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PIB: Oil Producing Communities in Abia have been Calm, Deserve Adequate Attention – Ikpeazu

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Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has expressed concern that despite the long years of oil exploration in the state, there has been no tangible impact of it in the lives of oil producing communities in the state.

Governor Ikpeazu who stated this when he received in audience a delegation of the Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committee on Petroleum Industry Bill led by Senator Albert Bassey at Government House, Umuahia, said that Abia should benefit more from the Petroleum Industry Bill when passed into Law.

He said that Abia oil producing communities have remained peaceful more than any other oil producing Community in Nigeria, emphasising that the peaceful disposition of Abians should serve as a model for the compensation of oil producing communities.

He thanked members of the committee for their untiring efforts towards passing into law a Bill that will protect the interest of the oil host communities.

Governor Ikpeazu regretted that petroleum exploration and production companies who do business in the state do not pay taxes in Abia rather reside within neighbouring states and pay their taxes there.

The state Chief Executive expressed the hope that the visit will mark a new beginning for oil host communities as well as nip in the bud issues of agitation arising from various oil producing communities.

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He called on relevant government agencies to expedite action in exploring the entire value chain of crude oil as such will generate more revenue for the country.

As it concerns Abia, the Governor said, “Despite the fact that they (oil companies) have received unfettered cooperation from the oil bearing communities in Abia State, you will not notice one signboard of any company anywhere. They don’t live here, they don’t pay taxes here.

“They come, dropped in Coaster buses led by heavily armed soldiers from Port Harcourt everyday and they leave after work by 4pm leaving the communities to their fate.

“Oil communities in Abia State remain very calm and if there’s a State that’s supposed to benefit from what you have come to do, it is Abia. And I recommended at some point that the Abia example should become the focus based on which other host communities should learn.

“But that cannot be taken for granted or weakness…”.

Speaking earlier, leader of the delegation, Senator Albert Bassey Akpan said that the delegation is divided into five committees covering various NDDC states, and that his committee covering Abia and Imo states were in the state to get the inputs of oil producing communities to the Petroleum Industry Bill undergoing consideration at the National Assembly.

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Senator Akpan noted that when passed into law, the Bill will create a Trust Fund for the oil host communities without government interference, pointing out that the Bill also places responsibility on the oil host communities to protect the assets in their localities in order to create the necessary balance and stability .

While also noting that the Bill will address the hostilities within the communities, the Senators commended Governor Okezie Ikpeazu for his giant strides in all spheres of the state economy.

The Senator representing Abia South, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Senator Ifeanyi Uba among other members of the National Assembly were part of the delegation.

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Ethiopia, Kenya agree to boost border security

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Ethiopia and Kenya agreed to strengthen security along their common border after dozens of people were killed in cross-border raids last month.

Clashes between Kenyans living in the remote, arid northern region that borders Ethiopia and raiders from the neighbouring Dassenech group killed at least 19 people in May, according to Kenyan officials.

Cattle rustling and clashes over grazing land and access to water are relatively common in the region, though the extent of the casualties last month has concerned local officials, Reuters reports.

A Kenyan delegation led by acting Foreign Affairs Minister George Saitoti is in Addis Ababa to attend a meeting of a joint-ministerial commission for talks on political, economic and security cooperation.
“The meeting made commitment for the enhancement of security along common borders by addressing the challenges created by anti-peace elements, competition for scarce resources and the proliferation of small arms,” a statement said.

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said there should be more focus on development projects in the area.
“We have to address the root cause of tension and not just peace-building,” he told Reuters upon completion of the meeting.
“There has been a committee in place for the last ten years. The structure is there, but what we lack is delivering on the ground, to develop the area for the pastoralists.”

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ISS: Nigeria’s kidnapping crisis unites the north and south

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A holistic strategy is needed to decelerate the growth of the kidnapping economy in the country.

Schools in north-western Nigeria recently reopened after a months-long shutdown by state governments due to increasing kidnappings.

Between December 2020 and March 2021, there were at least five student-related kidnappings in the northern region.

However students aren’t the only victims. And the problem isn’t exclusive to the north. Nigeria Security Tracker data shows that kidnap-for-ransom cuts across regions and socio-economic classes, with increasingly diverse perpetrators – providing evidence of a resurgent kidnapping economy in the country. To find lasting solutions, a holistic assessment of the current crisis, the different ways it manifests, and its evolution is critical.

Between 2016 and 2020, there was a tenfold increase in victims, with a record of 3 500 countrywide last year. The number of recorded kidnappings also trebled in the same period. This year is heading towards another record-breaking year for this crime.

A report by Nigerian consulting firm SB Morgen says that from June 2011 to March 2020, Nigerians paid kidnappers about $18.34 million in ransom. About 60% of this was paid out between January 2016 and March 2020 alone, indicating a spike in recent years.

There’s been an increase in less-targeted mass kidnappings countrywide, particularly in the north.

The country’s deepening socio-economic crisis is arguably a significant reason behind the escalation. Factors include rising unemployment and insecurity, exacerbated by issues including poor governance, the proliferation of weapons, complicity of state actors and weak institutional capacity for regulation.

In Nigeria’s north, kidnappings in the past decade were originally concentrated in the north-east and perpetrated mainly by violent extremists for ideological, political and economic reasons. The most recent incidents, however, have been predominantly carried out by criminal gangs popularly referred to as ‘bandits’ in the north-west and north-central regions.

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Their motives appear to be purely economic, and their increased focus on schools can be viewed as an attempt to maximise gains. School kidnappings shine a spotlight on governments, putting them under pressure to secure students’ release by all means. And a government-backed ransom payoff – although always denied – will often outsize an individual one.

There are however other affected demographics. Travellers are often picked up on inter-state journeys, and community members are kidnapped from their villages.

Although analysts have recommended criminalising ransom payments, this may only re-victimise people.

Nigeria’s South South region, the source of the country’s oil wealth, the Niger Delta region, has historically been a hotspot for politically motivated kidnappings. The high rate in this region contributed to Nigeria’s position as one of the top 10 countries for kidnapping as far back as 1999.

It is generally accepted that this was the epicentre from which kidnappings spread to other southern regions. Like the north, the entire southern region has experienced an uptick in this crime, with perpetrators ranging from militants to sophisticated criminal gangs. Victims are often members of Nigeria’s middle class, including politicians and government officials.

The low-risk, high-reward model that usually drives kidnapping economies means that higher net-worth individuals should be primary targets. This requires a careful selection of victims to ensure a high payoff. Before 2018, this was largely the case in Nigeria. But there’s been an increase in less-targeted mass kidnappings countrywide, particularly in the north. This often entails rounding up a group who are sometimes of low economic means through community invasions or highway kidnappings.

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Relatives of victims in Zamfara and Kaduna states told ISS Today that some kidnappers accepted ransoms as low as N30 000 ($73) because the victim’s family couldn’t afford more. In some cases abductors instructed household members to sell their appliances to raise small ransoms.

SB Morgen’s data on fatalities per kidnap attempt shows this category of victims is also viewed as more expendable as they are more likely to be killed by kidnappers when a ransom isn’t forthcoming.

Addressing the root causes of kidnapping is the only way to finding a sustainable solution.

The increased victimisation of low-income and already vulnerable individuals isn’t the only emerging threat. Ransoms are the lifeblood of the kidnapping economy as they serve as rewards that reinforce criminal activity and help secure arms for future operations. The government allegedly paid at least N30 million (about $73 000) to secure the release of 344 boys abducted from Government Science Secondary School, Kankara.

The growing links between criminal gangs and violent extremists in the north mean that ransoms directly and indirectly fund violent extremism. Kidnap-for-ransom has been used as a source of revenue for violent extremists in Nigeria’s north.

The economic incentive has provided a point of mutual interest between extremist groups and criminal gangs, leading to increased collaboration and heightening the risk of violent extremism expansion.

The federal and state governments seem to have different approaches to tackling kidnap-for-ransom. Some northern state governments are giving bandits handouts in an attempt at dialogue and demobilisation.

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However, if not properly managed, this line of action could worsen the problem by incentivising perpetrators. On the other hand, the federal government’s over-militarised approach can result in civilian casualties and the military’s abuse of power.

A coherent strategy is required at the federal and state levels to address the situation effectively. This strategy should go beyond creating a unit and must include a response framework that can be localised at the state level to accommodate contextual challenges. This framework could serve as a guide for security agencies on the effective handling of kidnappings.

It should be complemented by a public awareness campaign to inform citizens about available services like reporting hotlines and how they can help with intelligence gathering. The strategy should seek to identify and close capacity gaps in the security forces with specialised training to address the dominant forms of kidnapping in their areas.

Although analysts have recommended criminalising ransom payments, this may only re-victimise people. It may further undermine efforts to assure citizens of state support given the popular distrust in the capacity of law enforcement and security services. Security agents have been complicit in kidnapping, or victims themselves.

Alternative solutions should be explored, such as tracking ransom payments to locate, arrest and prosecute their recipients.

All interventions should be juxtaposed with efforts to address socio-economic drivers like unemployment, poverty and low social protection. Addressing the root causes is the only way to finding a sustainable solution to the problem.

Written by Teniola Tayo, Research Officer, Lake Chad Basin Programme, ISS Dakar and Pelumi Obisesan, Communications Specialist, Development

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ISIS, Al-Qaida Dominating And Spreading Broadly Across Nigeria ~ US

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The United States (US) on Wednesday stated that the terrorists sect, ISIS and al-Qaida have spread broadly across Nigeria with their ability to infiltrate different communities.

The US have repeatedly warned Nigeria on plans by these terrorist groups to penetrate the country after suffering some defeat in the middle east.

Only recently Dagvin Anderson, Commander of the US Special Operations Command, Africa, warned of plans to penetrate Southern Nigeria, after confirming that Al-Qaeda has started penetrating the north-western part of the country.

“In terms of the areas that are affected, I would argue that ISIS and al-Qaida are spread quite broadly across Nigeria and West Africa, whether we’re talking about ISIS-West Africa or Boko Haram in Nigeria’s northeast or ISIS-Greater Sahara or JNIM-type affiliates further west.

When we talk about the actual number of individuals, it may be rather limited, a few thousand”, Michael Gonzales, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

“But given their operations and their ability to infiltrate in different communities and spread out and collect resources, I would argue that both ISIS and al-Qaida affiliates and members are spread rather broadly across the region”, he added.

Gonzales pointed out that insecurity in West Africa directly affects U.S. interests and poses a threat to it’s values, partners, and citizens.

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“Ultimately, it is in the U.S. national interest to ensure that our partners are able to better monitor, detect, and deter the threats that are posed, and when they’re not able to do that and strikes or attacks do happen, it’s in our interest to make sure that they have the capabilities to understand how they happen, to hold those who were responsible to account, and learn from those experiences to make sure that they’re better able to detect and deter in the future”, he said

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