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2009: Economy in Rags, A Nation in the Doldrums

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Perhaps, the inauguration of President Barack Obama as first African American President of the United States had its real effect in Nigeria. Looking about him and the problems he would be stepping into, Obama said he was facing the worst economic crisis in his country and a world in peril. In Nigeria, the words were not truer.
The harsh economic realities in the country hit the people when the new CBN governor, Lamido Sanusi, sacked five bank managing directors and pumped billions of Naira into them, enabling him to take over the management of those banks.

But Nigeria as a country in peril was expressed in the killing fields in the North provoked by the Boko Haram sect, the massacres in the Niger Delta communities of Gbaramatu: Okerenkoko, Kunukunuma, Kokodiagbene and Ibafa in Delta State by the combined military invasion of these rural villages, killings in Ijebu Ife in Ogun State, among  thousands of other deaths that rocked the country, including Gani Fawehinmi’s death.

Below are some of those moments that shaped events in Nigeria in 2009.

By Uduma Kalu

Jan 20:
Barack Obama took oath of office as the 44th president, stepping into history as the US first black leader of the United States as millions watched from the National Mall and around the world.

The inauguration, which set a record attendance for any event held in Washington, D.C., marked the commencement of the four-year term of Barack Obama as President and Joseph Biden as Vice President. Based on combined attendance numbers, television viewership and Internet traffic, it was among the most observed events ever by the global audience.

“A New Birth of Freedom”, a phrase from the Gettysburg Address, served as the theme for the 56th inauguration of the President of the United States to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth year of Abraham Lincoln. In his speeches to the crowds, Obama referred to ideals expressed by Lincoln about renewal, continuity and national unity as he stressed the need for shared sacrifice and a new sense of responsibility to answer America’s challenges at home and abroad.

August 2
Boko Haram Mayhem
At least, 700 persons, mainly suspected members of the Boko Haram Islamic sect, were killed in Maiduguri, Borno State capital, a military official disclosed last night.

Added to the over 100 killed in Bauchi State the death toll in the North-East axis of the country in the mayhem hit over 800. At least, eight police and army officers were confirmed dead by the authorities.

Colonel Ben Ahanotu, the head of the state anti-crime outfit, Operation Flush, said  that mass burials had to be carried out.

“They’ve got almost 700 bodies,” Ahanotu, who is in charge of security in Maiduguri, said of officials gathering bodies.
“Right there, they had to do a mass burial there because there are a lot of bodies

June 26
Yar’Adua declares amnesty for militants
President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in a live press briefing declared a 60-day amnesty for militants of the Niger Delta.

The president made the declaration in Abuja after a meeting with the council of states approved it.
The council of states is a committee comprising of the 36 state governors and former heads of state, and chief justices of the federation.

Details of the amnesty did not reel out the details of the amnesty.
Unconfirmed reports states that the amnesty plan which included a presidential pardon, rehabilitation programme, education and training were offered to militants willing to accept it, leading to surrendering of their weapons to the federal government at designated places.

Nov 27
Tiger Wood’s Crash
Tiger Woods’ public ordeal began about 2:25 a.m. Nov. 27 when he drove his Cadillac Escalade out of the driveway of his Deacon Circle home. He careened into a row of hedges, drove over a curb and swerved into a fire hydrant and finally into a neighbor’s tree. By the time authorities arrived, Tiger Woods was on the ground outside the SUV. His wife told them she used a golf club to break open rear windows and free him.

Tiger Woods was rushed to Health Central hospital in Ocoee with injuries troopers described as “incapacitating.” He was treated and released the same day.

Tiger Woods turned away highway patrol investigators seeking to interview him three times. He was cited with careless driving Tuesday and paid a $164 fine.

Adams and Harris spoke with two troopers just after 6 p.m. Saturday, more than a day after Adams called 911 for help.
And WFTV-Channel 9’s Eyewitness News reported Thursday night that the three alleged mistresses could just be the tip of the iceberg. The station reported that two more women — from Central Florida — are talking to lawyers, claiming they too have had affairs with Tiger Woods, one of them up until three weeks ago.

Elin Woods was wearing a black jogging suit. Woods was wearing a blue shirt and khaki shorts. A golf cart was next to Tiger Woods’ vehicle, with two golf clubs in it.

14 September
Usain Bolt World Athletics final
Usain Bolt runs on fumes but is still able to wrap up 200m in style
• World champion stylishly wins 200m in Thessaloniki. Usain Bolt capped a remarkable year by winning the 200 metres at the World Athletics final.

The 100m and 200m world and Olympic champion looked to be on course for another world record but he slowed in the final stages to finish in 19.68sec, 0.49sec slower than the mark he set at the world championships in Berlin.

Saturday, August 15, 2009
CBN Sacks Five Bank MDs, Directors
The Central Bank of Nigeria sacked directors and chief executive officers of five banks along with their executive directors . The sack, announced by CBN Governor Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, affected the chief executive officers of Intercontinental Bank Plc, Mr. Erastus Akingbola; Sebastine Adigwe of AfriBank Plc; Okey Nwosu of Finbank Plc; Mrs Cecilia Ibru of Oceanic Bank Plc and Barth Ebong of Union Bank Plc.

To replace them were John Aboh for Oceanic Bank Plc, Mahmud Alabi (Intercontinental Bank), Nebolisa Arah (Afribank), Suzanne Iroche (Finbank) while Funke Osibodu takes over at Union Bank Plc.

Sanusi told journalists said  the removal of the banks’ chiefs was due to excessively high level of non-performing loans, which was attributable to poor corporate governance practices, lax credit administration processes and the banks’ credit risk management practices.

According to him, the percentage of non-performing loans to total loans ranged from 19 per cent to 48 per cent while the five banks would therefore need to make additional provision of N539.09 billion.

Sanusi explained that the total loan portfolio of the five banks was N2.9 trillion, margin loans amounted to N456.28 billion and exposure to oil and gas was N487.02 billion while aggregate non-performing loans stood at N1.2 trillion representing 40.81 per cent.

From the statistics, he said, it was evident that the banks accounted for a disproportionate component of total exposure to capital market and oil and gas sector thus reflecting heavy concentration to other banks in the industry.

10 Oct
80 burnt to death in tanker inferno in Anambra
About 80 persons were burnt to death while several others sustained serious degrees of burn at Umunya in Oyi Council Area of Anambra State when a petroleum tanker exploded and set over eight vehicles ablaze. The vehicles included five 18-seated buses fully loaded with passengers.

The tanker fell into a ditch in a failed portion of the Onitsha/Enugu expressway close to Odumodu junction.
According to eyewitnesses, the tanker, which was going to Enugu, was trapped in a deep porthole before it fell and emptied its content on the road at about noon.

The scene of the accident was littered with charred remains of victims of the ghastly accident, who were burnt beyond recognition, disclosed that the tanker exploded when a mobile policeman who manned a nearby checkpoint fired a shot into the air apparently to stop other road users and the natives who were gathering around the fallen truck from scooping fuel.

However, another source said the tanker exploded around 1:45pm because of the intensity of the sun.
Another reliable source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said one of the buses that were completely burnt with its 18 passengers, was a school bus that was carrying school children, lamenting that, “It was a horrific experience because we were standing nearby and could do nothing while these little children were burnt to ashes due to the level of heat that was coming from the fire.”

22 May 2009
Over 2,000 persons killed in Gbaramatu Kingdom

The people of war-ravaged Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State counted their losses from a seven-day military operation in the area.

A prominent leader of the area, Chief Bello Oboko, said more than 2,000 indigenes of the various communities in the kingdom had been killed in the past seven days.

Oboko, who held a traditional title of Telemowei of Gbaramatu Kingdom, said many communities in the kingdom, including Oporoza, the ancestral headquarters of the clan, Okerenkoko, Kunukunuma, Kokodiagbene and Ibafa had been razed by the rampaging soldiers of the Joint Task Force.

President Umaru Yar‘Adua ordered a military operation in the area to apprehend some militants suspected to have murdered 12 members of Joint Task Force, including a Lt. Colonelon April 13. Yar‘Adua had ordered that the killers of the military personnel must be found dead or alive.

Consequently, the authorities of JTF on receiving the presidential order from the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Paul Dike, swung into action by mobilising 15 gunboats, two warships and two jet bombers to overrun the militants‘ camps and comb the Gbaramatu communities.

Two militant camps operated by Chief Government Ekpomukpolo, popularly known as Tompolo, were seized by the federal troop, who also launched premeditated attacks on the communities close to the outlawed militant hideouts.

14 February 14
South East in the grip of kidnappers
Though kidnapping in the South East is alien, the trade as some are wont to call it, is bourgeoning there like beeson their hive. But the root of all this is oil, confirming, in a way, what the Nobel Laureate, Nadine Gordimer, wrote in The New York Time of May 25, 1997 that “In Nigeria, the price of oil is blood”.

Some of the reasons for the spread of the monster, Saturday Vanguard can reveal are poverty, joblessness, campus cultism, and political thuggery.

There are also government policies which have cut the ordinary people off from their means of livelihood so much that the only way to respond to the state is to seek revenge on the affluent, be they government officials, politicians and business persons.

Some of the people complained that the state governments, in their way to clean up the areas have rendered them penniless. Yet, they are those who use the trade as a form of settling family disputes or just to settle political scores.

But the trade is not being usually done by just anybody. Most times, it seems to be executed by university graduates who could not get employment. But then, they  are also usually moulded by different cults they belong in the institutions. Some of them are even in the evil trade as undergraduates.

They are mainly youths in their twenties. They may not be happy with what they are doing, as confessions from some of them show, but they seem rather frustrated by society.

The result is that fear  pervades the land. Neigbours are suspicious of each other. Citizens are being seized and ransoms demanded before they are released. The effect of the long neglect of the Niger Delta and the use of force as well as the frustration of the youth is behind the high incident of crime and its new entrant, kidnapping in the  South.

Kidnapping may mar the Christmas visit by most Easterners. This has forced state governments in the region into thinking  of making kidnapping a capital offence.

Dec 3.
The Ijebu-Ife mayhem
Men of Nigeria Police condemned for their action against the people of Ijebu-Ife in Ogun State over the killing of Omolodun Oladokun, an Assistant Commissioner of Police and Area Commander of Ijebu-Ode Division of the state police command and two of his men.

Trouble started earlier when youths from the town embarked on a violent protest over the alleged killing by a vigilante group of one Toba Bayesan, a partially deaf and dumb tailor at Okeliwo area of the town.

Sensing imminent danger, emanating from the youth’s insistence on carrying the corpse of the deceased to the palace, one Chief Duduyemi, a retired Army Officer and Head of the Vigilante Group, had, on the orders of the traditional ruler of Ijebu-Ife, invited policemen to help quell the riot.


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