Saturday, March 25, 2017

Yemen War Runs Into Stalemate As Goal of Military Intervention Unclear
2017/3/25 7:16:23

As war has been continuing in Yemen for two years since a Saudi-led military intervention, observers started to argue that the goal of the military intervention became unclear, resulting in no military victory yet.

According to media reports quoting spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition, Ahmed Al-Asiri, the coalition has carried out 90,000 airstrikes since March 26, 2015.

The consequences of the civil war and the airstrikes are catastrophic as the UN said that Yemen has the world's largest humanitarian crisis since 1945, besides the fact that the war has taken a huge toll on civilians.

The goal of the Saudi-led military intervention was said to be restoring the legitimacy of the Yemeni internationally recognized government ousted by the Houthi militia with support from forces loyal to the former president, which won't take long.

But now as the war has been continuing for two years, no sign shows it will come to an end soon, and the government still can't resume its activities inside the country.

Adil Al-Shuja'a, a politics professor at Sanaa University, said that "the Saudi-led coalition does not have a strategic and clear goal from the war in Yemen. It seems Saudi Arabia has been focused on an ideological war with the Zaidi sect which is controlling north Yemen, not on a war for the legitimacy of Yemen."

"Such a confusion makes Saudi Arabia sometimes think of a victory through tough demands for the Houthi-Saleh alliance including that this alliance hands over the capital Sanaa and takes a strict stance toward Iran," he added.

Al-Shuja'a saw the alliance between the General People's Congress and the Houthi group really complicated, which means Saudi demands can't be met at least by one of the two parties of the alliance, if not both.

The Saudi-led coalition of five Gulf Coorperation Council states has been receiving logistical and intelligence support from the US, Britain and other western and Islamic countries.

Yaseen Al-Tamimi, a political writer and analyst, said that "conflicting goals of member countries within the Saudi-led coalition represent a challenge to bringing an end to the war. While the coalition should focus on retaking the capital Sanaa, some of its members have placed a bet on the coup forces and then shifted their war on factions fighting them."

The US and Britain have been playing key roles in the war on Yemen either through logistical and intelligence support or arms sales to coalition members.

Yemeni observers argued that the US has been engaged in war strategies as well as it is backing the coalition to target and weaken factions backing the government on allegations of their links to Al-Qaida. "The US role is one of the key reasons for failure or slowness to achieve a military victory," Al-Tamimi said.

Ahmed Noman, an expert at the Red Sea and East Africa Research Center, said confluence of local, regional and international factors and confusion is to blame for the prolonged war in Yemen.

Locally, observers said the factions have been taking advantage of the chaos as well as regional and international interventions to exhaust each other.

Noman said that the most important problem lies in the many slogans and disagreements among popular pro-government resistance factions.

"There is not good war planning and coordination among them. There is treason by some pro-government factions which have been putting their own interests and interests of their political parties ahead of winning a war for the country," Noman added.

Noman also said that "the coalition will not give up this war until all goals are met topped by retaking the capital Sanaa and defeating Iran."

Internationally, observers believe that key countries engaged in Yemen war are now afraid of Islamists and Jihadists who have been strengthened by the chaos.

The US and Britain, are seeking to exhaust all factions, said Noman, adding that they want the war to continue "because they will never accept that Islamists take the lead in the future."

"They will continue to fuel the war until they find a better alternative to the defeated factions," he said.
Black Lives Matter Advocates ‘Self-Defense’ After White Supremacist Kills Black Man in Manhattan
By Madina Toure
03/25/17 10:00am

Members of Black Lives Matter New York at a rally to honor Timothy Caughman, a black man who was murdered by a white supremacist. Madina Toure/Observer

The president of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York called upon the African-American community to sign up for the organization’s self-defense classes after a white supremacist traveled from Maryland to New York City to murder a 66-year-old black man in Midtown Manhattan.

Army veteran James Harris Jackson was charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime after he stabbed Queens native Timothy Caughman to death with a sword on 36th Street and 9th Avenue on Monday, according to the New York Times. Jackson, who turned himself in Wednesday, said he traveled to the city to kill a black man because he felt the act would receive significant media coverage there.

At a protest last night, Hawk Newsome, president of the New York BLM chapter, said his organization will host free self-defense classes this summer and distribute literature in all five boroughs to inform people of “exactly what’s going on.”

“If you love black people, help spread that word. I don’t care about [President Donald] Trump, I care about my community, OK,” Newsome said, linking Caughman’s killing to the disappearances of minority girls in the nation’s capital. “I can’t fix Washington, D.C. but I can try my hardest to fix what’s happening here in New York. Now let’s talk about why we’re here. We’re talking about hate that’s winning right now. Hate is winning, and what I’m telling you is you have to defend yourself against this hate.”

He said that he is tired of people promoting “all the negativity in this world” being promoted as “good” and “comical.”

“We must take a stand now and say, ‘That’s wrong,'” Newsome continued. “We must have courage to say, ‘That’s wrong’ because I don’t who was out here, right, but let me tell you something—we start loving each other and protecting each other and you see Timothy Caughman being murdered right there, you jump in and you help that man.”

Indeed, he argued that blacks needed to prepare to respond to increasing proliferation and prominence of hate groups—”racial terrorists”—following the election.

“When Donald Trump won, there was a KKK rally to celebrate,” Newsome added. “These folks are coming together and if you don’t take anything away from this tonight, you have to put down your differences and come together to fight back. The oppressor is organized, okay, and he has his henchmen that go around and carrying out these heinous attacks. We have to come together and protect one another.”

Newsome also called on attendees to show up to Jackson’s court appearance on Monday morning, saying that there was a “complete and total lack of community” at Jackson’s first court appearance.

Newsome and other BLM New York members marched to the spot where Caughman was murdered after the rally and march organized by Justice League NYC and Resist Here concluded at Herald Square. BLM members yelled, “Fuck the police!” as NYPD members escorting them looked on uncomfortably.

The rally, which started in Union Square, included speeches from Nelini Stamp, an organizer with the Working Families Party; Carmen Perez, Justice League NYC’s founder, and Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour, co-chairwoman of the Women’s March on Washington and Jason Walker, an HIV/AIDS organizer for VOCAL-NY.

Speakers complained of a lack of accountability in the NYPD and said that Trump further fostered an environment of hate. But they maintained that white supremacy has always been a part of the nation’s fabric—and that they have to come together and fight back against it.

Walker also said Caughman was “murdered again by the media,” referring to coverage of Caughman’s criminal history, which the City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus also blasted.

“We have to address the systemic institutionalized racism that permeates through society from everyone to this man that got on the bus up here to the NYPD to the Daily News to this presidential administration,” Walker said. “They all are to blame for setting this tone. They killed not only a brother but a potential leader in my movement to end homelessness. I organize homeless folks living with not only with HIV but homeless folks who have been ignored by this society.”

The protesters refused to utter Jackson’s name. Stamp, who was teary-eyed and emotional, asked all the black attendees to utter the phrase, “I am somebody and I deserve full equality right here, right now!” in unison.

When the march kicked off, protesters sang, “Mama, mama, can’t you see? What they did to Timothy.” Protesters chanted, “If we don’t get it, shut it down!,” “We must love and protect each other!” and “It is our duty to fight for our freedom! It is our duty to win!”

At one point, a white man told them to “go back to your country” and organizers instructed marchers to ignore him. When stuck up his middle finger at the marchers, police officers escorting the marchers took him away and marchers shouted, “Black lives matter!” at him.

Earlier today, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and the Anti-Defamation League led an emergency community response from men of color and allies. Bronx Councilman Andy King suggested that Jackson receive the death penalty.

Brooklyn Councilman Robert Cornegy, co-chair of the BLAC, held a press conference at City Hall demanding a targeted response from the NYPD to the murder.
U.S.-Led Coalition Confirms Strikes Hit Mosul Site Where Civilians Died
New York Times
MARCH 25, 2017

WASHINGTON — The American-led military coalition in Iraq said Saturday that an initial review of recent airstrikes in Mosul, the Islamic State’s last stronghold in Iraq, had confirmed that the strikes hit a site where scores of civilians were killed.

The inquiry, military officials said, found that a building had collapsed a few days after strikes by American forces. United States officials are seeking to determine whether the airstrikes brought down the building, leaving many Iraqis dead, or the Islamic State used the strikes as an opportunity to detonate an explosive in the building.

The Pentagon had acknowledged on Friday that it was investigating reports that its airstrikes had caused deaths in Mosul. The next phase of the investigation, military officials said, is likely to take about three weeks.

The March 17 airstrikes — which Iraqis said had led to the deaths of possibly 200 people — could have produced among the highest civilian death tolls in an American air mission since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.

The reports of heavy civilian casualties have come at a critical point in the military campaign to defeat the Islamic State. Iraqi officials said that the Trump administration had appeared to loosen restrictions on the rules of engagement, making it easier for the Iraqis to call in airstrikes. The Iraqis had been frustrated by the Obama administration’s deliberate approach.

Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the rules had not been loosened.

The coalition said in a statement on Saturday that the airstrikes had been conducted “at the request of the Iraqi security forces,” and that it believed it was hitting Islamic State fighters and equipment.

“The coalition respects human life, which is why we are assisting our Iraqi partner forces in their effort to liberate their lands from ISIS brutality,” the statement said. “Our goal has always been for zero civilian casualties, but the coalition will not abandon our commitment to our Iraqi partners because of ISIS’s inhuman tactics terrorizing civilians, using human shields, and fighting from protected sites such as schools, hospitals, religious sites and civilian neighborhoods.”

It added: “Coalition forces work diligently and deliberately to be precise in our airstrikes. Coalition forces comply with the Law of Armed Conflict and take all reasonable precautions during the planning and execution of airstrikes to reduce the risk of harm to civilians.”

The civilian deaths occurred in the recently liberated neighborhood of Mosul Jidideh, and reports of mass casualties began emerging on Thursday, six days after the coalition said it had struck the area. That lapse may have been a result of delays in getting rescue workers to the area, some of whom traveled from Baghdad, 250 miles away.

Iraqis on Saturday continued to pull bodies from the rubble, as families held hastily arranged funerals for the victims, some of whom were buried in mass graves, shrouded by blue tarpaulins, according to photographs and videos shared on social media.

In one video, Basma Basim, the head of Mosul’s provincial council, stood in front of destroyed buildings where the strikes occurred and said that dozens “of innocent women, men, old men and children’s bodies, are in these homes and shops behind me — we couldn’t save them.”

She added, “All the men I met had a wife, sister or children buried under the rubble, at least 20 persons died for each.”

The battle for Mosul, now in its sixth month, has taken a heavy toll on civilians, with the Islamic State gathering civilians to use as human shields and, lately, with reports of growing numbers of deaths from airstrikes.

The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said in a statement that more than 3,800 civilians had been killed in the battle for western Mosul, which began in January. On the eastern side of the city, which was declared liberated in January after months of fighting, 2,190 civilians were killed, the group said.

In a statement on Saturday, Lise Grande, the United Nations’ top humanitarian official for Iraq, said, “We are stunned by this terrible loss of life and wish to express our deepest condolences to the many families who have reportedly been impacted by this tragedy.”

She added: “Parties to the conflict — all parties — are obliged to do everything possible to protect civilians. This means that combatants cannot use people as human shields and cannot imperil lives through indiscriminate use of firepower.”

Iraq’s Ministry of Defense, which works closely with the American military, broke two days of silence on Saturday when it said that it was opening an investigation into the civilian deaths. At the same time, the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Salim al-Jubouri, ordered commanders of Iraq’s security forces to give lawmakers a report on the matter and to appear before the assembly.

Michael S. Schmidt reported from Washington, and Tim Arango from Erbil, Iraq. Helene Cooper contributed reporting from Washington.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

SADC Region Seeks to Accelerate Industrialization Amid Challenges in Mining and Energy
Swaziland summit discusses economic crises in the sub-continent

Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

A one day Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was held on March 18 at the Mandvulo Grand Hall in the Kingdom of Swaziland. Three days prior to the summit a gathering of the Council of Ministers of the region convened.

The summit adopted the Report of the Ministerial Task Force on Regional Economic Integration drafted two years earlier. This program would foster coordinated efforts in this regard through 2063.

A communique issued at the conclusion of the meeting said: “Summit approved the resolutions of the Strategic Ministerial Retreat on the Regional Integration, which was held on 12th – 14th March 2017 under the theme: ‘The SADC we want.’ The Retreat was to take stock of what
SADC has achieved since its establishment in 1980, the challenges it was facing and what needed to be done to accelerate the pace and level of the SADC integration agenda. In this regard, the Summit noted the recommendations of the Ministerial Retreat and directed the Secretariat to develop an implementation plan and roadmap of the Conclusions of the Strategic Ministerial Retreat for its consideration in August 2017.” (, March 18)
In the opening address King Mswati III emphasized the necessity for regional member-states to engage in a strategic approach aimed at realizing economic development for people in Southern Africa. The Monarch said "If we join hands as member states in the implementation of various development projects, I am sure unemployment and poverty will go down in our countries.”

The SADC was formed 37 years ago as the Southern African Development Coordinating Conference (SADCC) during the escalating struggle against white-minority rule in Namibia and South Africa. The apartheid regime through its military and economic dominance of the sub-continent sought to strangle genuine economic development by regional states in an effort to halt the-then forward trajectory of the national liberation struggles and their supporters throughout the region.  In 1992, during a meeting in the newly-independent Republic of Namibia, the regional body changed its name to the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Recent challenges emanates from the decline in commodity prices, the shortage of foreign exchange, slowing international investment and the profound impact of El Nino, rendering agricultural production and economic growth at a standstill. The continued reliance on revenue garnered through the export of agricultural products and strategic minerals seriously hampers the capacity for regional integration and industrialization.

Zimbabwe, the Diamond Sector and Lingering Sanctions

President Robert Mugabe of the Republic of Zimbabwe was in attendance at the summit in Swaziland. The former SADC chair endorsed the regional integration program which was initiated under his leadership two years ago.

Zimbabwe Minister of Industry and Commerce Mike Bimha was quoted in The Sunday Mail (March 19) saying the plan would prove to be a positive step in the march towards industrialization throughout the nations of the 14-member organization.  Bimha recalled: “Just to take you back to 2015 when there was a special summit here in Harare when the Heads of State and Government approved the industrialization strategy and roadmap for SADC. And at last year’s SADC summit in Swaziland, Secretariat was tasked to look into implementation of that strategy and roadmap and also look into the costed action plan; in simple words, it means coming up with a budget. For the first 15 years the action plan looks at a budget of about US$112 million; now that is more on the focus on activities that have to be done at regional levels.”

This country still reeling from the compounded effects of nearly two decades of economic sanctions and an unprecedented drought, also was forced during February 2016 to close down its diamond mining facilities. Unsatisfied with the operations of the mines which were co-managed with foreign firms, the government announced the establishment of a Zimbabwe Diamond Consolidated Company to reorganize the sector.

Another article in the March 19 Sunday Mail notes: “Zimbabwe’s diamond sector has received the much needed boost after Government struck a resumption of operations agreement with some companies in Chiadzwa that had earlier blocked Zimbabwe Diamond Consolidated Company (ZCDC) mining activities through court action. Diamond production at Chiadzwa had plummeted to an all-time low as production at the three mines owned by Anjin, Jinan and Mbada stopped after the firms contested Government’s consolidation plan.”

Zambia Copper Mines Lose Energy Stifling Investment

The profitability of the mining industry in Zambia is being severely curtailed by the decline in the power generating resources inside the country. Zambia over the last few years has experienced serious shortfalls in the energy generating sector. ZESCO, the state-owned national energy agency, has been forced to ration power to consumers within the mining sector and across the board.

Nathan Chishimba, the President of the Chamber of Mines, emphasized that despite several appeals to corporate firms to invest in the energy sector, they have refused due to their inability to reap substantial profits. Consequently, ZESCO imposed tariffs on the mine owners which they have contested in the courts.

ZESCO claims that the mine owners owe the state utilities agency $US276 million in arrears. The firms are questioning whether the assessments are lawful. A decision could determine the short term direction of the mining sector. Zambia is a leading producer of strategic minerals in Africa and the world.

In a recent article by Jeff Kapembwa, he reports: “The mining companies in Zambia consume over 50 percent of the 2,317 megawatts of power generated in the country. The country is second only to the Democratic Republic of Congo in red metal production in Africa, and among the top 10 copper producers in the world. Last year, Zambia rose to seventh position from an initial ninth top global producer, having mined 708,000 tones as at August, with DR Congo having mined 850,000 tones, according to Invest News.” (March 20)

The drought is also a key factor in the lack of power generation. Rolling black outs have extended for as long as 12 hours in one day.

These difficulties would place limitation on the ability to increase industrial capacity nationally as well as on a regional level.

South African Recession Impedes Regional Growth and Integration

The Republic of South Africa, the most industrialized state in the region, is still undergoing an economic recession. The decline in the price of minerals and the employment contractions within the extractive sector has prompted the loss of value in the national currency, the rand.

Negative economic growth rates are prompting the African National Congress (ANC) government to threaten radical reforms including the increase in taxes for the wealthy and the seizure of white-owned agricultural lands without compensation.

Opposition political parties are attempting to discredit the ANC government which is also dealing with divisions over the direction of governmental and economic policy.  As long as South Africa remains in recession the entire SADC region will not be able to effectively launch its comprehensive industrialization and integration plans.

Comprehensive Approach Needed to Tackle Economic Crises

Therefore there is a need to consolidate the approaches to the economic impediments to regional growth and integration. These efforts cannot be viewed independently of the broader international divisions of economic power and labor production.

Dependency upon the demands for primary and secondary industrial products by the western capitalist states can no longer be relied upon as an engine for development. Demand must be generated throughout the region and the continent as a whole.

Agricultural production and equitable economic distribution must be a cornerstone of this regional program. A common currency and joint regional economic planning should be implemented in order to address the shortfalls in energy generation and job creation.  
Somalian Refugees Massacred in the Red Sea off Yemen Coast
United States engineered war of genocide encompasses contiguous nations and waterways

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Somalian community representatives in Yemen have issued a statement denouncing the brutal killings of 42 people and the injuring of 120 others when their vessel was struck in the Red Sea area near the port city of Hodeida on March 17.

Reports indicate that the deaths were a direct result of an airstrike carried out by the Saudi Arabian-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in a war being waged against the people of Yemen.

These refugees were traveling to the Republic of Sudan utilizing the Bab-el-Mandeb, a strait near Yemen, Djibouti, and Eritrea which joins the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. This area is one of the most lucrative shipping lanes in the world transporting oil, military hardware and other commodities.

The Somalians living in Yemen are demanding that the international community investigates the circumstances surrounding the bombing. In addition, they are urging that those found responsible should be prosecuted for the crimes committed. (Saba News Agency, March 21)

A United States manufactured Apache helicopter attacked the vessel carrying Somalians who were fleeing from the war torn state of Yemen. Since March 2015, the White House and Pentagon has backed a war inside the country to defeat the Popular Committees led by the Ansurallah Movement (Houthis) and allied military forces still loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Over 12,000 people have died over the last two years while tens of thousands of others have been injured. A blockade that often prevents essential supplies reaching the people of Yemen has 3.3 million people facing famine.

Saudi-GCC airstrikes and ground operations have targeted civilians, educational institutions, power stations, communications facilities, water sources and municipal services. The Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has supplied the Saudi-GCC forces with sophisticated air power, refueling technology and geographic coordinates needed to inflect maximum damage on the ground.

The persons on board the vessel were said to have documents in their possession certifying them as displaced persons. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees UNHCR) said of the massacre that the agency was “appalled by this tragic incident, the latest in which civilians continue to disproportionately bear the brunt of conflict in Yemen.”

U.S.-backed Forces Deny Involvement

In response to the charges that the Saudi-GCC Coalition was responsible for the massacre, the alliance in a statement said: “"We are also aware of allegations that the attack was carried out by a helicopter and naval vessel belonging to the Saudi-led coalition. We can confirm the coalition was not responsible for any attack on a refugee boat on Friday (March 17) and ... there was no firing by any coalition forces on Friday in the area of Hudaida.” (Middle East Eye, March 19)

Not only did the U.S.-allied forces deny responsibility they then proposed the port city “be placed immediately under United Nations supervision".  Such an action by the UN would be in contravention of international law since Hodeida is part of Yemeni national territory.

For the UN to enact this suggestion would be tantamount to the colonization of a section of the country.  Saudi Arabia has occupied sections of Yemeni territory in the recent past aimed at curtailing the advances of the Ansurallah movement which they claim are supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Attempting to conceal its political motivations the Saudi-GCC Coalition declared: "This would facilitate the flow of humanitarian supplies to the Yemeni people, while at the same time ending the use of the port for weapons smuggling and people trafficking." Nonetheless, it is well documented that it is the forces loyal to Riyadh which have continued to target civilians in the war and prevent the transport of essential goods and services from reaching millions of people in Yemen.

The Somalian government fresh from electing a new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, is a member of the Coalition which is conducting war against neighboring Yemen. Mogadishu has become an outpost of U.S. and European imperialism which finances, trains and coordinates military operations both inland and offshore in Somalia.

Some 22,000 African Union (AU) troops from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia are patrolling the capital of Mogadishu and other areas in the central and southern regions of the Horn of Africa nation. Pentagon and CIA advisors are embedded in the Somali National Armed Forces and AMISOM units to guarantee the security of the Federal Government which is still waging a war against the Al-Shabaab Islamic movement.

Former Somalian Foreign Minister Abdusalam Omer did not immediately condemn the massacre of his own citizens on March 17. In a statement issued on March 18, Mogadishu said "We call on our partners in the Saudi-led coalition to investigate the raid.”

However, it is unlikely that any substantive investigation into these deaths will occur from Mogadishu, Riyadh or its allies in the Yemen war. During the course of developments since March 2015, the U.S. under both the previous administration of President Barack Obama and his successor Donald Trump, there has been no condemnation of the way in which the war has been carried out by the Saudi-GCC Coalition.

War Continues at Feverish Pace

Meanwhile, the situation in Yemen remains tense and volatile. On March 21 authorities seized a vehicle packed with explosives found traveling on the al Azrakain road north of the capital of Sana’a. (Saba, March 21)

On the same day according to Saba news agency: “A man was killed by a hand grenade in a popular market in Azzan city of Shabwa province. A local official told Saba that an armed man dropped the grenade at the middle of the Qat Market in Azzan, killing the man and injuring 30 others, some of them are critically injured. Shabwa province experiences insecurity in the light of al-Qaeda controls on a number of areas.”

It is the al-Qaeda presence in Yemen which provides another rationale for the escalation of Pentagon military strikes inside the country. In January, a disastrous commando operation authorized by President Trump resulted in the deaths of more than two dozen civilians as well as a Navy Seal in Bayda Province.

Stratfor, the intelligence consultancy firm based in Austin, Texas, said of the escalation in direct airstrikes authorized by Washington claiming to target al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) that: “The United States has carried out around 30 airstrikes against the group in Yemen over the past several days, marking a significant increase in the pace of strikes from the previous year. In fact, the United States only publicly acknowledged carrying out 31 strikes during all of 2016.” (March 6)

New York Times reporters Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt wrote on March 2: “The coordinated series of attacks occurred in three Yemeni provinces — Abyan, Shabwa and Baydha — that have been linked to terrorist activity, according to the Pentagon. The strikes were conducted against targets that had been developed before the January raid, a senior official said.”

Consequently, the war against the people of Yemen has been intensified under the Trump administration. These developments coincide with the increasing role of the Pentagon in Syria which has announced the deployment of additional troops to this embattled state.

 Official pronouncements from the Pentagon say approximately 500 U.S. Special Operations forces are already engaged in Syria ostensibly supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near Raqaa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State.  An additional 250 Rangers and 200 Marines are reportedly in the same area.

Trump has ordered Secretary of Defense James Mattis to draft a plan to place even more troops in Syria by the end of March. These troops could come from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit transported by warships harboring 2,200 Marines currently moving in the direction of Syria along with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, which has 2,500 troops en route to Kuwait.
Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Delivers Interview with RT Worldwide Satellite News Network: 'Saudi Arabia Nervous Over Passage of 9/11 Legislation'
22 Mar, 2017 17:58

The so-called war on terrorism waged by three successive administrations represents the cornerstone of US foreign and military policy. There are still serious questions about 9/11 nearly 16 years later, says Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire.

Families of 9/11 victims have filed a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia, accusing its officials of aiding the terrorists. Riyadh is being blamed for funding Al-Qaeda and the hijackers involved in the tragedy.

Lawsuits like this one were made possible due to a bill the US Congress passed last year.

RT: The families of 9/11 victims are suing Saudi Arabia. Where do you see this heading? Can they win the case?

Abayomi Azikiwe: It remains to be seen. I am sure the Saudi government is going to use all of its resources to prevent the suit from moving forward. They even apparently hired a group that appeared to be a veterans advocacy organization to fly a number of veterans out to Washington, DC, they stayed at the Trump International Hotels. They were put up in $500-plus-a-night rooms. They were encouraged to go to Congress to lobby against this bill or either ask for revisions in the bill. This is an issue that remains unsettled in the US nearly 16 years later. There are still serious questions about Saudi involvement in the hijackings and the crashing into the World Trade Center, as well as the Pentagon, and the fourth plane which went down in Pennsylvania.

RT: What sort of retaliation do you expect from the Saudis?

AA: I think they have to be careful with public opinion being against them here in the US, and with the remaining curiosity related to actually solving the origins of the 9/11 attacks. They are going to have to be very careful in how they proceed even within the legal system. There had been an article that was published in the New York Post which indicates that they are very nervous about the passage of this bill and at the same time they are very concerned about where this lawsuit is going to lead.

In a court of law, they can be subjected to “legal discovery,” which means that the redactions in the 28-page section of the report that was released last year could be further probed. There may be additional documents that could be requested from the Saudi monarchy in regard to the individuals who were involved in the hijackings. These are issues that are still very much in the minds of people here in the US. And at the same time, the so-called war on terrorism that has been waged by three successive administrations represents a cornerstone of US foreign as well as military policy.

RT: Last year, Obama vetoed the 9/11 victims' law, known as JASTA, saying it would expose Americans abroad to legal action. His veto was overridden by Congress. But were his concerns justified?

AA: According to the bill, this is directed towards states that are considered sponsors of international terrorism, not individuals. And I think they were utilizing the potential of individual military personnel or US government intelligence or civil service personnel are being targeted in legal actions and even perhaps being apprehended by certain foreign governments in retaliation for the passage of this bill. But I don’t see any evidence of that based upon the actual text of the legislation itself.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Delivers Statement to Press TV: 'Trump Administration Is Fueling Racism in US': Analyst
Thu Mar 16, 2017 6:35PM
Press TV

To hear this statement just log on to the following URL:

US President Donald Trump has fueled racial tensions in the United States with his divisive rhetoric against Muslim and Hispanic immigrants, as well as other ethnic minorities, an African American journalist in Detroit says.

“Under the Trump administration, he has in fact fueled racism through his appointees, through his statements, through his executive orders, which have imposed bans on people from [several] majority-Muslim countries in Africa and the Middle East,” said Abayomi Azikiwe, editor at the Pan-African News Wire.

“This is going to continue under his administration unless there’s a major movement in the United States; a persistent effort to halt this type of bigotry,” Azikiwe said in a phone interview with Press TV on Wednesday.

“This sends a very bad signal to Muslims; to people who are from African American and Latino descent that this country is hostile,” he added.

Americans' concerns about racism at record high

A new Gallup poll has found that almost half of Americans now say they are worried “a great deal” about race relations in the United States, which is a higher percentage than at any time since 2001 when Gallup began tracking the issue.

According to the poll, which was released Wednesday, 42 percent of people in the US are very worried over racial tensions, an increase of seven percentage points from 2016 and a record high in Gallup's 17-year trend.

This is the third straight year Americans' worries about racism have increased by a significant margin. In 2014, 17 percent said they worried a "great deal" about this issue; this climbed to 28 percent in 2015 and 35 percent in 2016.

The sharp rise in worry about racism likely stems from the racial tensions and national debate sparked by high-profile police killings of unarmed African American men and of black men shooting police in retaliation.

Trump’s divisive election campaign and controversial comments on racial matters before and after his election could also be a factor in Americans' heightened concern about race relations.

Critics say that Trump’s election has emboldened far-right groups and white supremacists and increased levels of xenophobia across the country.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Pan-African Journal: Special Worldwide Radio Broadcast for Sun. March 19, 2017--Hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe
Listen to the Sun. March 19, 2017 special edition of the Pan-African Journal: Worldwide Radio Broadcast hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire.

To hear this program through podcast just go to the following URL:

The program features our regular PANW report with dispatches on the Zimbabwe diamond industry which has shown some signs of recovery after last year's shutdown by the government; a recent summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has adopted a regional industrialization program; the battle for control over Libya oil has been resumed with armed conflicts in various regions in the east of the war torn North African state; and German defense has disputed a statement by United States President Donald Trump over the EU contribution to NATO.

In the second hour we continue our monthlong focus on Women's History with an audio documentary on Ruby Elzy. 
Pan-African Journal: Worldwide Radio Broadcast for Sat. March 18, 2017--Hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe
Listen to the Sat. March 18, 2017 edition of the Pan-African Journal: Worldwide Radio Broadcast hosted by Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire.

To hear the podcast of this episode just click on the website below:

The program will feature our regular PANW report with dispatches on the drought impacting Southern, Central and East Africa; tobacco farmers in Zimbabwe have staged a protest over the payments for their products by the banks; the Central African Republic government is requesting international assistance to avoid a humanitarian and security crisis; and the Syrian foreign ministry has announced that the military has shot down an Israeli Air Force plane which breached its territory on Friday.

In the second hour we continue our monthlong focus on Women's History Month looking at the role of African American Women in 1968 through a rare archival radio broadcast out of New York City.

Finally, Ella Baker, the ideological and political founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), is honored through an address she delivered in New York City in 1968 on aspects of the-then struggle for African American liberation.
Racist Who Fatally Stabbed Black New Yorker Admits His Intent to Kill African-American Men
Wednesday, March 22, 2017, 8:12 PM

A white Army vet intent on killing black men stalked one potential victim before setting his sights on another — quenching his racist thirst by driving a sword through a man in Midtown, police said.

The 26-inch weapon — with an 18-inch blade — pierced the victim’s chest just above his heart and exited his back before pinging against the sidewalk on Monday night.

White supremacist James Jackson, 28, wanted maximum exposure for his crime, telling investigators he rode 200 miles on a bus from Baltimore because New York is the “media capital of the world.”

“He wanted to make a statement,” said Assistant Chief William Aubry, head of the Manhattan Detectives squad.

Jackson — an Army veteran who was deployed to Afghanistan for just under a year — took the bus on Friday and got a room in The Hotel Times Square on W. 46th St., sources said.

“I'd rather not get too specific, but in general he came here to target male blacks,” Aubry said.

Dressed in a dark suit coat, slacks and a button-down shirt, he stabbed Timothy Caughman, 66, at random about 11:30 p.m. Monday on W. 36th St. and Ninth Ave. after initially focusing on another black man three blocks away, officials said.

He was about to pounce on the other man until something "spooked him," according to a law enforcement source.

"He appeared to be very close, following a black guy,” the source said. “He slows down and at one point he turned around and came back. It's clear he was really focused on the guy for some time.

Then, he falls out of camera view and doesn't attack the guy. He made statements that he was following the guy but something spooked him."

He found Caughman — a bottle collector who liked to take photos of himself and celebrities — a few blocks away.

During the savage attack, Jackson jammed the sword he purchased online into Caughman.

"What are you doing?" Caughman was overheard desperately pleading with his assailant, who was seen on top of him before fleeing east on W. 36th St.

Caughman, stabbed in the chest and back, stumbled two blocks to the Midtown South Precinct stationhouse on W. 35th St., bleeding from his wounds.

Paramedics rushed him to Bellevue Hospital, but he could not be saved, officials said.

Mayor de Blasio tried to put the city’s outrage into words.

"More than an unspeakable human tragedy, this is an assault on what makes this the greatest city in the world: our inclusiveness and our diversity,” he said Wednesday. “Now it's our collective responsibility to speak clearly and forcefully in the face of intolerance and violence — here or across the country. We are a safe city because we are inclusive. We are a nation of unrivaled strength because we are diverse. No act of violence can undermine who we are."

Caughman lived in transitional housing on W. 36th St., sources said.

Jackson bolted to a nearby McDonald’s to clean himself up, officials said.

The next day, he went to the main branch of the New York Public Library on 42nd St. to read about his actions online.

Early Wednesday — just over 24 hours after slaughtering Caughman — he waltzed into an NYPD Times Square substation, and confessed to the hate-filled killing, police said.

“I’m the person that you’re looking for,” Jackson told cops, according to Aubry.

Jackson admitted to having two knives on him and gave police the location of a nearby garbage can where he had ditched his sword, sources said.

"You need to arrest me,” he told police.

Caughman also told police that he was a member of a white supremacist group and that he detailed his racist views on his laptop computer. Police confiscated the computer and his cellphone, but were waiting late Wednesday for a search warrant to examine them.

Jackson said he initially wanted to stab a black man, then grab a cop’s gun and “shoot some people,” a police source said.

The group Jackson is affiliated with was not immediately known.

Jackson freely admitted that he killed Caughman out of a twisted rage against black men, Aubry said.

"Based on certain information it appears that this subject has been harboring these types of feelings for quite some time,” Aubry said. “It’s been over 10 years that he's been harboring these feelings toward male blacks."

Jackson had a particular deep-seated hatred for black men romantically involved with white women, a police source said.

"The guy opened up. He was talking freely," the source said.

Cops charged Jackson with murder. His arraignment was pending Wednesday night.

Jackson served just over three years in the Army as a military intelligence analyst, a U.S. Armed Forces spokeswoman said.

He received a number of medals, including the “Good Conduct Medal” and “Global War on Terrorism Service Medal” a U.S. Armed Forces spokeswoman said. He served in Afghanistan between December 2010 and November 2011, officials said.

Ashuk Dutta, who works at the front desk at the hotel where Jackson was staying, recalled the man leaving behind his luggage around noon Monday.

“I was the one who checked him out,” Dutta said.

She said Jackson didn’t cause any problems during his stay. His room was spotless.

“Wow, this is crazy,” Dutta said.

It wasn’t the first time a bloodthirsty maniac traveled to New York to execute the innocent.

In December 2014, Ismaaiyl Brinsley traveled to the city from Baltimore and assassinated Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were in their car near Myrtle and Tompkins Ave. in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

Brinsley had made anti-police statements on social media prior to the murders.

Brinsley fled police to the platform of a nearby subway station, where he shot himself to death.

London Attack: Five Dead in Westminster Terror Attack
BBC News

Five people have died and at least 40 were injured after an attacker drove a car along a pavement in Westminster, stabbed a policeman and was shot dead by police in the grounds of Parliament.

The dead officer has been named as PC Keith Palmer, 48, a husband and father.

PM Theresa May said the attack was "sick and depraved" and struck at values of liberty, democracy and freedom of speech.

The attacker has not been named by police.

Acting Deputy Commissioner and head of counter terrorism at the Metropolitan Police, Mark Rowley, said they think they know who he is and that he was inspired by international and Islamist-related terrorism, but gave no further details.

The attack unfolded at about 14.40 GMT when a single attacker drove a car along a pavement over Westminster Bridge, near the Houses of Parliament in central London, killing at least two people and injuring many more.

The car then crashed into railings outside the Houses of Parliament.

The attacker, armed with a knife, ran to Parliament where he was confronted by the police. PC Palmer - who was not armed - was then stabbed and killed.

The attacker was shot dead by armed officers.

Mr Rowley paid tribute to PC Palmer, saying: "He was someone who left for work today expecting to return home at the end of his shift, and he had every right to expect that would happen."

"Heartbroken" former colleague, Conservative MP James Cleverly, paid tribute to the "lovely man" he had known for 25 years. The pair had served together in the Royal Artillery before PC Palmer became a policeman.

Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood - a former Army officer whose brother died in the Bali terrorist bombing in 2002 - attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation of Pc Palmer.

Mrs May said the attack was a "sick and depraved" attack on the heart of the capital. Such attempts to defeat UK values were "doomed to failure", she said.

She paid tribute to the "exceptional men and women" of the police force who responded to the attack, saying: "We will all move forward together, never giving in to terror and never allowing the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart."

The prime minister added: "The location of this attack was no accident.

"The terrorist chose to strike at the heart of our capital city where people of all nationalities, religions and cultures come together to celebrate the values of liberty, democracy and freedom of speech."

She is expected to make a statement in the Commons later.

The husband of murdered MP Jo Cox said the "name I will remember" from the Westminster attack was that of PC Keith Palmer - not the attacker.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said: "My message to those that want to harm us and destroy our way of life is: You won't succeed; you won't divide us; we won't be cowed by terrorists."

BBC Newsnight reported there was a suggestion the car used in the attack was hired from an address in Birmingham. However, this has not been confirmed.

In latest developments:

There will be more armed and unarmed officers on duty in London and across the country as a "precautionary measure"
The prime minister said the UK terror threat level would remain at severe - its second highest - meaning an attack is "highly likely"
Westminster underground station was shut and remained open for interchange only
Home Secretary Amber Rudd urged everyone to remain calm but be vigilant and if they see anything they are concerned about report it to the police
A group of French schoolchildren were on the bridge and three were injured
13 students from Edge Hill University in Lancashire were also caught up in the incident - two were taken to hospital and described as walking wounded; two others had minor injuries

People worried about family and friends can call the police casualty bureau on: 0800 056 0944 or 0207 158 0010.

By Dominic Casciani, home affairs correspondent

The carnage on Westminster Bridge and inside the grounds of Parliament is the attack that security chiefs here in the UK have long been preparing for.

Terrorism looks not just to kill and maim - but to create panic and such a sense of disorder that it rocks a city or nation to its foundations.

And this attacker sought to do so in as low-tech way as is possible.

The days when terrorism meant large, complex bombs and months of planning are gone: Western security agencies - particularly MI5 and its partner agencies - are very, very good at identifying those plots and disrupting them.

The longer it takes to plan such an attack, the more people who are involved, the more chances there will be for security services to learn what is going on.

Eyewitness Rick Longley said: "We were just walking up to the station and there was a loud bang and a guy, someone, crashed a car and took some pedestrians out.

"They were just laying there and then the whole crowd just surged around the corner by the gates just opposite Big Ben.

"A guy came past my right shoulder with a big knife and just started plunging it into the policeman.

"I have never seen anything like that. I just can't believe what I just saw."

An eye witness, Radoslaw Sikorski, a senior fellow at Harvard's Centre for European Studies, posted a video to Twitter showing people lying injured in the road on Westminster Bridge.

Media captionSteve Voake, eyewitness: "I tried to stop people coming on to the bridge"
In other developments:
MPs were locked in the House of Commons for more than four hours and business suspended
Around 1,000 people were taken to Westminster Abbey for safety and were then processed by police
The House of Commons and Lords will sit at their usual times on Thursday
The White House said Mrs May had spoken to President Donald Trump about the attack
The Eiffel tower went dark at midnight in homage to the London victims

London mayor Sadiq Khan praised citizens and emergency services for their "tremendous bravery" and said: "Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism."
Intelligence Chairman Sparks Storm With Trump Briefing
The Hill
03/22/17 08:51 PM EDT

In an extraordinary move, the chairman of the House panel investigating Russian interference in the presidential election bypassed his own committee Wednesday to brief President Trump on information related to U.S. surveillance of his transition team.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said he had learned from a source that the U.S. intelligence community incidentally collected information on members of Trump’s transition team and then “widely disseminated” the information internally.

Democrats on the committee were blindsided, as were many Republicans. By the end of the day Wednesday, Nunes was still the only committee member to have seen the intelligence in question, according to the committee’s top Democrat.
The move outraged Democrats and threatened to plunge the committee into open partisan warfare.

“The unprecedented comments of Chairman Nunes are an act of diversion and desperation,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “The Chairman’s highly irregular conduct with the White House raises serious questions about his impartiality, especially given his history as part of the Trump Transition team.

“Chairman Nunes is deeply compromised, and he cannot possibly lead an honest investigation.”

Nunes was a member of the Trump transition team’s executive committee and has in the past raised eyebrows with his apparent willingness to follow White House requests.

In February, Nunes agreed to a White House request to call a reporter to dispute a report that the FBI had uncovered contact between Russian officials and the president’s campaign. He had already made a similar statement publicly.

Nunes defended his decision to go directly to the president with the information because “what I saw has nothing to do with Russia and nothing to do with the Russia investigation.”

“It has everything to do with possible surveillance activities, and the president needs to know that these intelligence reports are out there, and I have a duty to tell him that,” Nunes said.

But alleged surveillance of the Trump campaign became part of the committee’s investigation after the president’s claim early this month that former President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower — making Nunes’s decision to cut out members of his own committee unusual.

Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said Nunes’s action “impedes our ability to do this investigation the way we should.”

“The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or if he is going to act as a surrogate of the White House — because he cannot do both,” Schiff said.

“If the Republican Party wants to do what is best for this country and its national security, they will remove Devin Nunes as Intel Chairman,” MSNBC host Joe Scarborough tweeted.

The exact nature of Nunes’s pronouncement remains unclear. Yet it closely tracks with the longstanding contention of Republicans that the “real story” when it comes to the Russia investigation is the “unmasking” of individuals caught in surveillance and the leaks of sensitive information to the press.

Nunes, who described himself as “alarmed” by what he had learned, said that the collection had been perfectly legal — but raised questions about who requested that the names of Trump associates be “unmasked.”

Under U.S. surveillance law, intelligence agencies may legally use information gathered on Americans as long as it is intercepted “incidentally” — meaning that the U.S. person is not the target of the surveillance.

But personally identifying information is supposed to be hidden to protect the identities of U.S persons, unless officials request that those names be exposed internally.

During a marathon public hearing Monday on the Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation, Republicans repeatedly pressed FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers on who has that authority.

In one exchange, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) ran through a list of senior Obama administration officials, demanding to know if they had access to unmasked names — appearing to suggest that they may have been the source of media leaks about the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia.

Democrats have tolerated the Republican focus on leaks — but that patience may be short-lived after Wednesday.

Last week, Nunes and Schiff together said that they were pressing the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency for information on Trump associates who may have been incidentally spied on and whose names were later unmasked and the intelligence details leaked to the media — such as former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

But on Wednesday afternoon, committee member Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) called Nunes’s announcement “political theater.”

Some committee Republicans backed the beleaguered chair. Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) told reporters that the discovery “raises very serious questions” about the unmasking and dissemination of names.

According to Nunes, the intercepted communications had “little or no apparent foreign intelligence value” and had nothing to do with either Russia or the FBI’s eight-month-old probe into coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Both Nunes and Schiff maintained that the discovery — whatever it entails — does not substantiate the president’s claim that Obama wiretapped him.

Trump said Wednesday that he felt “somewhat vindicated” by Nunes’s statement.

The White House has tried to argue that Trump meant “wiretap” as in surveillance generally, though Republicans and Democrats have largely rejected that assertion.

Comey on Monday rebutted those claims, part of a one-two blow to the White House that day. He also confirmed the FBI’s investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The timing of Nunes’s announcement did not escape Democrats.

“I’m not sure what the point of this extraordinary process is and I have to hope this is not a part of a broader campaign by the White House aimed to deflect from the director’s testimony earlier this week,” Schiff said.
Teachers, Pupils Protest Paralyze Economic Activities in Jalingo 
MARCH 23, 2017
By John Mkom
Nigeria Vanguard

JALONGO—AGGRIEVED primary pupils and their teachers yesterday shut down Jalingo, Taraba State capital, barricading major streets and the gate of Taraba State Government House, over unpaid teachers’ salaries and other benefits.

The pupils at the government house The protesting pupils gave the government 24 hours  to pay their teachers or they would shut the government house. The pupils who trooped into the streets  very early in the morning, from different locations, barricaded major roads, including Hamarua road, the main road that leads into the town and Donga Road Round About hindering motorists from accessing Taraba State government secretariats.

They equally blocked Jalingo Bye Pass preventing students from going to the state University and converged at the gate of the Taraba State Government House. The protesters were led by a human rights activist, Bello Mustapha, who said the pupils were demanding that the primary school teachers in the state were paid immediately.

Mustapha who spoke to journalists, lamented that primary school teachers in the state were not paid for between seven and 10 months. However Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT, Taraba State chapter, condemned the protest, urging the pupils and the teachers to give government time to sort out the abnormalities in the omission of the affected teachers’names  on the state government payroll during the biometric exercise.

Deputy Chairman, NUT Taraba State, Chapter Garuba Yusuf, told journalists at the union’s secretariat that the union had been engaging the state government for correction of the abnormalities in the payment of teachers salaries. He called on the government to speed up actions to clear the arrears of the primary school teachers to ensure industrial peace in primary schools in the state.

Speaking, Commissioner for Education, Johana Njingem, accused the opposition party of instigating the protest.

Read more at:
Eight Persons Killed, 20 Injured in Suicide Attacks in Maiduguri
March 23, 2017
Michael Olugbode
Nigeria ThisDay

Residents of Maiduguri were given a rude awakening on Wednesday, when an unofficial camp for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) and residential quarters were attacked by suicide bombers.

The attacks, which were unleashed by five persons at different locations in the suburb of the troubled Borno State capital, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), left three dead and 20 persons injured.

According to the North-east information officer of the agency, AbdulKadir Ibrahim, the attacks were simultaneously executed at about 4 a.m. on Wednesday.

A statement by NEMA said: “A series of bomb blasts have occurred in three locations around the Muna Garage area of Maiduguri metropolis. The incidents occurred at about 4 a.m.

“The first location was at Muna Kumbori, an unofficial host community camp housing 199 internally displaced persons, which was attacked by three suicide bombers and led to the death of two persons.

“The second location was at Muna Dagalti which was attacked by a suicide bomber, killing another person.

“The third location was at Muna Bulaya attacked by a suicide bomber who was the only casualty.”

Ibrahim added: “A total of five suicide bombers all male adults were involved in the incidents killing three persons. 20 persons with various degrees of injuries were administered with first aid by the emergency response team and transported to the State Specialists Hospital while the remains of the dead have been deposited at the mortuary.”

Also confirming the suicide bombings at the scene of the attacks, the Borno State Commissioner of Police, Damien Chukwu, said three suicide bombers killed four other persons in attacks that left 18 persons injured.
APM Terminals Preaches Gender Diversity in Economic Development
By Editor
Nigeria Guardian
22 March 2017   |   4:57 am

APM Terminals Apapa Limited has challenged qualified women professionals to take their right place in Nigeria’s economic development, and should not be hindered by gender biases.

The advice came from the Head, Human Resource of APM Terminals Apapa, Bunmi Pratt, as female employees joined other women across the world to mark the 2017 International Women’s Day, with the theme, “Be bold for Change”.

Globally, and even more so in Nigeria, women play secondary roles in socio-economic development, a development that the United Nations is struggling to change by encouraging the participation of more women in politics and economy.

The International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women globally. The day, which is celebrated every March 8, also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

To this end, Pratt disclosed that APM Terminals is looking at hiring more women within the group to achieve gender diversity. “We need more professional women to stand up and take up the jobs that they are qualified for and not restricted by gender bias,” she said

According to her, “A.P. Moller-Maersk believes in diversity, not just gender diversity, but diversity in nationality or ethnicity, thoughts and even disability as a result.

“To achieve this gender diversity especially for women, we have anchored the diversity principle in our hiring process so that when we hire, we don’t just hire a woman but we hire and make sure that we have a diverse work force, reaching out to the talents, including women available in the country.”

She said the company is committed to providing the right environment for women to enable them thrive in the workplace, which made the company to change its maternity policy, to help women keep their jobs rather than quit after child birth.

“For us at APM Terminals, especially in Nigeria, we are very committed to looking at the whole life cycle of the female employee, from the recruitment process, to training, development and even during maternity.

“We are committed to creating the right environment for women to do their job while also taking care of the social life. We know that women have certain responsibilities, so we want to create a work environment that allows them to manage both, effectively creating an inclusive and engaging work environment.

“Last year, we changed our maternity policy to increase the retention of women following childbirth or adoption. We are now implementing a maternity policy that improves benefits during and after maternity leave for employees globally. This has helped most of the ladies who would otherwise have dropped out of work,” she said.

The President, Women in Logistics and Transportation (WILAT), Hajia Aisha Ali-Ibrahim, who doubles as the Port Manager, Lagos Port Complex, Apapa, also enjoined women to be more committed, hardworking and to believe in themselves and their chosen careers.

The event attracted notable women from across the maritime industry, including members of WILAT. APM Terminals is the largest container facility in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest business district, and currently operates the Apapa and WACT facilities in Nigeria, with plans to develop a third at Badagry.

It is also the largest container terminal operation in West Africa, having doubled container traffic after concession began in 2006, with dramatically improved productivity.

A $350 million investment and expansion programme was announced for APM Terminals Apapa since 2006. Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa, and the 7th-largest in the world with a population of 177 million, and is Africa’s largest economy.
Nigeria Darkness Tariff!
By Kayode Adeoye
Nigeria Guardian
22 March 2017   |   1:03 pm

Nigeria, a country in the tropical region of the world is now in the dry season. In this dry season, the hydroelectric power plants are working at dry season capacity! The coal-fired power plants are almost redundant while solar is mostly generated by private institutions and personalities who can presently afford it. This leaves the country with gas-powered electricity which has been seriously compromised to the point that what is being generated is barely enough to power an average household in the country for four hours daily.

The Electricity Generating companies, GENCOs and the Electricity Distribution Companies, DISCOs are presently being weighed down by the excruciating pain of foreign exchange scarcity to import basic items necessary to turn around the power sector and those items that are within their reach like pre-paid meters are beyond the reach of average consumer besides the heavy debt burden hanging on their necks. A single phase meter is being issued for N35,000.00 while a three phase meter costs about double that amount.

Yet, these meters are supposed to be provided free of charge to consumers. Instead, consumers are appealed to buy them and get back their investments from the monthly billing! If a consumer buys a single-phase meter for N35,000.00 with a monthly billing from his/her jurisdictional DISCO of N5,000.00, it will take much longer than seven months to clear the payment made while those that purchased the three-phase meter will pay up in about in much longer than fifteen months assuming the monthly billing is the same.

The reason it will take much longer is that the consumer will be billed for electricity used and unused in addition to clearing the overhead on pre-paid meters! Why would a consumer invest so much in the property of another at a time like this? Who is even ready to sign up for that? Why would a daily electricity supply at an average of four hours translate to almost N5,000.00 per month? What exactly is the Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission, NERC doing about this fraudulently avoidable anomaly?

The majority of electricity consumers in the country are domiciled in the rural areas, though heavy consumption is in the urban areas, five day yet some live within the urban areas and are yet without meters! These classes of people are given guesstimates that can be almost twice the billings of metered consumers whose meters are often times unread. This is the misfortune of electricity consumers in Nigeria and unless something is done by concerned authorities about this chronic disease, the heat generated from the gratuitous darkness will eventually consume the DISCOs! From the guesstimates and other billing methods of the DISCOs, it is clear they are better at distributing bills than electricity! Why for instance will providing electricity five-day period within thirty days translate to about N5,000.00? Does that, in any way, mean that if consumers are supplied electricity uninterruptedly for thirty days, the corresponding bill at the rate in question, will thereafter translate to N30,000.00 per month for the average consumer?

Some consumers spend between N5,000.00 and N3,000.00 daily on Automotive Gasoline Oil known as Diesel, some spend between N2,000.00 and N500.00 daily on Premium Motor Spirit known as Petrol and yet others spend between N200.00 and N100.00 daily on Dual Purpose Kerosene averaging N1,800.00 daily or N54,000.00 monthly for the average electricity consumer in an effort to bring some reasonable level of power into their lives and livelihood in a country with all manner of constituted authorities. Some Nigerians are even storing and converting solar energy to power their lives and livelihood at huge cuts to their pockets.

Yet, about 40% of the country’s population is not connected to the national grid and when Lagos State eventually gets off, that will take it to another level. Maybe then, the electricity supply will improve a little but before then, why must electricity consumers suffer so much in a country that has so much but pays scant attention with very little? Why must electricity supply be seen to improve only during the rainy season because of the volume of water supplied to the dams? We have heard of countries donating happily to assist the Nigerian government in lighting up Nigeria through solar energy, yet we are in the dark on the progress being made by the government in this regard.

Perhaps, it is time for the government to engage its citizens more on their Marshall plan for re-energizing the recuperating power sector in the short, medium and long terms. The benefits of noticeable progress in this regards will be seen through the proliferation and sustenance of small-scale businesses, artisanal businesses, internally generated revenue etc that will impact reasonably on the economy and drive the country forward. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, through its subsidiary; Gas and Power, just announced it is investing heavily in the power sector and hopes to generate additional 4,000 Mega Watts through the building of independent power plants, IPPs at various locations in Nigeria and over a 10 year period! Nigeria currently generates and distributes 3,868 Mega Watts of Electricity for a population of close to 170 million!

Availability of foreign exchange at a rate that beautifies the Naira, assisting the power distribution companies and generating companies settle their debts, upgrading the Hydro-Electric dams, upgrading the transmission network, building of additional IPPs, micro-grid/off grid solutions and of course, a properly metered distribution and consumption rates are just a few of the options needed to get Nigerians off the grid, and the network of greed, constituted by the darkness tariff!
Is Nigeria a Tragedy?
By Abike Olajide
Nigeria Guardian
22 March 2017   |   3:02 am

In literature, tragedy does not really connote something tragic but it means a re-evaluation and possible redemption of a given situation. Truly, this is a season of darkness and struggling: No power, no good roads, unemployment and poverty are on the alarming rate. But surely, light will break and relief will fall.

With much natural abundant resources, Nigeria has failed on all indices of life worth living. What went wrong? Leadership deficiency, I can hear you say. Nigeria is wasting God’s resources. The country is now in a mess.

General Yakubu Gowon, despite the oil money available to him, chose to increase workers’ salary rather than use the money to build industries as foundation for a great economy. His action led to inflation that the country is yet to be freed from.

President Shehu Shagari, a weakling, permitted politicians to loot the country dry. Ibrahim Babangida introduced an economic policy, Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) that inflicted untold hardship on the people. Coupled with this was that Nigeria got exposed to maximum corruption under him.

Do I need to say anything about General Abacha, 18 years after his death, his looted funds are still in different vaults around the globe.Olusegun Obasanjo, in his second coming destroyed the country more than he met it. He paid the country’s debt and those who facilitated it smiled home with hundreds of millions of dollars. On his watch, infrastructural decadence reached its peak. Under him, though, microeconomy was got right, credit line improved but he never touched infrastructure.  At the twilight of his term, he came into the realisation that he had not met the aspiration of Nigerians and thus sought a third term. Of course, he could not get it.

Hmmnm! Goodluck Jonathan, an unsophisticated, shoeless village boy but a man with the gift of sudden luck! Everything he did seemed to have its source in luck but even he was never prepared for his fortunes and he did not know what to do with such fortune at every point in time. President Muhammadu Buhari, is regarded as a very civil, honourable man.  While, it is neither early nor late to discern his government, it is evident that we must not expect anything lofty of him. However, his fight against corruption may make him one of the best presidents Nigeria would ever have.

Successive Nigerian governments budget so much money for generators yearly. It does not take a rocket science to know that these monies, with sincerity of purpose, would have revolutionised the power sector and made power problem a thing of the past.

In 1960, Nigeria’s GDP doubled that of China. Today, China’s GDP is about the GDP of all African countries combined together. It grew sustainably at double digit for 30 years. China has gained other countries’ respect through its achievement by raising million of its people from poverty. It lifted a weak currency and encouraged local production. China spends a substantial part of its GDP on infrastructure while Nigeria spends its own on overhead costs.

South Africa’s economy is Africa’s biggest. The South African government has been able to act as a redistributive agency among the rich and the poor. In Nigeria, there is no redistributive commitment on the part of government in terms of taxation. Also. South Africa diversified and survived the crisis of gold. Today, SA’s economy is like that of a first world country. Japan’s figure to GDP is sustained by family holdings unlike Nigeria’s economy, which is sustained by foreign portfolio investors.

Is oil really a curse? Countries with oil naturally lag behind (Brazil, Russia]) China and India progressed because they de-emphasised oil. Nigeria, with oil operates a dysfunctional economy. Today, Nigeria’s growth is one that gives no one jobs or any comfort. The so-called thriving sectors (telecommunications and travel) grew because they do not employ people as such. The real employers are the manufacturing industries. Nigeria is poor because its percentage of manufacturing to GDP is low. The government should know that only infrastructural development and industrial revolution can put Nigeria on the path of greatness. What is the Nigeria Industrial Development Zone Management Agencies (NIDZA) doing? Does it still exist?

Nigeria, a blessed country, has remained among the poorest of the world because of bad people masquerading as leaders. The last 16 years have been the most traumatic for Nigerians.

Let this government know that the manufacturers of generators and okada are more wicked than the devil and wish our economy would never work so they can continue to make their stupendous wealth. Power is our major challenge and the outcome will determine whether this government is a serious one or not. If this government does not perform, like it is in a television reality show, we will put it in the elimination round. The present set of ministers should take note of what is happening to some of Jonathan’s ministers.

Serious governments do not indulge in phantom declarations. They mobilise their people in pursuit of their goals. How is change possible? The government must understand the fundamental components of change. Matthew Budd, a medical doctor who put down his practical wisdom in a book said so much of what we call our common sense is culturally determined: driving on the right side of the road, eating fast food and eating popcorn in the movie theatre. Each of these habits looks to the British, like the only way to live. But when he travels to other places, he sees different things.

In France, most people abhor fast food or eating in public. And in Israel, movies are closed on Friday nights because of Sabbath.He concluded that learning [or change] means developing a new common sense. ‘What we need is possibility.”

However, no matter what has happened in the past – we are not a complete failure and we can rebuild or reconstruct a meaningful future. We only need to find the missing keys and start turning.

Olajide wrote from Lagos
Dollar Falls to N400 at Parallel Market
22 March 2017   |   4:47 pm

The Naira traded N400 to a dollar at the black market on Wednesday in Abuja following sustained CBN intervention. PHOTO: AFP/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

Following the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) intervention in foreign exchange (forex), the Naira traded N400 to a dollar at the black market on Wednesday in Abuja.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Naira has also appreciated against the Pound Sterling and Euro rate as it traded at N510 and N415 respectively.

One of the Bureau de Change operators simply known as Tijanni Jos, said that the development had caused operators to lose a lot of money.

According to him, operators did not envisage a quick downfall of the dollar which has caused them to buy at an expensive rate hoping to make returns.

The Nigerian currency also traded at N307.5 at the interbank window.

In other segments of the market, Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) and Travelex, an International Money Transfer Services Operator, sold the Naira at N381 to a dollar.

NAN reports that Mr Godwin Emefiele, Governor of CBN, had on Tuesday, while briefing newsmen on the outcome of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting in Abuja, said the apex bank was determined to see the convergence of rates at the foreign exchange market.

Emefiele said that the CBN was optimistic that the rate between the official and parallel market would converge further.

He also said that the bank could sustain the policy, adding that those who doubt the ability of the bank to take decisions and implement it were taking a great risk.

He noted that the nations’ foreign reserves were trending further to 31 billion dollars.

Emefiele had also warned speculators to desist from stocking dollars at home because the CBN intervention would crash the price of dollar, which was already happening.

The CBN had in the last few weeks injected about 1. 7 billion dollars into the foreign exchange market.
Abuja-Kaduna Train Starts Sunday Operation March 26
By Chris Agabi
Nigeria Daily Trust
Mar 23 2017 2:00AM

The Nigerian Railways Corporation (NRC) said it is set to commence Sunday train services from Abuja to Kaduna from March 26, 2017.

The Managing Director, Nigerian Railways Corporation, Engr. Fidet Okhiria confirmed this to our correspondent in a text message yesterday.

Recall at the commencement of train services from Abuja to Kaduna on the standard gauge line, train services ran from Monday to Saturday while Sundays were reserved for servicing of the rolling stock and other facilities.

Already the NRC management has commenced the process including Sunday on its schedule and has informed all relevant departments in the corporation to ensure the service is a success.

On the alternative maintenance programme if the only available locomotive, which does six services to and from Abuja to Kaduna from Monday to Saturday will run on Sundays, Engr. Okhiria said the Corporation will run “two run only two round trips on Saturday and one round trip on Sunday” to allow for the maintenance of the rolling stock and other facilities.

ASUU Wants Buhari to Fix Economy
By Dele Ogunyemi, Ibadan
Nigeria Daily Trust
Mar 23 2017 2:00AM

Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently fix the problems with the Nigerian economy to check growing tensions in the country.

ASUU said that part of the problems with the present government was policy inconsistency.

The Chairman ASUU, University of Ibadan chapter, Dr Deji Omole, stated this in a chat with newsmen on Sunday.

He said the economy was a superstructure that could not be handled with levity but sound economic team and policy which he said were yet to materialize in the present government. He said President Buhari should urgently tackle the economic challenges of the country.

He said while the statistics of the unemployed were unpalatable, more youths were joining the market of unemployed and wasting away because no working policy had effectively targeted them.

He said that the growing spate of kidnapping, abduction, corruption, armed robbery, cyber-criminality were not unconnected with the poor economic conditions.