Bomb kills 16 at UN headquarters in Nigeria

Sixteen people were killed and dozens seriously injured after the United Nations headquarters in the Nigerian capital Abuja was blown up by a suspected suicide bomber from the extremist Islamist group Boko Haram on Friday.

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Nigeria sets ultimatum for new ministers

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has given newly appointed ministers 100 days to perform or a face the chop.

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Nigeria: Ngozi returns to fix the finances

Having led a team of reforming ministers under Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency, after a stint at the World Bank Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is back at the finance ministry to pick up where she left off

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Nigeria says April polls improved its international image

Nigeria has regained some credibility in the international community following a relatively free and fair election held in April, Foreign Affairs minister Olugbenga Ashiru has said.

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Nigeria: Police restrict explosives amid terrorism fears

Nigerian police have ordered restrictions in the sale and movement of explosives in response to the increasing cases of terrorism across the country.

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Nigeria: ?Abuja’s new team flexes ?its diplomatic muscle

The crises in Côte d’Ivoire and Libya allowed Nigerian diplomats to assert some valuable principles and play a leading role in the African Union; now it’s time to look beyond the continent

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Fierce fighting in Nigerian city sparks mass exodus

The alleged indiscriminate shooting and killing of civilians suspected to be members of Islamist group Boko Haram has forced thousands of people to flee the Nigerian city of Maiduguri.

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Nigeria: Curfew in Abuja over Boko Haram

Repeated attacks by extremist Islamist group Boko Haram have forced Nigerian authorities to impose a curfew in the country's capital, Abuja.

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Nigeria: War on Boko Haram terror group begins

Urgent measures have been drawn out to tackle terrorism in Nigeria following the country’s first suicide bomb attack by extreme Islamist group Boko Haram. While reports indicate that all security agencies have been integrated into a comprehensive assault, this all-out mêlée against Boko Haram brings the dilemma of the use of force and the dynamics of diplomatic negotiations to the fore.
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Nigeria suicide bomb threat: Boko Haram sets precedence

Nigeria has witnessed its first suicide bomber attack. The attack was carried out days after Nigeria's police chief, Hafiz Ringim, vowed to defeat the the extreme islamist group Boko Haram. Some reports claim that the police chief may have been the target of the attack.

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Nigeria: Citizens take action against internal terrorism

The violent chain of events in Nigeria since the country's presidential election, which brought President Goodluck Jonathan back to power, has alarmed many Nigerians. Several people lost their lives on Thursday June 16, 2011, after a suicide bomber triggered an explosion that ripped through Nigeria's capital, Abuja, in the latest streak of violent attacks by Boko Haram, a northern Islamic outfit. The explosion set several cars on fire and covered the city's skyline with a thick black smoke.

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Nigeria's battle against corruption hardens

Nigeria's hard-line battle against corruption and financial misappropriation by public officials as promised by President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration has begun with the arrest of the outgoing speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, on Sunday June 5, 2011.

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Nigeria: Two cheers for Democracy

Nigerians are showing the elite they can no longer take power for granted writes Donu Kogbara in Abuja     

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Inside the Niger Delta revolution

An interview with Mujahid Dokubo-Asari?, founder of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force on why the region's troubles remain central to Nigeria's politics.

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Nigeria: Tug of war

altDecision making is back on track under Jonathan. 


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Federal Business in Abuja


It is an unwritten law in Nigeria’s corporate world that all the major regions of the country must be represented on a company’s board. It is called ‘federal character’ and there is even a parastatal organisation for its management in Abuja called the Federal Character Commission.?


Federal character underlies the business dealings of such prominent figures as Ibrahim Babangida, Shehu Yar’Adua, Sani Abacha and the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola, who had all been business partners at one time or the other. Habib Bank, founded by Abiola and Shehu Yar’Adua, has been absorbed into one of the country’s most successful financial institutions, Bank PHB. Inter-ethnic representation in the formal (and informal) private sector seems to help glue the otherwise fractious country together more effectively than any debates held on the floor of the National Assembly.


Sometimes seen as the most federal of all Nigerians despite their defeat in former Biafra, Igbos readily adapt to life anywhere in Nigeria and have widespread property holdings in Abuja. They bought the land from their Hausa/Fulani business partners, who are often better connected when it comes to government allocations. Such financially advantageous relationships help explain how Nigeria has avoided any return to the Biafran war.


?No matter the challenges of nationhood, war is never an option. “We have intermarried and welded too much in business to engage in warfare like the one in Rwanda,” says Sam Emehelu, who publishes a golf journal. “In the course of my work, I have met the cream of Nigerian society, and ethnic considerations are the last thing on their mind when they mingle – and when they mingle, they talk deals.” 


Back to Nigeria's Family Wars


Nigeria: A change in need of belief

Amidst a protracted government crisis, Nigerians hope their politicians may learn some of the lessons of Barack Obama’s presidential victory in the US


As Nigerians celebrated the victory of Barack Obama in the US presidential elections of 4 November, President Umaru Yar’Adua interpreted the event for his fellow politicians: “I believe for us here in Nigeria, we have lessons to draw from this historic event – and the prejudices arising from various differences in tribe, zone, and regions. We should examine ourselves in the light of this experience and conduct ourselves purely as Nigerians to serve Nigeria and serve humanity.”?


Warming to his theme, Yar’Adua fulminated against those Nigerians in power who make decisions according to where they come from or according to the ethnic group to which they belong: “That is the old world; this is the old era. Its coffin has been nailed throughout the world and we have entered a new era.”?


Rotating rivalries?


That should be music to the ears of Nigerians, whose politics has been dominated for three decades by damaging internecine party warfare and a complex system of ethnic balancing or ‘federal character’, which divides the country into zones and reserves the top jobs for representatives of different zones. Given the febrile political atmosphere in Abuja around the presidency with plots and counter-plots developing, it’s unsurprising that Yar’Adua wants a new era. The question is whether he will be able to shuffle off the country’s difficult political past.?


In theory, the top political jobs are rotated among the zones to ensure that every part of the country has a chance to provide a president or a vice-president. In a country with a population nudging 150m and with more than 300 ethno-linguistic groups, balancing and representing those disparate interests challenges even the most skilled Nigerian political fixers.?


In principle, many Nigerians supported this system as a way to heal the fissures after the civil war of the 1960s when the Igbo people and some local allies broke away from the federation to form their own oil-rich republic. For many outsiders, Nigeria made an exemplary recovery from that devastating war in which over a million died: the first post-war government loudly proclaimed: “No victor, no vanquished!”. The reality has been more difficult. The federal character of the system is cumbersome but has, many claim, kept the more extreme proponents of ethnic exclusivity in check. No one region can dominate political, economic and military organisations without having to recruit senior officials from other parts of the country.?


Spreading the wealth


?If a Nigerian establishes a bank or a big new company, the directors must be drawn from across the country. Similarly, the mid-ranking and top civil service posts are divided on a geographic basis. In the middle of Kenya’s post-election crisis and ethnic mayhem in early 2008, the Commonwealth Secretariat sent its special advisor, Professor Ade Adefuye from Nigeria, to help mediation: and some of Nigeria’s principles of federal character found their way into Kenya’s power-sharing agreement that resulted in its current grand coalition.?


 Niger Delta crisis comes full circle


A crisis that costs 500,000 barrels
of oil per day. Read more

Proud as some Nigerians may be about such political exports, many are profoundly disturbed at the state of national politics. The obsession with regional and ethnic balancing, requiring each senior politican to deliver for his or her ethnic constituency, has held back civilian politics, because it most resembles a marketplace.?


Some see the country’s federal character as benefiting the politicians – especially those of the biggest ethnic groups of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba – more than the people. According to former President Olusegun Obasanjo: “The ordinary Nigerians are no problem. They are wonderful in hospitality, forbearance, tolerance and in the love of their fellow human beings. But the elite... it is when the elite want something and cannot get it that they remember that you are Igbo or he is Yoruba... or he is Hausa and you are Igbo.”?


President Yar’Adua’s administration promised change. After two terms of President Obasanjo’s rumbustious political style, replete with allegations of nepotism and vindictiveness, there were hopes that the quietly-spoken and thoughtful Yar’Adua would offer a more effective, if less flamboyant style of government.?


Obasanjo’s long shadow?


After 18 months of power, Yar’Adua has been unable to break away from the legacy of his predecessor. Although some of his aides speak vitriolically about Obasanjo and the business dealings of his relatives and associates, there is plenty of unfinished business from that era in the in-tray, such as the billions of dollars of contracts in the power sector awarded to such little effect under Obasanjo. Most of all there was the messy presidential election in 2007 which has been the subject of a high court action by the losing candidates – Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar. The legal dispute over the presidential election has been a dead weight on the Yar’Adua govermment, delaying decisions on project funding and a vital cabinet reshuffle.?


The political clans have been gathering and plotting in Abuja. Their schemes encompass the art of Nigerian high-table politics: to his face all the players pledge loyalty to Yar’Adua, but behind his back they brief the press on how the government is falling apart and how Yar’Adua’s health problems have rendered him incapable.?


Something has to break, say the presidential watchers in Abuja. The legal decision which will either confirm Yar’Adua in office beyond dispute or re-commend fresh election will be a turning point. If it confirms Yar’Adua, his aides say that he will accelerate the pace of government and prove the doubters wrong. If the courts rule against his election, then Nigeria is due for a protracted period of political uncertainty. And for an increasingly impatient country, that will mean even more tendentious politics in 2009.

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