matthew Wells, an Amnesty crisis researcher who spent several weeks at the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, said the rights group plans to issue another report in the coming months examining individual criminal responsibility, including specific commanders and others that may be involved in abuses.

He said hundreds of Rohingya have been treated for gunshot wounds and doctors say that the injuries are consistent with people being shot from behind as they fled. There were credible indications that a total of several hundred people had been killed in just five villages that were the focus of Amnesty’s reporting. Wells said that given that dozens of villages across northern Rakhine State have been targeted in a similar fashion, the death toll could be much higher.

He said satellite imagery, corroborated by witness accounts, show that Rohingya homes and mosques have been burned entirely in villages, while non-Rohingya areas just one or two hundred yards (meters) away were untouched.

“It speaks to how organized, how seemingly well-planned this scorched-earth campaign has been by the Myanmar military and how determined the effort has been to drive the Rohingya population out of the country,” Wells said.

Among almost two dozen recommendations, the human rights group called for the U.N. Security Council to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Myanmar and financial sanctions against senior officials responsible for violations that Amnesty says meet the criteria for crimes against humanity.

It said the council should explore options for bringing the perpetrators to justice under international law if Myanmar authorities do not act swiftly. “It is time for the international community to move beyond public outcry and take action to end the campaign of violence that has driven more than half the Rohingya population out of Myanmar,” Amnesty said.

Witnesses and a drone video shot Monday by the U.N. refugee agency show that Rohingya are continuing to flee persecution in Myanmar and crossing into Bangladesh. The video showed thousands upon thousands of Rohingya trudging along a narrow strip of land alongside what appears to a rain-swollen creek in the Palong Khali area in southern Bangladesh. The line of refugees stretches for a few kilometers (miles).

The new wave of refugees started crossing the border over the weekend, witnesses said. An Associated Press photographer saw thousands of newcomers near one border crossing Tuesday. Several said that they were stopped by Bangladeshi border guards and spent the night in muddy rice fields.

Nearly 60 percent of the refugees are children. The U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, warned Tuesday that without immediate additional funding, it will not be able to continue providing life-saving aid and protection to Rohingya children. UNICEF said it has received just 7 percent of the $76 million it needs.

On Aug. 25, a Rohingya insurgent group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked at least 30 security posts on Aug. 25, causing dozens of casualties, according to Myanmar authorities. The brutal attacks against Rohingya that followed have been described by the U.N. as “textbook ethnic cleansing.”

Buddhist-majority Myanmar has denied citizenship for the Rohingya since 1982 and excludes them from the 135 ethnic groups officially recognized, which effectively renders them stateless. They have long faced discrimination and persecution with many Buddhists in Myanmar calling them “Bengalis” and saying they migrated illegally from Bangladesh, even though they have lived in the country for generations.

AP journalists Matthew Pennington and Dar Yasin in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh contributed to this report.