Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - Domestic issues and violence, including the Boko Haram menace and the mass burial of its victims, dominated front pages in Nigeria this week.
The week, the first in February, followed January, which has been aptly described as "A month of fires and raving revolution". It also x-rayed reports of the NUPENG and ASUU strikes, subsidy probe and judgement for the late Kudirat Abiola, wife of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election in Nigeria, Chief M.K.O. Abiola.
"We’ll end the menace, no matter what, Jonathan vows," was the headline in the opposition Nation newspaper which reported that President Goodluck Jonathan on Friday vowed to see to the end of the menace, no matter what it takes, stating in his Facebook page, that his priority was to protect the lives and property of all citizens.
He said: “I want to thank all Nigerians who, through prayers, facebook messages and letters, have encouraged us to remain undaunted in bringing to a close this challenge.
“Every option known to human civilisation, especially the unbiased enforcement of law and order as well as dialogue, will be deployed to find a lasting solution to this present threat. Let me also use this opportunity to thank the men and women who serve our country in various security formations at this trying time. Your sacrifices and duty to Nigeria are greatly appreciated."
In its second story, entitled "Boko Haram: Tambuwal, Sultan to broker dialogue with government", the Nation reported that the Speaker of the House of Repesentatives, Honourable Aminu Tambuwal, and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, are willing to broker dialogue between the Federal Government and the Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
But Tambuwal has predicated such intervention on the readiness of the sect leaders to “reveal their identities”.
He was reacting to a report that the sect had sent a letter to him (which he denied receiving), the Sultan and the Acting Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Lawal Zayannu, to facilitate the release of its detained members. His statement also came against the background of an offer by President Jonathan to discuss peace with the group.
The Punch reported on Saturday, under the headline "Terrorism: FG establishes telephone-monitoring centres", that the Federal Government had taken steps to curtail the raging acts of terrorism in the country by laying the groundwork for effective tracking of calls made within the country, saying that Abuja had procured some modern equipment considered vital to the prosecution of the campaign against terrorism.
The paper said the the centres had been put directly under the office of the National Security Adviser.
Thisday newspaper headlined its story "Soyinka: Religious, Political Forces Driving Boko Haram", quoting the Nigerian nobel laureate Wole Soyinka as saying that both religious and political forces are driving the insurgency by the extremist Islamist sect, Boko Haram, that has killed hundreds of people in Nigeria.
Soyinka, speaking after delivering a lecture at the University of South Africa (UNISA), accused "power-hungry politicians from the North of using indoctrinated young militants, drawn from the ranks of the poor unemployed and educated in Islamic schools" as foot soldiers in a battle over who should control the country.
"Those who unleashed Boko Haram on the nation are politicians. These are the ones behind Boko Haram. Unfortunately, one has to point to what section they come from, and that is the North. This minority is very focused, very powerful, very rich. They used to be in government; they've accumulated billions; they are the ones who unleashed this monster on the nation. They have articulated their conviction that it is their turn to rule Nigeria."
Still on Boko Haram, the papers reported the mass burial, on Wednesday, of the victims of the latest bombing campaign at a Catholic church in Madalla, in Niger State.
The Nation screamed "Tears, anguish at Xmas Day bomb victims’ funeral", reporting that "weeping women, sobbing men, crying kids and angry youths expressed the gloomy picture at the burial of some of the 43 people killed during the Christmas Day bombing.
Some men could no longer control their emotions and troubled women, held firmly by relatives, created a moving scene – after realising that the end had, indeed, come for their fellow parishioners at the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church. In all, 17 bodies were buried in a row of graves in the church’s premises.
The Nation also reported, under the headline "Parishioners boo Emir of Suleja", that the Emir of Suleja, Mallam Awwal Ibrahim, accused of not showing concern on the day of the disaster, was booed at the memorial service.
His entourage was denied access to the premises of the church and sensing the hostility, the emir stayed in his car for two-a-and-half hours while the service was on, despite the reservation of a seat for him in the church.
And the Punch headlined its story "Mourners boo, chase away Emir".
Taking an overview of the violence in the land and other issues this year, the Vanguard headlined its Special Report: "January: A month of fires and raving revolution".
The paper divided the report into many segments.
The Vanguard said "January, 2012 is one month in the year that can never be forgotten in a hurry and consequently, one is tempted to say that never in the recent history has the nation witnessed an orgy of unprecedented irregular fireworks that directly pinched on the masses and in fact, every facet of the country in one way or another."
Tracing the beginning, the paper reported that as many people, especially Christians, were in their churches, thanking God for the triumphant entry into 2012, the Federal Government via the Petroleum Product Price and Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, announced that subsidy on fuel had been jettisoned, subsequently pegging the new pump price of fuel at 141 naira (about US$ 0.9) per liter as the official price.
It said there was a spontaneous reaction against the federal government's decision which many said was to strangulate Nigerians and so, vowing to resist the New Year gift, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress and Civil Society Groups made an official statement to fight till the price was reversed. This ushered in the the National Strike (Between January 9 and 16). In the end, President Jonathan reduced the price to 97 naira per litre.
The Vanguard said: "Put simply, killings and bombings heralded the New Year as the Boko Haram Insurgence and Killings persisted throughout the month of January."
The paper said: "Many Nigerians were happy when news filtered that Kabiru Umar, alias Sokoto, the alleged kingpin of Boko Haram and mastermind of the Christmas Day bombing was arrested at the Borno State Governor’s lodge in Abuja by the Nigerian Police.
"This was a huge success for the Police but just when Nigerians could settle with the news, another piece of disturbing news came that Sokoto had escaped form the Police grip."
Irked by the negligence of the police in such a sensitive case, the Presidency gave the former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim, 24 hours to bring Sokoto or face dismissal. Mr. Zakari Bui, a Commissioner of Police under whose watch Sokoto escaped was also confined to house arrest.
But that was not to come as Sokoto still remains at large. Making good its threat, the Presidency on 18 January, 2012, fired Ringim and replaced him with Mohammed Dikko Abubarkar.
Still on violence, the Guardian, Nation, Punch and Thisday all reported the end of the gruelling strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) which went on for 59 days over a disagreement with government on a number of issues, including the funding of universities.
The Guardian headline was "ASUU ends strike, govt hails action"; the Nation (ASUU calls off strike); the Punch (ASUU suspends eight-week strike) and Thisday (Relief as ASUU, NUPENG Suspend Strike).
According to Thisday, "Relief came to Nigerians as ASUU and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), which called its members out on strike, suspended their industrial actions."
ASUU suspended its action after two months, with a call on the Federal Government “to fulfil its obligation in respect of funding and all other matters contained in its offers”.
ASUU President, Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie, who briefed journalists in Abuja on Thursday, said the Federal Government, at the end of the discussions, communicated its position vide a letter dated January 24, which was considered by all its branches nationwide.
Government pledged to immediately stimulate the process with the sum of 100 billion naira and promised to build this up to a yearly sum of 400 billion naira in the next three years, but indicated that "these interventions will be based on identified prioritised needs".
In suspending its action, which was declared on Tuesday, NUPENG directed its Petrol Tanker Drivers’ (PTD) section to immediately commence the lifting of petroleum products across the country.
Their industrial action was in protest against alleged illegal deductions of 4,896,000 naira from the salaries of workers by the management of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC). The union alleged that the deductions were made without the consent of workers.
The union also accused the management of Shell of conniving with the suspended branch executive particularly the Chairman, Mr. Fidelis Okandeji, whom NUPENG accused of anti-union activities including the recent sale of some oil blocks without the knowledge of the national head office.
On subsidy probe, the Vanguard headlined its story "Subsidy probe: Reps threaten oil firms’ CEOs over non-appearance". The paper said the House of Representatives on Thursday threatened Managing Directors and Chief Executive Officers of the major oil companies who failed to show up before its investigative panel on fuel subsidy regime.
The adhoc committee had declared that all CEOs should appear before the panel in person and not through any proxy henceforth.
"Fuel subsidy probe: Major oil marketers' MDs/CEOs go into hiding as EFCC, ICPC, SSS lay siege on venue", was the headline of the Tribune.
It said big time importers involved in the oil subsidy regime, currently being probed by the House of Representatives ad hoc committee, may be in for serious trouble in the days ahead as operatives of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the State Security Service (SSS) have laid siege on the venue of the probe panel in the National Assembly taking records of proceedings and submissions of the representatives of the agencies and companies involved.
Thisday quoted the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, as warning that those found culpable in the ongoing probe of the entire subsidy saga in the downstream sector of the petroleum industry would be punished in line with the provisions of the law.
Earlier in the week, the papers were awash with the ruling from a Lagos High Court following the tortuous legal battle and the long wait for justice over the murder of Alhaja Kudirat Olayinka Abiola which ended on Monday.
And the verdict was the death sentence for the two accused persons -- Hamza Al-Mustapha, former Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the late head of state, Gen. Sani Abacha, and the victim’s personal aide, Lateef Shofolahan.
The Guardian, with the headline "Abacha era in focus as Al-Mustapha, Shofolahan get death sentence", said it took Justice Mojisola Dada almost seven hours to deliver the judgment as security agents kept sentry.
"Al-Mustapha to die for Kudirat’s murder" and "Al-Mustapha, Sofolahan fault judgment" were the two headlines in the Nation on Tuesday. The paper said Al-Mustapha and Sofolahan have appealed Monday’s judgment which sentenced them to death by hanging.
The Sun simply called it "Al-Mustapha to die by hanging" while the Punch headlined its story "Al-Mustapha, Shofolahan appeal death sentence".
-0- PANA VAO/MA 4Feb2012