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February 05, 2007

Rows over Nigeria treason trial

The start of the treason trial of Nigerian oil militant Mujahid Dokubo-Asari has again been delayed after angry rows in court.

Mr Asari was shouting and swearing, saying his life was in danger while in custody, prompting the prosecution to ask him to be barred from the trial.

Three of his wives were crying, while hundreds of his supporters gathered at the High Court in the capital, Abuja.

He was arrested in 2005 after calling for the oil-rich Niger Delta to secede.

The BBC's Senan Murray in the capital, Abuja, says the government is under pressure to release Mr Asari - a key demand of those who have staged a wave of attacks on oil facilities in the region.

Last year, Nigeria lost some $4bn because of unrest in the Niger Delta.

'Vitriol'

There was tight security outside court, with a truckload of riot police on standby in case of any trouble.


Mr Asari said that his weight has gone down from 139kg to 93kg while in custody, and further said he was being held in an underground cell, without access to his lawyers and family.

His first wife Mujahidat Dokubo-Asari said she had not been allowed to see her husband, warning that "Nigeria will regret it" should her husband die in custody.

"If anything happens to my husband, I assure the federal government that within 48 hours, all oil exploration in the Niger Delta will be stopped whether [President] Obasanjo likes it or not," she said.

The prosecution, meanwhile accuse Mr Asari of unruly behaviour.

"At the last two sittings of the court the accused rained chains of vitriolic... utterances on the honourable judge and the prosecution," they said in a written motion arguing for him to be barred.

"The accused person went to the extent of threatening to snatch... the rifle and pistol of the police and prison guards to use them on the honourable judge and the director of public prosecution," the document read.

Oil wealth

Last week, Nigeria army chief of staff Major General Andrew Azazi, who is from the Delta, met some oil militants, who repeated their demand for Mr Asari's release if the violence is to stop.

They also want former Bayelsa State governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha to be freed - he is accused of corruption and money laundering.

The militants often attack oil installations and kidnap oil workers for ransom.

Last year, such attacks cut Nigeria's oil output by some 20%.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer but most of the Niger Delta population remain poor.

The militants say more of Nigeria's oil wealth should benefit local people.


Posted by Publisher at 12:40 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria threaten Premiership duo

Nigeria have threatened to report Newcastle and Chelsea to Fifa if they do not release their players for Tuesday's friendly against Ghana.

By Ibrahim Sannie

Newcastle manager Glenn Roeder says Obafemi Martins is tired while Chelsea say Mikel Jon Obi has a thigh injury.

But Nigeria Football Association (NFA) vice-chairman Amanze Uchegbulam told BBC Sport: "This is a friendly on a Fifa approved date.

"Therefore we have the rights to our players on Tuesday."

Uchegbulam has made it clear that the Nigerian FA will report both clubs if they do not release their respective players.


"The excuse being given is that the players are injured," added Uchegbulam.

"Even if that is the case Fifa regulations say that the players should report to their national team for assessment by the national team doctors.

"Until our medical team declare any player unfit we insist that we will report any club that fails to release our players.

"We think it is unfair to Nigeria and in the interest of the good relationship we have with these clubs our players should be released immediately."

Newcastle were hoping to persuade Martins to put club before country as they face Liverpool in the Premiership on Saturday.

Roeder is asking his 10-goal leading scorer not to play knowing an injury could severely affect his club.

"It is only a friendly and Nigeria cannot insist on Oba playing, and because he has had so much football this season, I will be asking him not to play against Ghana," Roeder said last week.

"He has already played nearly 30 games for us - he has probably played more matches this season than at any time in his career.

"He is a great lad and I am sure he will understand the situation because we are a bit thin on the ground for strikers and we do not want the risk of losing him."

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho said Mikel picked up an injury in the 1-0 win over Charlton.

"A young kid of 19, playing five consecutive matches, running 12 kilometres a game, of course the boy is a little tired and he felt a little pain," said Mourinho.

"We have to scan it, but experience says he has a little muscular problem and for the next 15 days, he is out of competition."

The friendly takes place at Brentford's Griffin Park ground in London.

Posted by Publisher at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

Chinese workers freed in Nigeria

Nine Chinese oil workers abducted in Nigeria's Delta region have been freed after 11 days in captivity.

The men, seized from the offices of China's National Petroleum Company, were freed after "complex efforts", China's foreign ministry said.

All nine were safe and well and were handed back to their company in Bayelsa state, a ministry statement said.

About 100 foreign hostages, mostly oil workers, have recently been kidnapped in the oil-producing Niger Delta.

Many Niger Delta residents live in poverty, and taking hostages for ransom has become increasingly common.

Hostages are usually released after a ransom is paid, though some have been killed in gun battles between security forces and kidnappers.

There was no word about whether a ransom was paid to secure the release of the nine men.

Their release comes after the freeing of five Chinese telecoms who were held for 12 days in captivity.

China's President Hu Jintao is currently on an eight-nation tour of Africa aiming to boost trade ties with the continent.

Foreign workers from the United Kingdom, the United States, the Philippines, Italy, Lebanon and Nigeria are currently being held hostage in Nigeria.

The instability in the region has cut Nigeria's oil production by at least 20%, costing the country some $4.4bn (£2.2bn) last year, according to the government.


Posted by Publisher at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria bird flu death confirmed

Nigeria's first human fatality from bird flu has been confirmed by the World Health Organisation.

Tests in London confirmed that a 22-year-old woman who died on 17 January was infected with the deadly H5N1 strain.

Nigeria reported several human cases last Wednesday and says measures are being taken to prevent a further spread among humans.

More than 160 people are now known to have died of bird flu worldwide.

Almost all have been poultry workers who have come into close contact with birds. H5N1 cannot pass easily from human to human.

Nigeria reported Africa's first cases of H5N1 about a year ago.

Other cases have been reported in Egypt and Djibouti, which have suffered human deaths, and also in Cameroon, Djibouti, Niger, Ivory Coast, Sudan and Burkina Faso.


Posted by Publisher at 12:21 PM | Comments (0)

January 09, 2007

US launches air strike in Somalia

The US has carried out an air strike against Islamist fighters in a southern Somali village, which the US believes includes members of an al-Qaeda cell.

The targets were reported to have been tracked by aerial reconnaissance and then attacked by a US gunship launched from a US military base in Djibouti.

The US says Somali Islamists sheltered al-Qaeda operatives linked to the 1998 US embassy bombings in East Africa.

The Somali transitional government says many people were killed in the raid.

The air strikes took place a few days after the Union of Islamic Courts, which had taken control of much of central and southern Somalia during the past six months, was routed by soldiers from Ethiopia and Somalia's transitional government.

The US accused the Islamists of having links to al-Qaeda - charges they denied.

Target

There has been no official confirmation from the Pentagon that the air strike took place, but correspondents say a statement is expected within hours.


Location of militias and US Navy patrols
"So many dead people were lying in the area. We do not know who is who, but the raid was a success," interim government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari told AFP news agency.

"The target was a small village called Badel where the terrorists were hiding. And the gunship did hit on the exact target," he said, adding that Somali and Ethiopian troops were nearby.

The bombing is the first overt military action by the US in Somalia since the 1990s when 18 US troops were killed in Mogadishu.

'Opportunistic attempt'

The attack was carried out by an Air Force AC-130, a heavily-armed gunship that has highly effective detection equipment and can work under the cover of darkness.

Reports suggest the US attack took place on Monday afternoon in an area known as Ras Kamboni on the southern tip of the country close to Kenya's border.

After fierce fighting, Ethiopian and Somali forces said on Monday that they were on the verge of capturing the area, one of the Islamist's last strongholds, where many fighters were dug in.

Many other Islamist fighters are in hiding across the country.

Al-Qaeda

Somalia's interim President Abdullahi Yusuf backed the US action.

"The US has a right to bombard terrorist suspects who attacked its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania," he said in Mogadishu, a day after entering the city for the first time since the Islamists withdrew.

The BBC's Adam Mynott in Nairobi says the attack seemed to be an opportunistic attempt by the US to destroy an al-Qaeda cell that they had been tracking for some time.

The cell is believed to be behind the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, and Dar Es Salaam, in Tanzania.

More than 250 people died in the two attacks.

The US also holds the same group responsible for attacks on an Israeli aircraft and Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya in 2002, in which 15 people died.

Meanwhile, the US military said on Tuesday it had sent an aircraft carrier to join three other US warships conducting anti-terror operations off the country's coast.

Posted by Publisher at 09:17 AM | Comments (0)

December 27, 2006

Nigeria mourns pipeline victims

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has said he is "shocked and saddened" by the vandalisation of an oil pipeline that led to at least 260 deaths.

Hundreds of people in a Lagos suburb were scooping fuel from a pipeline punctured by thieves when it exploded.

It took the emergency services hours to extinguish the flames and many of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition.

Some 2,000 people have died in similar incidents in recent years in Nigeria, which suffers frequent fuel shortages.

President Obasanjo blamed the tragedy on vandals damaging the pipeline and said he was sad that such vandalism continued despite his warnings that it was "not only illegal but a dangerous pursuit".

Adding his voice to the condolences, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said the UN was ready to provide immediate assistance. and also to help assess gaps in disaster response.

Mr Annan also called for " a review of the country's fuel supply management, as well as a thorough regional review of risks that could lead to other environmental or technological disasters in West Africa."

Despite being Africa's largest oil producer, Nigerians often suffer fuel shortages because of corruption, poor management and infrastructure problems.

It appears that thieves broke into a pipeline passing through the Abule Egba area of Lagos early on Tuesday to siphon off large amounts of fuel.

Some time later, hundreds of local people had arrived on the site carrying jerry cans and plastic buckets when a vast explosion shook the neighbourhood.

The Nigerian Red Cross (NRC) says at least 260 people were killed and dozens were injured.


Some of those injured in the blast are believed to have gone into hiding to avoid arrest. Others may not have gone to hospital because they lack money to pay for treatment.

Lagos journalist Adeyinka Adewunmi witnessed the aftermath of the explosion.

"The pipelines are in a popular neighbourhood, very close to the express road, which I normally use for my journey to work," he told the BBC News website.

"I could see fire, state ambulances, ambulances of the Red Cross, firefighters, government officials. There were scores of dead bodies on the ground and injured people being carried into ambulances.


Posted by Publisher at 02:14 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria to replace vice-president

Nigeria's government has announced that President Olusegun Obasanjo is to replace Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.

A government spokesman said Mr Abubakar had "technically resigned" by attending an opposition convention.

The ruling People's Democratic Party expelled the vice-president from its ranks on Friday and called for him to be dismissed from his government post.

The two leaders fell out early in the year, when Mr Abubakar opposed plans to let the president run for a third term.

Presidential spokesman Uba Sani said President Obasanjo, who must step down after elections in April, would abide by the constitution, and called on Nigerians to remain calm.

'Illegality'

He said the decision followed Mr Abubakar's defection to the opposition Action Congress (AC) early this week.

During the convention, Mr Abubakar was chosen as the party's presidential candidate for leadership elections next April.

The vice-president said the government's decision was against the country's constitution.

"The 1999 constitution, which is the ground norm of our democracy, does not give the president power to either declare the office of the vice-president vacant or to withdraw the rights and privileges of the vice-president," he said.

He said he would take legal action "to challenge this illegality".

But the ruling party said constitutional rules stated that the vice-president must belong to the same party as the president.

The PDP suspended Mr Abubakar last September after he was indicted on corruption charges by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Mr Abubakar has been President Olusegun Obasanjo's deputy since May 1999.

Under the country's constitution, Mr Obasanjo can only serve two terms of eight years as president.

Posted by Publisher at 01:57 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria 'using Abacha cash well'

Nigeria is using funds it regained from the former military ruler, Sani Abacha, to boost health, education and transport, the World Bank has said.

A Swiss court returned $458m (£257m) of stolen funds to Nigeria last year, on condition it was spent on development and monitored by the World Bank.

Now, a World Bank review has found that half the projects begun with the looted cash have been successfully completed.

Nigeria is lacking in infrastructure, despite its abundant oil wealth.

The World Bank review said the monitored projects were being implemented across the country, and most of those not yet finished were heading for completion.

Frozen funds

A World Bank statement said the stolen funds were "utilised for development projects in five sectors".

It said the study showed significant increases in spending in 2004 in areas such as power, roads, water, education and health.

Mr Abacha was in power from 1993 to 1998 and is thought to have embezzled billions of dollars.

Following his death in 1998, Nigeria started trying to claw back money that had been deposited outside the country.

In 1999, Swiss authorities originally froze funds linked to Mr Abacha found in its banks.

However, they refused to return them until they were given guarantees about how the money would be used.


Posted by Publisher at 01:55 PM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2006

Nigeria militants in deadly raid

Delta militants have carried out a series of attacks and abductions
Militants in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta region have attacked a pumping station, killing three security guards.

At another oil facility armed men have taken oil workers and more than 40 soldiers guarding it hostage.

Meanwhile, Shell is evacuating its family staff members after a car bomb on Monday exploded inside a residential compound in the city of Port Harcourt.

Both militants and local criminals have attacked oil facilities and kidnapped oil workers to obtain ransom money.

A spokesman for the oil giant Total told Associated Press news agency that the Obagi station in Rivers State, which produces some 35,000 barrels of oil a day, had been shut down.

The police confirmed the raid.

"Militants at 3.30am attacked a facility at Obagi. Three people were killed," a police spokesman told Reuters news agency.

In neighbouring Bayelsa State, a flow station, operated by Italian company Agip, was also raided overnight by armed men.

"There was an attack at the Agip flow station at Tebidaba. I don't know if there were any casualties," a military officer to AFP news agency.

The BBC's Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar in Port Harcourt says that after this flow station came under attack a few months ago the military sent soldiers to guard it against further raids.

These soldiers and workers at the facility are being held hostage, a miltary source has told him.

Our correspondent says Agip has now evacuated most of its foreign workers from the region, while Royal Dutch Shell is relocating all its oil workers' families and dependants from the Niger Delta.

"We don't want to take chances and jeopardise the safety and security of our workers and their families," a spokesman told AFP.

Another blast on Monday hit the fence of a compound belonging to Agip.

There were no casualties in either of Monday's car bomb attacks, which the militant group, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) claimed responsibility for.

Mend are demanding the release of two leaders and more oil wealth for locals.

The world's eighth biggest exporter of crude has been losing more than 500,000 barrels of oil per day since February when militants demanding greater local control of oil wealth staged a series of raids on the industry.

Posted by Publisher at 02:02 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria VP's jet grounded in spat

Atiku Abubakar is the opposition party's presidential candidate
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has told Lagos airport staff not to let the vice-president's official jet take off with him on holiday, reports say.

It comes a day after Vice-President Atiku Abubakar was chosen by an opposition party as its candidate for next April's presidential election.

Correspondents say the two have become bitter rivals after Mr Obasanjo accused his deputy of diverting public funds.

Mr Abubakar has now left for a two-week holiday aboard a commercial aircraft.

There has been no comment from the president's office about the reports.

Mr Abubakar's office told Reuters news agency that Mr Obasanjo had issued instructions for his deputy's plane to be prevented from leaving Lagos airport after formally approving his holiday.

Corruption allegations

Mr Abubakar was the only nominee put forward at the national meeting of the Action Congress party in Lagos.

Mr Obasanjo, the outgoing leader, fell out with Mr Abubakar over a failed bid to seek an unconstitutional third term.

In September, Nigeria's anti-corruption body accused Mr Abubakar of fraudulently using public funds from the country's Petroleum Technology Development Fund.

Mr Abubakar denies that he diverted $125m into personal business interests and says the corruption allegations are politically motivated.

Presidential candidates for some 50 registered political parties are being announced by the end of the week.

Next year's polls should become the first transfer of power from one elected leader to another since independence in 1960.


Posted by Publisher at 02:00 PM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2006

Nigeria opposition pick candidate

Some 5,000 delegates from the main opposition All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) have met in Abuja to select its presidential election candidate.

Six of the seven nominees stood aside to allow the former military leader, General Muhammadu Buhari, to become the party's representative.

The Action Congress opposition party is expected to meet on Wednesday in Lagos.

On Sunday, Katsina state governor Umaru Yar'Adua was selected by the ruling party to contest the April 2007 poll.

The reclusive northerner will be viewed as favourite by many, having received support from outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo, leader of the People's Democratic Party (PDP).

In his acceptance speech, Gen Buhari - who lost to President Obasanjo in 2003 - promised to run an all-inclusive government if elected next April.

"We have the people, we have the support of Nigerians, we have the programmes. All we need by the grace of God is free and fair elections," Gen Buhari said.

Gen Buhari's claim that the 2003 presidential elections were rigged was rejected by the Supreme Court last year.

The political rivals are kinsmen from Nigeria's north-western state of Katsina and the ANPP is hoping that this factor might help split the northern Muslim vote in next year's polls.

Deals

The other main opposition party - the Action Congress party (AC) - is due to meet on Wednesday in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos.

Vice-President Atiku Abubakar is expected to seek nomination as AC's presidential candidate.

Mr Abubakar who was a key figure in the formation of the governing PDP was recently suspended following disagreements with Mr Obasanjo and allegations of corruption which he denies.

Last week, the ANPP and AC formed an electoral pact, agreeing not to run rival candidates against each other in an attempt to counter the formidable election machinery of the PDP.

A BBC correspondent says there is little ideological difference between the parties, which are mostly divided by personality and patronage.

The PDP candidate will start off as favourite to win, but his lack of political experience will give hope to rivals of an upset, say analysts.

Splits

Nigeria's population is roughly split between southern-based Christians and Muslims who predominate in the north. Northerners say it is their turn to have the presidency after years of rule by Mr Obasanjo, a Christian.

A former college lecturer, Mr Yar'Adua is one of the few governors not currently under investigation for corruption.

He also has a close family link to Nigeria's leader - his brother was Mr Obasanjo's deputy when the president was military ruler during the 1970s. And the two men were in jail together during the rule of President Sani Abacha.

His running mate will be a southern Christian governor Goodluck Jonathan, from the oil-rich Niger Delta.

In his speech, Mr Yar'Adua said his nomination furthered the cause of democracy in Nigeria.

Since it was hastily formed some eight years ago, the PDP has had to cope with internal feuds that led to the exit of almost all its founding members.

Presidential candidates for some 50 registered political parties are being announced by the end of the week.

Next year's polls should become the first transfer of power from one elected leader to another since independence in 1960.

Posted by Publisher at 08:10 AM | Comments (0)

November 15, 2006

Rumsfeld may face war crimes charges

A lawyers' group has asked Germany to sue former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over alleged prisoner abuse in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.

The complaint was filed by the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of a Saudi man held in Cuba and 11 Iraqis held in Baghdad.

German law allows the pursuit of cases originating anywhere in the world.

State prosecutors have yet to decide whether to pursue the case. An earlier request for a case in 2004 was dropped.

Michael Ratner, the centre's president, said he felt the case had a better chance of success now because Mr Rumsfeld was no longer in office and could not exert the same degree of "political pressure".

He added that the centre had more evidence than it did in 2004, citing the case of a detained Saudi national, Mohamad al-Qahtani.

"Al-Qahtani was a man who the US alleged is al-Qaeda, who is in Guantanamo. The entire torture log of al-Qahtani over a period of two months was exposed," Mr Ratner told the BBC.


Resignation

The Center for Constitutional Rights argues that Mr Rumsfeld was instrumental in abuses committed at Guantanamo Bay and at Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad.

The group of international lawyers alleges that Mr Rumsfeld personally approved the use of torture to extract information from the prisoners.

Wolfgang Kaleck, the lawyer leading the attempt to bring the case, said former US Army Brig-Gen Janis Karpinski would be the "star witness".

Ms Karpinski was commander of US prisons in Iraq when several prisoners were abused by US soldiers at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib facility.

Mr Rumsfeld resigned on Wednesday following Republican losses to the Democrats in the US mid-term elections.

The US denies any torture has taken place at Guantanamo Bay and has defended its interrogation techniques.

Abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was brought to world attention after soldiers' photographs of the incidents were released and published.

Ten US soldiers have been found guilty of abuses at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison. The US says they were acting without official sanction.

Posted by Publisher at 10:05 AM | Comments (0)

Nigerian ex-governors on the run

Two Nigerian governors sacked over corruption allegations have gone on the run, officials say.

Dariye previously skipped bail in the UK

Joshua Dariye was impeached by central Plateau State assembly on Monday, while Ayo Fayose was removed in southern Ekiti State last month.

"We have declared them wanted," anti-corruption agency chief Nuhu Ribadu told the BBC.

Five governors have been sacked in a year but critics say the crackdown on graft is tied to next year's polls.

Dubious process

Mr Dariye skipped bail two years ago in the UK, where he was wanted on allegations of money-laundering.

He returned to Nigeria, where he was arrested but charges were eventually dropped because governors enjoy immunity from prosecution under Nigerian law.

This no longer applies if they are impeached.

Michael Botmang has been sworn in as Plateau State's new governor.

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says that, as with other recent impeachments, there are real questions as to the legality of the process.

Only about six of 22 state legislators voted for Mr Dariye's removal.

Polls

Riot police patrolled the streets of the state capital, Jos, on Monday to prevent any clashes between rival political groupings.

"Dariye was in Jos yesterday, we don't think he is too far away," said Mr Ribadu, head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).


After Mr Fayose was impeached, President Olusegun Obasanjo declared a state of emergency in Ekiti and installed a retired army general to run the state until April's elections.

Under Nigeria's federal system, governors enjoy considerable powers.

The EFCC recently said that two-thirds of the 36 governors were being investigated on corruption allegations.

Controlling the governorship is also seen as being crucial to winning elections in a particular state.

Mr Obasanjo is not standing in April's elections but correspondents say he is keen to influence the choice of who will succeed him.

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says that none of the five governors sacked this year are allies of the president.


Posted by Publisher at 09:24 AM | Comments (0)

November 03, 2006

Nigerian governor defies sacking

The impeached governor of the south-east Nigerian state of Anambra is refusing to leave office, leaving the state in political turmoil.

Amid tight security, some state legislators voted to remove Peter Obi for gross misconduct on Thursday.

His deputy is refusing to be sworn and civil rights groups have criticised the whole process as unconstitutional.

A BBC correspondent says the battle could get more volatile if supporters of the two sides take to the streets.

Election battle

Mr Obi, who has been in office for just seven months, only took power after a court ruled that his predecessor had rigged the election in 2003.

This is the fifth state to start impeachment proceedings against a governor this year.

Some say the recent impeachments are part of the fight against corruption.

But critics say it is often more about rival politicians trying to take charge of the state so they can control the elections due early next year.

Mr Obi, from the opposition All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), has only occupied the post since March this year.

That was after an appeal court rule that the elections in the state in 2003 were rigged by the governing People's Democratic Party.

The PDP's Chris Ngige, who occupied the post of governor illegally for three years, had fallen out with senior party figures soon after the election.

He said it was because he refused to loot public money to pay them back for their support.

Since Mr Obi took office in March, he has been locked in a power struggle with one of the president's closest aides, Andy Uba, who wants to win the governorship in next year's elections.

Analysts say the impeachment process could only help this ambition.


Posted by Publisher at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

Nigerian aviation minister sacked

Nigeria's aviation minister has been sacked following the plane crash on Sunday in which the spiritual leader of Nigeria's Muslims and 95 others died.

Reforms have failed to instill confidence in Nigerian airlines

Babalola Borishade swaps jobs with Culture Minister Femi Fani-Kayode, according to the president's office.

The crash of an ADC Boeing 737 into a cornfield just 2km (1.2 miles) from Abuja's main airport was the third major airline disaster in a year.

Nigeria held three days of national mourning amid widespread anger.

Critics are sceptical that an aviation industry overhaul to improve safety announced by President Olusgeun Obasanjo several months ago will actually work.

An investigation into the cause of Sunday's crash is already under way and ADC's aircraft have been grounded.

Premature

The day after the crash, Mr Borishade criticised the pilot, saying he had ignored bad weather warnings.

The pilots' union condemned his comments as premature ahead of any investigation.

Mr Obasanjo went to Sokoto to pay his respects after the death of Sultan Mohammadu Maccido.

Two senators and the son of a former president were also among those who died.

Just over a year ago, a passenger jet operated by Bellview went down near Lagos, killing 117 people.

Seven weeks later, a plane operated by the Nigerian airline Sosoliso crashed on landing in the southern city of Port Harcourt, killing 106 people, half of whom were children.

Since then new aviation officials have been appointed and runways are being improved.

The government says airport technology is also being upgraded to improve navigation.

Posted by Publisher at 09:46 AM | Comments (0)

October 31, 2006

Nigerian crash airline grounded

Nigeria has suspended the licence of the airline involved in Sunday's crash, in which 96 people were killed.

The plane reportedly burst into flames just after take-off

ADC's Boeing 737 passenger jet came down almost immediately after take-off from the capital, Abuja, on a flight to the northern city of Sokoto.

Among the dead was the spiritual leader of Nigeria's Muslims, the Sultan of Sokoto. Nine people are reported to have survived the crash.

This is Nigeria's third major civilian air disaster in less than a year.

ADC is one of Nigeria's most popular private airlines.

Three days of national mourning have been announced for the victims and an inquiry has begun.

President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday visited Sokoto to pay his respects at the sultan's palace.

"I have come with so much sadness and sorrow to condole the people and government of Sokoto and all Nigerians over this tragedy," he said.

"The sultan was a man of peace who lived and died for peace.

'Twisted remnants'

Most shops and businesses are closed in Sokoto and the city's motorbike-taxi riders have parked their bikes out of respect for the deceased sultan.

Residents are gathering at mosques and the sultan's palace to pray.

The BBC's Alex Last in Nigeria says there is a lot of anger over the latest crash, as well as grief.

"Nigeria's aviation industry needs urgent overhaul. This is one crash too many," said Ishaq Akintola, director of civil society group Muslim Rights Concern.

Nigeria's aviation minister has said the pilot ignored advice to wait for better weather before taking off.

"The pilot of the unfortunate accident refused to take advantage of the weather advice and the opinion of the [control] tower to exercise patience and allow the weather to clear for a safe take off," Aviation Minister Babalola Borishade said at a news conference.

The jet came down just after take-off, ploughing into a cornfield about two kilometres from Abuja airport.

Our correspondent says the plane broke up on impact, scattering debris and passengers' belongings across an area the size of a football pitch.

The body of the Sultan of Sokoto, Mohammadu Maccido - the spiritual leader of the country's estimated 70 million Muslims - was buried in Sokoto within hours of the crash.

Several other leading Nigerian politicians, including one of the sultan's sons, were also killed in the crash. The survivors are being treated in a hospital in Abuja.

Corruption and corner-cutting

After visiting the crash site, Federal Territory Minister Mallam Nasir el-Rufai told the BBC that the condition of the plane was "deplorable", with "bald tyres".

The government had already announced a plan to overhaul the aviation industry and improve safety following last year's disasters, in which more than 200 people died.

Last month 10 senior army commanders were killed when their military plane crashed.

Several airlines were grounded while safety checks were carried out. ADC planes were not involved in the crashes.

President Obasanjo blamed corruption and corner-cutting for poor safety standards.

Our correspondent says that air travel in Nigeria has boomed in recent years, but this crash will raise further questions as to how these safety reforms are being implemented.

Posted by Publisher at 09:24 AM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2006

Nigerian leaders 'stole' $380bn

More than $380bn has either been stolen or wasted by Nigerian governments since independence in 1960, the chief corruption fighter has said.

Nigeria's chief corruption fighter Nuhu Ribadu says he will not relent

Nuhu Ribadu told the BBC that Nigeria has "nothing much" to show for the missing money.

He said the worst period for corruption was the 1980s and '90s, but currently two-thirds of governors are being investigated by Mr Ribadu's agency.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil exporter but most people are poor.

The country is regularly ranked as one of the most corrupt by graft watchdog Transparency International.

President Olusegun Obasanjo declared a state of emergency in Ekiti State on Thursday after the governor was found guilty of siphoning state funds into personal bank accounts and receiving kickbacks.

Political corruption

Mr Ribadu said he had come up with his figure of $380bn stolen or wasted since independence "easily" through records kept by the Nigerian central bank and the ministry of finance.

"Basically, this money has gone to waste, nothing much to show for it," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

WHAT DOES $384.6BN BUY?

225 Space Shuttles
795,115 Rolls Royce Phantoms
400m PC computers
32m primary school rooms
3,800kg rice for each Nigerian

"Of course, probably part of it will have gone to outside stealing."

Mr Obasanjo's critics say the fight against corruption is being used to victimise his opponents ahead of next year's elections.

Mr Obasanjo is not standing after an attempt to let him seek a third term was defeated.

But Mr Ribadu denied he has a political motive in his fight against corruption.

"When you are doing this kind of work, you will always be accused of one thing or another."

Last month, Vice-President Atiku Abubakar was indicted on charges of corruption, which could stop him from running for office.

He denies allegations he diverted $125m into personal business interests.

Mr Ribadu has led Nigeria's battle against corruption as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The EFCC says in the past two years it has recovered more than $5bn and has successfully prosecuted 82 people.

Money laundering

Mr Ribadu told the BBC that $140m had been recovered from one unnamed former Nigerian leader and that nearly $400m of illegally gained assets had been identified in the possession of a former governor of Bayelsa State.

Vice-President Abubakar denies corruption allegations

Last year, Nigeria recovered $458m found in Swiss bank accounts linked to the country's late military ruler Sani Abacha.

Mr Abacha was in power from 1993 to 1998 and is thought to have embezzled billions of dollars.

Last year his son, Abba Sani Abacha, was charged with money laundering and fraud after being extradited to Switzerland.

Despite the missing money Nigeria has managed to pay off its multi-billion dollar debt to the Paris Club of major lenders, thanks to high oil prices.

About $5bn is still owed to other lenders including the World Bank and the private sector.

Posted by Publisher at 12:21 PM | Comments (0)

Climate water threat to millions

Climate change threatens supplies of water for millions of people in poorer countries, warns a new report from the Christian development agency Tearfund.

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Drought can devastate human populations and their livestock

Recent research suggests that by 2050, five times as much land is likely to be under "extreme" drought as now.

Tearfund wants richer states to look at helping poorer ones adjust to drought at next month's UN climate summit.

This week the UK's climate minister said he was confident of reaching an deal on adaptation funds at the talks.

There was an "urgent need" for such measures, Ian Pearson told a parliamentary committee.

It's the extremes of water which are going to provide the biggest threat to the developing world from climate change

Sir John Houghton

The Tearfund report, Feeling the Heat, urges donors to ramp up assistance quickly. Other charities are likely to make similar pleas in the run-up to the Nairobi summit, which begins on 6 November.

Citing research by the Oxford academic Norman Myers, Tearfund suggests there will be as many as 200 million climate refugees by 2050.

Areas where people are already on the move to avoid climate excesses include, the report says:

Brazil, where one in five people born in the arid northeast region relocates to avoid drought
China, where three provinces are seeing the spread of the Gobi desert
Nigeria, where about 2,000 sq km is becoming desert each year

Attributing the movement of people to climate impacts is, however, a difficult issue, with many other factors including economic opportunity behind decisions to relocate.

Level of rhetoric

One of Britain's leading climate scientists, Sir John Houghton, said the severity of climate change was getting through to world leaders "at a level of rhetoric", but not yet at a level of action.

"There were promises made at the G8 summit and at the last UN meeting in Montreal about money for adaptation," he told the BBC News website, "but I understand that very little of that has come through."

Sir John, who contributed a foreword to the Tearfund report, said water shortages would be the biggest climate threat to developing countries.

Enlarge Image

"It's the extremes of water which are going to provide the biggest threat to the developing world from climate change," he said.

"Without being able to be too specific about exactly where, droughts will tend to be longer, and that's very bad news. Extreme droughts currently cover about 2% of the world's land area, and that is going to spread to about 10% by 2050."

Overall, he said, climate models show a drying out of sub-Saharan Africa, while some other areas of the world will see more severe flooding.

Sir John is a former head of the UK Meteorological Office, former chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, and co-chaired one of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working groups.

He is now chairman of the John Ray Initiative, whose mission is to "connect environment, science and Christianity".

The positive side of the Tearfund report is that simple measures to "climate-proof" water problems, both drought and flood, have proven to be very effective in some areas.

In Niger, the charity says that building low, stone dykes across contours has helped prevent runoff and get more water into the soil; while in Bihar, northern India, embankments have been built to connect villages during floods, with culverts allowing drainage.


Posted by Publisher at 12:18 PM | Comments (0)

Fears over Nigeria emergency rule

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo's declaration of a state of emergency in troubled Ekiti State has heightened fears ahead of landmark elections due next April.

By Senan Murray
BBC News website, Abuja

Mr Fayose's sacking means he can now be prosecuted

Local MPs voted to impeach governor Ayo Fayose on Monday after finding him guilty of siphoning state funds into personal bank accounts and receiving kickbacks.

But several senior politicians and legal figures complained that his removal was unlawful.

Analysts say Mr Fayose's sacking and the declaration of emergency rule in Ekiti were part of complex political scheming ahead of the general elections.

But the proclamation has also achieved the objective of the impeachment exercise by removing Governor Fayose from office and therefore leaving him liable for prosecution.

'Ominous sign'

Opposition politicians say it is an "ominous sign of things to come" in an election where Mr Obasanjo seems determined to influence the choice of his successor.

President Obasanjo told national television that he was taking action to prevent Ekiti descending into chaos.

For a solution, President Obasanjo, himself a retired army general, has appointed another retired general to run Ekiti State for the next six months.

While Maj Gen Tunji Olurin remains sole administrator in Ekiti, all democratic institutions in the state, including the local legislature, which impeached Mr Fayose, will remain suspended.

But the ruling party could well benefit from the move as the new governor is also a senior official in the ruling People's Democratic Party and will supervise the state polls due in six months' time.

Army

The developments are also worrying for Nigerians who only returned to multi-party democracy in 1999 after being ruled by the military for most of the previous 30 years.

What was done in Ekiti was unconstitutional and allowing it to stand would put our democracy in grave danger

Muhammadu Buhari

Imposing the former commander of the West African peacekeeping force, Ecomog, as sole administrator in Ekiti adds to the dominance of retired military officers in Nigerian politics.

Former military rulers Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and General Muhammadu Buhari are expected to be top contenders in April elections.

The ruling party is also headed by a retired army colonel.

Election 'plot'

Some go even further than suggesting the moves against Mr Fayose and other state governors are political manoeuvring.

Some opposition politicians express the fear that the declaration of emergency rule in Ekiti is part of a plot to cause enough instability to postpone next year's elections.

"There is no justification for declaring a state of emergency in Ekiti State as it was a situation that could have been dealt with by the law courts and the security agencies," opposition politician Balarabe Musa told the BBC.

"As far as I'm concerned, it is something personally scripted by Obasanjo to throw the country into chaos and under such a situation, he could then invoke the constitution and hang on to power beyond next year," said Mr Musa, who was the first governor to be impeached in Nigeria.

Earlier this year, Nigeria's parliament rejected a plan to change the constitution to let Mr Obasanjo seek a third term in office.

Governors under fire

The governors, who cannot be prosecuted while in office, are now under scrutiny like never before.

Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission says it is investigating two-thirds of governors in a corruption drive that has been criticised as a cover for a political witch-hunt with the president's opponents as targets.

Three governors have been impeached since 1999, with another two currently facing impeachment proceedings from their local legislatures over allegations of corruption.

Some analysts say the rejection of Mr Fayose's impeachment by President Obasanjo is a warning to local legislatures in Plateau and Anambra, where the governors are also facing impeachment proceedings for corruption.

The imposition of emergency rule in Ekiti means that Mr Fayose has been stripped of his constitutional immunity and could therefore be arrested and tried for corruption.

It also suggests that action against more governors is likely.

As this could have a decisive impact on April's elections and the identity of Nigeria's next president, the next few months are set to be turbulent and controversial.


Posted by Publisher at 11:48 AM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2006

Missing Nigeria governor sacked

The governor of Ekiti State in Nigeria, has been impeached after MPs found him and his deputy guilty of corruption.

Mr Fayose was impeached over allegations of corruption

Ayo Fayose's sacking has heightened tensions in the south-western state with riot police deployed in the state capital, Ado-Ekiti.

Mr Fayose is the third governor to be impeached since Nigeria returned to multiparty democracy in 1999.

He denies graft and is believed to have fled to another West African country to avoid possible arrest and trial.

Serving Nigerian governors have immunity from criminal prosecution, but once removed, they lose their immunity and could stand trial.

Nigeria's anti-corruption watchdog, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), recently accused Mr Fayose of diverting $100,000 to a personal account in the US.

He was also accused of receiving kickbacks on a poultry project embarked upon by his state government.

The EFCC says almost all of Nigeria's 36 state governors are corrupt.

Row

The Ekiti State House of Assembly says it was shocked by the EFCC's allegations against the governor and decided to set up a special investigative panel to look into them.

The investigative panel, headed by the chief judge of the state, said it found evidence of corruption against the governor and recommended his sacking.

But the governor's supporters say that he and his deputy, Mrs Biodun Olujimi, are being "persecuted" because he had fallen out with President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Mr Fayose also claims that local state assembly leaders agreed to remove him from office in exchange for higher political positions.

'Selective justice'

The Nigerian government established the EFCC in 2003 to combat corruption, advanced fee fraud, locally known as 419, and other economic crimes in the oil-rich west African country.

Nigeria is on Transparency International's list of the world's most corrupt countries.

President Olusegun Obasanjo's critics accuse the EFCC of being selective in its anti-corruption effort.

They say the EFCC only targets the president's political opponents and critics.

Since it was established three years ago, the EFCC has carried out investigations that have led to the impeachment of three governors, albeit amid controversy.

Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of the oil-rich Bayelsa state was impeached last December after he jumped bail in the UK and returned to Nigeria dressed as a woman.

Mr Alamieyeseigha is currently standing trial in Nigeria on charges of money laundering and embezzlement of state funds.

Mr Rashid Ladoja of Oyo State was also impeached last January following allegations that he had also used his office as governor to corruptly enrich himself.

Plateau State Governor Joshua Dariye is a current target of the EFCC.

Mr Dariye was arrested in the UK in 2004 on suspicion of money laundering. Like Mr Alamieyeseigha, he also jumped bail and returned to Nigeria where efforts are still on to impeach him.

Posted by Publisher at 03:07 PM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2006

Two protesters killed in Nigeria

Riot police have fired at protesters in the central Nigerian city of Jos, killing two people and seriously injuring a third.

Mr Dariye is accused of money laundering by the UK

Hundreds of youths had taken to the streets to protest against attempts to impeach state governor Joshua Dariye on corruption charges, police sources say.

The protesters wanted to stop the state assembly from sitting in case they began impeachment proceedings.

Serving Nigerian governors have immunity from criminal prosecution.

Mr Dariye has been accused of money laundering by British authorities.

'Joke'

Last week, eight of Plateau state assembly's 24 legislators served an impeachment notice on Mr Dariye, citing corruption charges which they asked the governor to defend, or lose his position.

Mr Dariye dismissed the impeachment notice served on him as "a joke", saying the legislators had failed to form a quorum as required by the Nigerian constitution and so lacked the powers to initiate impeachment proceedings against him in the state assembly.

The eight lawmakers, all in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in the country's capital, Abuja, on Friday returned to Jos under armed guard to commence impeachment proceedings against Mr Dariye.

All of Plateau state's assembly members are being investigated by the EFCC.

The governor's supporters tried to stop them from entering the state assembly premises by mounting road blocks and burning used tyres along the way leading into the assembly.

Riot police fired tear gas to disperse them.

But the protesters regrouped and returned to the assembly premises, where they hurled stones at the lawmakers and their police escorts.

The riot police, who feared that they might be overpowered by the protesters fired into the crowd, killing two people and seriously injuring another, police sources told the BBC.

A Reuters reporter in Jos says he saw "the corpse of one man shot through the eye" and "another man [who] was taken to hospital with bullet wounds in his leg and abdomen."

Eyewitness Musa Abdullahi says the home of the deputy president of the Nigerian senate was also set ablaze during the protests.

Deputy senate president Ibrahim Nasir Mantu is believed to be supportive of the move by the EFCC to prosecute Mr Dariye.


Posted by Publisher at 10:56 AM | Comments (0)

October 10, 2006

Nigeria VP in the dock over graft

Nigeria's Vice-President Atiku Abubakar is to appear before a special court in Abuja to respond to corruption charges.

Atiku Abubakar helped thwart a third term for President Obasanjo

State prosecutors are trying him under Nigeria's code of conduct act. He denies allegations he diverted $125m into personal business interests.

He says his trial is part of a plot to prevent him running in the country's presidential elections due next April.

Mr Abubakar helped block President Olusegun Obasanjo changing the constitution and seeking a third term.

Early last week, the country's ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) suspended Mr Abubakar from its ranks, saying it found the corruption charges against the vice-president too embarrassing.

Mr Abubakar will remain in office, but his suspension means that he will not be eligible to seek the PDP's nomination for the presidential election.

So far the special court has failed to make any high-profile convictions.

Posted by Publisher at 09:29 AM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2006

Nigerian army 'razes oil village'

The Nigerian army has carried out a series of raids on oil militants after the reported deaths of 17 soldiers in the Niger Delta, several sources say.

The militants say they captured two military gunboats

The militants say a village in the oil producing area was razed to the ground but this was denied by the army.

The militants claim to have killed the troops in two attacks but this has not been independently confirmed. They are now threatening further attacks.

Nigeria's oil output is still 25% down after a wave of attacks in February.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer but the militants demand more local control of oil wealth for residents of the Niger Delta.

Helicopter gunships

"In the light of this attack on a helpless community, we are at present considering reciprocal action against the military or oil installations in Rivers [State]," said an e-mail from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend).

The military have used gun boats and helicopter gunships in the Delta's creeks, sources say, but there are no details of arrests or casualties.

But local army spokesman Sagir Musa said: "There is no truth in the story that the military have attacked any community in the creeks."

The raids came as army commanders were summoned to the capital, Abuja, however the military refuses to say whether the talks concern the recent escalation in violence in the Niger Delta, the source of most of Nigeria's oil.

Nine soldiers were killed when Mend fighters battled nine military patrol boats backed up by a helicopter gunship for one-and-a-half hours around Shell's Ekulama oil flow station, 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of Port Harcourt, the militants said.

Mend also say they seized two military gunboats.

In a separate incident, Mend said they killed two soldiers and six sailors.

"After a brief shoot-out in which they were all killed, we boarded the houseboat and collected all the weapons aboard," the group said.

The British government has responded to the attacks by warning against all but essential travel to the Niger Delta.

The latest attacks comes two days after another armed group killed at least 10 soldiers by raiding a convoy of barges carrying fuel in the same region.

Five foreign oil workers - including four Britons - seized during a raid on a residential compound operated by ExxonMobil in Akwa Ibom state on Tuesday remain missing.

Dilemma

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says the Nigerian military and oil companies face a serious dilemma in how to respond to the upsurge in violence.

The militants say they are fighting for greater local control of oil wealth

The oil companies do not want to see any heavy-handed military action which could exacerbate the situation and endanger the lives of their workers, our correspondent says.

But he says that so many soldiers' deaths would prompt a fierce military response anywhere else in the country.

Two months ago, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered the military to take a tougher line with the armed groups in the Delta.

However, targeting the armed groups would take a major increase in the military presence in the Delta, whose maze of creeks and swamps give the local insurgents a major advantage.

Our correspondent says some fear further violence in the build-up to elections next year.

Posted by Publisher at 10:04 AM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2006

Nigeria deaths in speedboat raid

At least five Nigerian soldiers have been killed in a massive raid on a convoy of barges carrying fuel in the oil-producing Niger Delta.

Some 25 workers for the oil firm Shell were taken hostage, while nine more soldiers are missing, sources say.

About 70 armed men staged the attack in five speedboats and destroyed two military patrol boats.

A coalition of militant groups has said it carried out the raid and demanded the release of one of its leaders.

However, one of the groups supposed to be in the coalition, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, has denied involvement.

The self-styled coalition demanded the release of Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, who's been in prison for a year awaiting trial for treason.

But some analysts say stealing fuel and extorting money in return for the hostages was the primary motivation.

Election fears

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says in the Niger Delta the line between criminal gangs and the more political militant groups is often blurred.


He says gunmen, politicians and military officers are said to collude in the black market for oil.

Our correspondent says the incident highlights the continued vulnerability of the oil industry despite government pledges to crackdown on armed groups in the Delta.

Although there has not been a new wave of attacks on the actual oil infrastructure for some months, he says oil companies are bracing themselves for further violence in the Delta as competing politicians try to use the armed groups to secure victory in next year's elections.


Posted by Publisher at 01:47 PM | Comments (0)

Nigerians divided by Babangida

Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, the stupendously wealthy former military ruler of Nigeria, is only one of some 20 presidential aspirants in upcoming polls - but none excite half as much emotion as he does.

By Sola Odunfa
BBC Focus On Africa magazine

His supporters are fanatical with admiration; his opponents dislike him with an equal passion.

Hardly any Nigerian is indifferent to IBB, as he is known. And with the country's general and presidential elections due in April 2007, Mr Babangida's figure looms large over the political landscape.

During his years in power between 1985 and 1993, the press nicknamed him Maradona for his deft political dribbling skills - demonstrated in particular when his elaborate plan to hand over to civilian rule ate deep into the nation's purse for three years, yet produced no democracy.

But having given himself the title "evil genius", he is now tasked with convincing Nigerian voters that he means no evil. But the field he faces is hostile indeed.

Public campaign

On Mr Babangida's 65th birthday in August, a group called the Citizens For Nigeria spoiled the party with a full-page newspaper advertisement proclaiming that "the bedrock for today's economic and financial problems in Nigeria was laid by this man".

They blamed him for the "institutionalisation of the culture of corruption" in Nigeria.

And the concerted public campaign to rubbish Mr Babangida began as far back as May, when his former chief of defence staff, General Domkat Bali, revealed a minister who was executed for allegedly plotting a coup was convicted on "weak" evidence.

"I am not sure whether we were right to have killed him," General Bali said.

The widow of the executed minister, General Mamman Vasta, then wrote to President Olusegun Obasanjo protesting her husband's innocence and demanding that Mr Babangida be prosecuted for her husband's "murder".

Even without a decision on whether the matter will be officially pursued, incalculable political harm had been done to the former military ruler.

Meanwhile, the heat drew nearer to home in August when Mr Babangida's son, Mohammed, was arrested by anti-corruption agents.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) made no allegations of impropriety, but he was questioned about his financial affairs and alleged investment in the local telecommunications company, Globacom. He spent three days behind bars before he was released on bail.

However, his father's supporters were quick to point the blame for his detention on Mr Obasanjo's government - and added that the EFCC's target was in fact Mr Babangida himself, with the intention of finding something with which to discredit him.

They also took issue with the earlier arrest and interrogation of Mike Adenuga, the highly respected owner of Globacom, claiming he is being harassed because of his close relationship with Mr Babangida.

Major hurdle

On his birthday, Mr Babangida gave his first personal response to these mounting problems.

"I can understand because we are getting into politics," he said, adding that the Vatsa execution had now been added "into the vocabulary of the atrocities committed by IBB".

But he called for people to "understand and to be fair in their condemnation."

"Nigeria is bigger than Babangida or any other person - so, we should be thinking on what to do to better our country," he added.

However, it is not yet certain whether Mr Babangida's name will even appear on the ballot papers - with a major hurdle for him being a recommendation to government that he and two other ex-military rulers, who rejected summonses to appear before the Human Rights Violations Investigations Commission, be banned from leading Nigeria again.

The decision to implement the recommendation rests with President Obasanjo - and perhaps ultimately with the courts of appeal.


Posted by Publisher at 01:46 PM | Comments (0)

Oil prices rise after output cuts

Global oil prices rose on Monday after Venezuela and Nigeria said they were cutting production.


The move by the two countries is seen as a means to shore up crude prices which have fallen 20% since late July's highs, due to easing supply concerns.

By late morning in Europe, US light crude had risen seven cents to $62.95 a barrel, while London's Brent crude was up 10 cents to $62.58 a barrel.

Oil producers group Opec said Venezuela and Nigeria were acting on their own.

Although both are members of Opec, the body is sticking to its stance that there are no current plans to reduce overall Opec production.

The 11-strong group presently has an official production ceiling of 28 million barrels per day, which has been in place since July 2005.

Iranian situation

Nigeria and Venezuela are reducing their combined oil production by 170,000 barrels per day.

Back in July, oil prices hit record highs of $78 due to fears of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear plans, and the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon.

The threat of sanctions against Iran has since receded, and the last Israeli troops have now left Lebanon.

Venezuela is the world's ninth largest oil producer and Nigeria the 12th biggest.


Posted by Publisher at 01:45 PM | Comments (0)

Burst dam destroys Nigeria homes

Hundreds of people in northern Nigeria have been made homeless after a dam burst in Zamfara state, the state's governor has said.
Governor Ahmed Sani Yarima told the BBC torrential rain had brought the water level behind the dam to critical level, forcing it to burst.


Mr Yarima said about 1,000 families had lost their homes but said that contrary to media reports no-one was killed.

Earlier reports in local media said at least 40 people had died.

The governor described how a wall of water swept through villages below the dam, close to the state capital Gusau.

"The body of water was just like the pictures of tsunami that we've seen," he said. "It had enough force and speed to sweep people off their feet and into the river."

Despite the force of the water, "all those missing were later found safe and alive," Mr Yarima told Reuters news agency.

People who have lost their homes are being sheltered in a local secondary school.

The reservoir behind the dam provided the main supply of drinking water to Gusau.

Mr Yerima said emergency repairs to the dam would take about two weeks but water supplies to Gusau should not be affected.

He has called on the Nigerian federal government to provide aid.


Posted by Publisher at 01:41 PM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2006

Arrests after Nigerian violence

Nigerian police in the northern state of Jigawa have arrested 25 youths after violence erupted between Muslims and Christians in the state capital, Dutse.

At least six churches and dozens of shops were set on fire.

The state authorities believe the trouble began when a Christian market trader insulted the Prophet Muhammad in the presence of a Muslim customer.

Protesters gathered outside the palace of the chief official in the district, demanding the woman be punished.

Police said many Christian residents had taken shelter in the police barracks.

A curfew has been imposed on Dutse, Jigawa's state capital, and the town is reported to be calm after Wednesday's riots.

After rumours spread that the female trader had blasphemed against the Prophet Mohammed, police used teargas to disperse the demonstrators, which prompted groups of youths to go through the town attacking and looting shops and burning some church buildings.

A number of people were injured - all but one of them have now been discharged from hospital.

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says that despite the religious veneer, such disturbances tend to be less about religion and more about poor or unemployed youths seeing an opportunity to loot.

Nigeria, which is split between Muslims and Christians, has a history of sectarian and ethnic clashes but often the violence is rooted in economic deprivation and stirred up by local politicians for their own political ends.

Nevertheless, our correspondent says, with elections approaching, any disturbance is a worrying reminder of just how easy it can be for violence to erupt.

Posted by Publisher at 11:14 AM | Comments (0)

Nigeria champions sack coach

Oceans Boys will play in the Champions League next year
Newly-crowned Nigeria league champions Ocean Boys have sacked their Belgian coach Maurice Cooreman.

According to club chairman Ngor Silva the coach was dismissed for making"negative comments" about the club.

"He has generated negative publicity for the club with his unfounded remarks and as such we have no option than to let him go," Silva said.

Cooreman, who has worked with several local clubs including Insurance, Lobi Stars and Gabros, has been widely quoted in the local press saying that he has not been paid his salary for the past six months.

Ocean Boys emerged as league champions against the odds for the first time in their history on 10 September.

They finished top of a mini-tournament for the top four clubs during the regular season.

They will now represent Nigeria in next year's Champions League alongside runners-up Nasarawa United.

Posted by Publisher at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)

Okaka rejects Nigeria call up

The Nigeria Football Association (NFA) has failed to lure Stefano Chuka Okaka to play for the Flying Eagles.

Shina Okeleji
BBC Sport, Lagos

NFA was keen on inviting the Italy-born AS Roma striker for their final qualifier for the African Youth Championship against Rwanda on 30 September.

But the 17-year-old, whose parents are from Nigeria, has opted to focus on playing in the colours of Italy instead.

"I have been looking forward to representing Italy in future like my sister (Stefania) did in volleyball," Okaka told BBC Sport.

"Even though my parents are from Nigeria, I would love to play for the national team of Italy in someday."

Two weeks ago Stefania was part of the Italian side that won the European Women Junior Volleyball championship in France.

Meanwhile, the NFA is still confident of convincing Aston Villa's Nigeria-born striker Gabriel Agbonlahor to play for the West African country.

Officials believe the recent capture of Everton's Victor Anichebe will encourage the 19-year-old to make a nationality switch after representing England at youth level.

"We expect Anichebe for the game against Rwanda at the end of this month, hopefully this should be a positive influence on Agbonlahor," NFA acting general secretary Fanny Amun told BBC Sport.

"Agbonlahor has been in good form for Aston Villa in the English Premiership and we believe he will be a good addition to our national under-20 side."

Agbonlahor, who is also Nigerian-born, is a product of the Aston Villa youth system.

Nigeria will qualify for the 2007 African Youth Championship in Congo if they win their two-legged tie against Rwanda.


Posted by Publisher at 11:04 AM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2006

Blatter to fire up SA World Cup

Fifa president Sepp Blatter will visit South Africa shortly to urge lawmakers to speed up building work for the 2010 World Cup, amid growing concern about delays.

Blatter said he would meet South African President Thabo Mbeki and make an appeal to the country's parliament "to explain the value of the World Cup and to fire up the organising committee, because it's the last moment to start building five stadiums.

"For the moment they have plans, money, and decisions, but I have yet to see the pickaxes and spades needed to start the work," Blatter said.

A Fifa spokesman was unable to give a date for the planned visit by the delegation from world football's governing body.

Blatter hoped that the work would get underway before the end of the year, and said the South Africans had to be trusted.

The Fifa chief also advised the South Africans not to take up offers of help from British, French, German, or other experts involved in organising previous World Cups.

"If there are too many cooks, it spoils the broth," he commented.

Senior municipal officials in the nine cities which are to host the 2010 World Cup accused the South African government and lawmakers last month of hampering their preparations.

The officials told a parliamentary committee they were still in the dark about the amount of money they would receive for the tournament.

They also complained that legislation on tendering contracts threatened to derail their organisation efforts.


Posted by Publisher at 01:10 PM | Comments (0)

Smith in as Brewster rejects trio

Dundee United have taken former Bristol City defender Grant Smith on a week's trial after rejecting the chance to sign three African hopefuls.

Congo midfielder Franck Matingou, Namibian striker Arend Von Stryk and Zimbabwean forward Brian Badza had all been given a chance at Tannadice.

Smith, who can play on the left side of defence or midfield, is the latest aiming to impress boss Craig Brewster.

The 26-year-old is the son of former Rangers forward Gordon Smith.

He is out of contract after making just 12 appearances for City.

Smith was on loan to Walsall for the latter part of last season, scoring three goals in 15 appearances.

He started his career at Wycombe Wanderers before moving to Reading, Hearts, Livingston, Sheffield United and Swindon Town.

Smith also had spells on loan to Clydebank, Plymouth Argyle and Halifax Town.

It had looked like Matingou would win himself a contract at Tannadice.

The 26-year-old, released by French club Bastia, played for United's reserves in a 2-0 defeat of St Mirren.

Brewster was impressed by what he had seen.

However, he told BBC Sport on Friday that Matingou was not at the required match fitness.

Matingou had returned to Tannadice after having impressed on a previous trial period while signed to Bastia.

United had been interested in signing Matingou before the closure of last month's transfer window.

But Bastia demanded a fee that United were unwilling to pay.

However, the Congo international has since secured his release from the French club.

Von Stryk was previously with Sport Klub Windhoek and would not have required a work permit as he has a German passport.

Zimbabwean striker Brian Badza, also 27, had previously been with Caps United in his homeland.

Brewster had earlier decided against signing 23-year-old former Lyon winger Xavier Barrau, who also recently had trials with Raith Rovers and Ross County.


Posted by Publisher at 01:08 PM | Comments (0)

Champions League preview

Former winners Enyimba of Nigeria and Tunisia's CS Sfaxien only need draws on the final weekend of group matches to book semi-final berths in the Champions League.

Enyimba, who won Africa's top club prize in 2003 and 2004, must avoid defeat away to Orlando Pirates in Johannesburg on Saturday to edge second place over the South African side in Group B.

The top slot in the standings, which guarantees a home tie in the second leg, has already been taken by Asec Abidjan of the Ivory Coast.

In Group A, CS Sfaxien can still finish top but must beat Asante Kotoko of Ghana at home on Sunday and hope that defending champions Ahly of Egypt are beaten in their final match.

Ahly have already qualified, but are expected to resist the temptation of playing a second-string side against Algeria's JS Kabylie on Sunday because of the risk of a second-place finish.

Asante Kotoko must win to advance ahead of their Tunisian opponents and their attacking ambitions have been enhanced by the fact that Sfaxien's international defender Issam Merdassi is suspended.

However, the home side will welcome back midfielder Haitham Mrabet from a one-match suspension after he picked up two yellow cards in the competition.

Kotoko will be hoping for a repeat performance from striker Nana Arhin-Duah, who scored twice in last weekend's come-from-behind victory over JS Kabylie.

"As things are now, we have no choice but to go and secure a win in Tunisia," the striker said.

"It would be a difficult match, but I am counting of our fighting spirit, and the ambition to play in the semi-finals, to carry us to victory."

Asec Abidjan are expected to rest key players for their trip to Obuasi to face last-placed Hearts of Oak in Group B.


Posted by Publisher at 01:07 PM | Comments (0)

McCarthy gets manager backing

Blackburn manager Mark Hughes is backing South Africa's Benni McCarthy to make an impact in the English premiership following a slow start.

The striker scored his first goal for the club on Thursday in their 2-2 away draw to the Austrian side Salzburg in the Uefa Cup.

But he is still trying to find his feet in the league this season following a US$5million move from the Portuguese side Porto in August.

The signs were good in pre-season as McCarthy, in partnership with another new forward in Jason Roberts, found the net on a number of occasions.

Yet in Rovers' four Premiership games to date, McCarthy - like the team in general - has struggled.

Ahead of Sunday's visit of Manchester City, Blackburn are still attempting to recapture the form that led to last season's sixth -placed heroics.

McCarthy has at least scored Rovers' only league goal, that in a 1-1 draw at home to Everton, but with other chances few and far between.

Hughes, though, has every confidence McCarthy will soon start to shine as he said: "It's early days for Benni.

"To be fair with regards to Benni, I feel the expectations are a little too high.

"He has come into a different league, we are only four games in and yet people are expecting him to have a huge impact.

"After scoring goals in pre-season and one in the Premiership, I'm happy with what he is showing at the moment.

"But it will take time, just as it is doing for other big signings at other clubs.

"So I've no worries with regard to Benni McCarthy because he is a quality player, a European Cup winner.

"He'll have an impact at this level and very quickly get stronger as a Premier League player, that's for sure."


Posted by Publisher at 01:06 PM | Comments (0)

Mwaruwari welcomes competition

Zimbabwe striker Benjani Mwaruwari is encouraged that there is competition for places at his English club Portsmouth.

Portsmouth's record US$8million buy in January has finally made his own breakthrough after doubling his single goal tally from last season.

His strikes against Middlesbrough and Wigan in a potent partnership with Nigerian's Kanu Nwankwo have helped the club to second on the standings.

But after new boy Andy Cole and fit-again Lomana LuaLua proved their recovery from injuries in the reserves on Tuesday, Benjani knows his place is still under threat - and is unworried.

He had knee surgery in the summer after "forcing" himself through the last few games of the season and admits that when he went home to Bulawayo for two months afterwards, he had a "few beers" to celebrate.

But the Zimbabwe star insisted: "I am not intimidated that new strikers have come in. If anything it has lifted me as it means we are no longer a struggling side.

"I know there may be a lot of changing now, because it is all about getting the right combination at the right time. If a rotation system is used that is fine by me.

Mwaruwari joined Portsmouth from the French side Auxerre.


Posted by Publisher at 01:06 PM | Comments (0)

Rostock fined for Asamoah abuse

The German Football Federation (DFB) has fined Hansa Rostock U$25,000 for the racist abuse suffered by Ghana-born striker Gerald Asamoah.

Racist chants were aimed at the Schalke player, who featured for Germany at the World Cup, during Saturday's German Cup game.

The DFB's sport court also ordered the third division east German club to play their next home match without any spectators because of the incidents in the match.

"The reason for the punishment is the continued racist shouts aimed at Schalke's international player Gerald Asamoah," DFB spokesman Harald Stenger said in a statement.

The DFB said that Hansa Rostock accepted the ruling.

It is the first punishment meted out by the DFB following new disciplinary regulations aimed at clamping down on racism in the game.

In June, Fifa warned it will suspend national associations who fail to impose the new tough rules that came into force in July.

Meanwhile, Rostock manager Stefan Studer has given Asamoah a personal apology.

"This is simply shameful and disgusting," Schalke manager Mirko Slomka said.

"Rostock has a national team game soon - maybe something can be done there."

Rostock hosts Germany's friendly against Georgia on 7 October.

Asamoah was among players targeted by right wing groups heading into the World Cup.

Posted by Publisher at 01:05 PM | Comments (0)

Kenya sack Lama's deputies

Kenyan football authorities sacked head coach Bernard Lama's deputies on Thursday amid recriminations over a humiliating defeat by Eritrea.

Lama, who has threatened to quit the job, returned to Europe last week complaining he had yet to receive a contract spelling out the terms and conditions of his employment from the Kenya Football Federation (KFF).

Deputy coaches Jacob Mulee and Sammy Nyongesa and team manager Anthony Oriri, were sacked after refusing to assemble the squad, saying they were waiting for Lama's return.

"We are disappointed by the local coaches' bad reaction to defeat at the hands of Eritrea because it is tantamount to holding the nation to ransom and...an indication of unwillingness to serve the country," KFF secretary-general Dan Omino said.

Lama, a member of France's 1998 World Cup-winning squad, left the country four days after the east Africans suffered an upset 2-1 defeat by Eritrea in a 2008 African Nations Cup qualifying match in Nairobi.

It was the latest defeat on Lama's watch, after Kenya lost two build-up matches to Ethiopia last month.

Posted by Publisher at 01:04 PM | Comments (0)

South Africa drop six players

South Africa made six changes to their squad on Thursday for next month's African Nations Cup qualifier against Zambia in Lusaka.

Caretaker coach Pitso Mosimane dropped six players from the squad that drew 0-0 at home with Congo earlier this month at the start of the qualifying campaign .

Mosimane, who is in charge of his last match before the arrival of Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira, named uncapped striker Nathan Paulse in his 20-man squad.

Back in the squad are defenders George Mofokeng and Siphiwe Mkhonza and the midfield trio of Mlungisi Gumbi, Siphiwe Tshabalala and Benedict Vilakazi.

Paulse, from Ajax Cape Town, is the only uncapped player in the side.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Rowen Fernandez (Kaizer Chiefs), Calvin Marlin (Mamelodi Sundowns)

Defenders: Bradley Carnell (Karlsruhe, Germany), Ricardo Katza (SuperSport United), Siphiwe Mkhonza (Kaizer Chiefs), George Mofokeng (Ajax Cape Town), Aaron Mokoena (Blackburn Rovers, England), Nasief Morris (Panathinaikos, Greece), Cyril Nzama (Kaizer Chiefs)

Midfielders: Mlungisi Gumbi (Lamontville Golden Arrows), Siyabonga Nkosi (Kaizer Chiefs), Steven Pienaar (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Gert Schalkwyk (Kaizer Chiefs), Macbeth Sibaya (Rubin Kazan, Russia), Dillon Sheppard (Mamelodi Sundowns), Siphiwe Tshabalala (Free State Stars), Benedict Vilakazi (Orlando Pirates)

Strikers: Siyabonga Nomvete (Aalborg BK, Denmark), Nathan Paulse (Ajax Cape Town), Glen Salmon (FC Groningen, Netherlands).


Posted by Publisher at 01:03 PM | Comments (0)

September 13, 2006

Nigeria oil unions stage strike

A three-day strike by Nigerian oil workers has had some impact on production whilst queues are being reported at petrol stations.

By Alex Last
BBC News, Lagos

Union officials say thousands of oil workers have obeyed the order to stay away from work protesting at insecurity in the oil-producing Niger Delta.

They want the government to do more to protect workers in the region from attacks and abductions by armed groups.

On Tuesday a Nigerian oil worker was killed in an attack on a supply ship.

Reports suggest the unions and government are holding more meetings to try and end the action.

Nigeria is the world's eighth largest producer of crude oil.

A shipping agent told Reuters news agency that tanker loadings were suspended at two major terminals, Brass River and Escravos.

But industry officials said operations appeared to continue normally at other ports.

"We are working to maintain production at normal levels," said Exxon spokeswoman Gloria Essien.

Protest

The unions told thousands of their workers not to work for three days as a warning to the government to do more to stop attacks on the oil industry by armed groups.

This year there have been a string of raids on oil installations and kidnappings of oil workers.
On Tuesday a Nigerian oil worker was killed in an attack by pirates on a ship operated by an American oil services company. Two others were injured, Chevron announced..

Last month, an employee for Shell who had been held hostage was killed in a shoot-out between troops and militants.

The unions say their strike is targeted against the government rather than the oil companies working in the Delta.

There have been talks among the parties about limiting the strike's impact on oil production.

The BBC's Alex Last in Nigeria says that in past stoppages, the oil companies have used a few key staff and non-unionised workers to keep the oil flowing but a prolonged strike could have consequences.

Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer but its output is already down by more than a quarter as a result of militant attacks and pipeline leaks.

This has contributed to the high global price of crude oil and despite government pledges to take a tough line with the armed groups there are fears of continued insecurity in the oil producing region in the run-up to Nigeria's elections next year, he says.


Posted by Publisher at 05:18 PM | Comments (0)

September 07, 2006

Ivorian cabinet quits over waste

Ivory Coast Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny has dissolved his cabinet over a toxic waste scandal in Abidjan.

Three people have died and more than 1,500 have been treated after inhaling fumes from waste apparently dumped at sites in the city two weeks ago.

Mr Banny, who will remain in office, was asked by Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo to form a new cabinet at a meeting scheduled for Thursday.

It is unclear who dumped the waste but local papers are alleging corruption.

The BBC's James Copnall in Abidjan says anger has been mounting at the failure of the government to act more decisively.

Special fund

The government is a power-sharing administration, including rebels who control the north of the country.

Our correspondent says some feel that the decision to resign could be intended to deflect from the failure of Tuesday's summit of political leaders to break a deadlock in the peace process.

The out-going administration's last act was to set up a special fund to pay for the medical treatment for the victims of the toxic waste.

Foreign experts have been asked to help clear up the waste from seven locations around Ivory Coast's biggest city.

Hundreds of youths have set up roadblocks around the city to draw attention to the problem.

Ivorian television on Wednesday interrupted its regular programmes to urge hundreds of protesters to give doctors access to sites where toxic waste was dumped.

It said people faced serious health threats because of the toxic material.

The waste was dumped by a ship several weeks ago in unclear circumstances.

Trafigura Beheer BV, the company that chartered the ship Probo Koala, said it was very concerned by reports that "residue from the petrol cargo" had been disposed of inappropriately.

Those affected are being treated for stomach problems, nosebleeds and respiratory illnesses.

A senior aide to the prime minister told the BBC that Mr Konan Banny felt that people at the highest level should face the consequences.

Breathing problems

"I'm feeling very bad in the throat and I have headaches and I cannot breathe properly," Eric, a patient seeking treatment at Abidjan's university teaching hospital city, told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

The hospital has set up a specialist unit to deal with those suffering from similar symptoms.

"We don't know what we're treating. When they have stinging eyes or noses we give them drops. We want to know what it is so we know how to treat it," the manager of a local hospital told Reuters news agency.

He added the hospital was running low on some medicines and X-ray film.

In a statement, Trafigura Beheer BV said it told Ivorian authorities of the nature of the waste including "a written request that it should be safely disposed of, according to country laws".

"Trafigura can confirm that the residue (slops) were a mixture of gasoline, water and caustic washings," the statement continued.

In an unusual move, state television interrupted its programming on Wednesday to urge protesters "to enable physicians and health workers who must imperatively report to the hospitals and clinics to treat the victims of the toxic waste, to move freely".


Posted by Publisher at 08:27 AM | Comments (0)

September 06, 2006

Nigeria military finds arms cache

Nigeria's military say they have found an arms cache belonging to a wanted militant leader in Port Harcourt.

The weapons were discovered after a raid on the hide-out of Ateke Tom, the head of the Niger Delta Vigilantes.

The group has been blamed for a spate of recent kidnappings and bank robberies in the oil-rich city.

The BBC's Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar says the find is significant as the group was supposed to have handed in all their weapons after a truce last year.

The Vigilantes, accused of stealing crude oil, were involved in bloody battles with other militants competing for territory in 2004.

A reliable military source told our correspondent that four arrests had been made.

But Mr Tom has told the BBC the seized weapons did not belong to him.

The military say their haul included 12 AK47s, seven general purpose machine guns, eight sub-machine guns, ammunition, bullet-proof vests and dynamite.

The abductions and attacks on oil facilities have led to oil companies withdrawing staff, cutting Nigeria's oil production by a quarter.

Foreigners in Nigeria's oil capital, Port Harcourt, now move around with several armed guards.

Oil industry sources say hostage-taking has become an attractive business, as oil companies strike clandestine ransom deals.

Posted by Publisher at 01:26 PM | Comments (0)

Ghana handed final AWC spot

Caf has handed Ghana a place at the African Women's Championship in Nigeria.

The executive committee of Africa's football governing body awarded the final qualifying tie to the Black Queens on Tuesday after Congo failed to turn up for the first leg encounter in Obuasi.

Congo were given a one-year suspended sentence as well as a fine of US$5,000.

Ghana will play in Group B where they face Mali, Cameroon and DR Congo.

The tournament to be staged between 28 October and 12 November.

Nigeria have won every edition of the African Women's Championship since its inception in 1998.

Posted by Publisher at 01:25 PM | Comments (0)

September 05, 2006

Zuma goes on trial for corruption

The corruption trial of former South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma has begun in the Pietermaritzburg High Court in the east of the country.

Mr Zuma and his co-accused, French arms firm Thint, face charges in connection with a bribe allegedly paid to Mr Zuma.

Defence lawyers have called for the case to be thrown out of court.

Hundreds of Mr Zuma's supporters, who stood by him during a separate rape trial in which he was acquitted in May, held an overnight vigil at the court.

The case could determine the political future of a man who remains one of South Africa's most popular politicians, and who is believed still to harbour ambitions to the presidency.

As proceedings got under way, Judge Herbert Msimang said he would hear the state's arguments in favour of postponement to allow more time for investigation, and then the defence's arguments for the case to be dropped.

'Vendetta'

Mr Zuma sat in the dock wearing a dark suit, and smiled and put his hands together in greeting to his supporters, reports the South African Press Association.

Banners carried by his supporters outside the court included the slogan "fight conspiracy and demand justice".

Some of his supporters believe that the charges against Mr Zuma are the result of a political vendetta.

Mr Zuma was sacked from the government more than a year ago when his financial adviser Schabir Shaik was found guilty of corruption in a case that arose from a government arms procurement deal in the 1990s.

The judge said there had been a generally corrupt relationship between Mr Shaik and Mr Zuma, and evidence led in Mr Shaik's trial prompted the National Prosecuting Authority to start investigating charges against Mr Zuma.

Although the investigation prompted President Thabo Mbeki to relieve Mr Zuma of his duties as deputy president, he kept his position of deputy leader of the ANC.

He first appeared in connection with the corruption allegations in the Durban magistrate's court in October, and prosecutors have spent the intervening period collecting and examining evidence.

Late last year, Mr Zuma was accused of rape by the daughter of a family friend, giving rise to a separate trial, in which he was acquitted.

Posted by Publisher at 05:14 PM | Comments (0)

Nigerian arson 'graft cover-up'

A Nigerian government-owned building was burnt down in Zamfara state in an attempt to destroy evidence of fraud, the anti-corruption commission says.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said the arson was aimed at getting rid of vital documents.

But the EFCC said it would continue to investigate an agricultural project and the state ministry of finance.

A number of officials have already appeared in court in Abuja, over alleged misappropriation of funds.

"It is the belief of the commission that the fire is the handiwork of persons known to, or in sympathy with, top officials of the Zamfara State government," the EFCC said.

Nigeria is seen as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

President Olusegun Obasanjo set up the EFCC to tackle the problem.

But his critics say the commission has been used to sideline the president's opponents ahead of elections due next year.

Mr Obasanjo's supporters were defeated in their attempt to change the constitution to let him stand for a third term.

Posted by Publisher at 02:35 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria in tough AWC draw

Defending champions and hosts Nigeria will face in South Africa in Group A of the African Women's Championship.

The eight-team tournament kicks off on 28 October with the final set to be played on 11 November.

The other two sides in group A are Algeria and Equatorial Guinea.

Cameroon, the losing finalists in the last edition in 2004, have been pooled in Group B where they will face DR Congo and Mali.

The other team in the group will be named later on Tuesday.

Caf will decide whether Ghana or Congo should play in the group after the Congolese failed to turn for the first leg encounter in Obuasi.

Nigeria have won every edition of the African Women's Championship since its inception in 1998.

Posted by Publisher at 02:30 PM | Comments (0)

September 01, 2006

Nigeria police to get arms boost

Nigeria's police are planning to buy 80,000 new firearms ahead of elections due in April next year.
Police spokesman Haz Iwendi told the BBC that the guns were needed to arm 50,000 new police officers.

He said the arms, including 70,000 assault rifles, were needed to confront armed criminals.

Elections in 2003 were marred by several assassinations and three high-profile politicians have been murdered this year.

Since the end of military rule in 1999, thousands of people have been killed in ethnic and religious violence.

'Bold step'

"The federal government decided the police need to be further equipped to face the challenges of electioneering - before, during and after the election," Mr Iwendi told the BBC's Network Africa programme.


We need the equipment to match the ferocity of the criminals

Police spokesman Haz Iwendi

He said it was a "bold step" but said people should not be worried about police intimidation and obsolete arms would be destroyed.

Mr Iwendi said the new arms that were being ordered were:


40,000 AK47 rifles
30,000 K2 rifles
10,000 pistol Berettas.

The southern oil-producing Niger Delta is awash with weapons and kidnappings have become an almost daily occurrence.

Some armed groups in the region have been used by politicians to help win elections in the past.

The BBC's Sola Odunfa in Lagos says there is also growing concern there could be a spate of assassinations, the most prominent of which was the ruling party candidate for governor in Lagos state, Funsho Williams.

Our correspondent says the states most vulnerable to pre-election violence are those where the incumbent governors are seeking re-election and any opposition from either within or outside their parties is not tolerated.

The elections could mark the first successful democratic transfer of power from one civilian president to another since Nigerian independence in 1960.

President Olusegun Obasanjo will have served two terms, the maximum allowed under the constitution, since being elected in 1999.


Posted by Publisher at 12:01 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria to seek foreign coach

Nigeria's sports minister Bala Kao'je has instructed the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) to employ a foreign coach for the national side.

Oluwashina Okeleji
BBC Sport, Abuja

Kao'je gave the order to the NFA board in a meeting on Wednesday, as national coach Austin Eguavoen is preparing the Super Eagles for Saturday's Nations Cup group qualifier against Niger.

"Events in the last couple of years has shown that it is a foreign coach that is capable of steering the game forward," Kao'je said.

NFA chairman Sanni Lulu, who regarded the sports minister's view as reflecting the government's position, said they, and not the NFA, would have to pay the salary for the coach.

"The minister has simply given a directive in the best interest of our football and we will look into it.

"There is no disagreement with the local coaches but every decision taken should be for the good of the game in the land.

"The brief is clear and we will see to the recruitment in the best possible time," Lulu told BBC Sport on Thursday.

Nigeria's last foreign trainer was Dutchman Jo Bonfrere, who was sacked in 2001 after a string of poor results.

Meanwhile, it appears that striker Nwankwo Kanu will be out of the Nigeria squad for Saturday's game.

The two-time African Footballer of the Year, who has scored four goals in two games for his new English Premiership club Portsmouth, is nursing an injury.


Posted by Publisher at 08:55 AM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2006

Nigeria troops 'burn Delta slums'

Nigerian soldiers have burnt hundreds of slum houses near where a soldier was killed during the kidnapping of foreign oil workers, residents say.

Residents in the city of Port Harcourt say the troops became angry when they learned one of their colleagues had been killed in a shootout.

Hundreds fled with their belongings as the fire spread through the slum area.

The army, which is pursuing militants in the Niger Delta, blamed the fires on militants disguised as soldiers.

At least three foreigners were abducted by gunmen from a bar close to the offices of a subsidiary of the Italian oil company, Eni, on Thursday night, near where the slums were burnt.

During the kidnapping, a soldier protecting the workers was shot and killed.

Surprised

Residents say the soldiers then poured petrol onto their houses and set them on fire, accusing the community of sheltering militants.

A local pastor denied militants had been hiding in the area.

"The people who attacked came from the water, they do not stay here," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"I have nowhere to stay. My church, my house, most of my documents are burnt," he said.

There are no reports of any deaths but one man had to go to hospital with burns, the pastor said.

Regional army spokesman Maj Sajir Musa denied the army had burnt the houses.

"It was the militants who disguised [themselves] in army uniform and set the places ablaze in an attempt to tarnish the image of the Nigerian army soldiers," he said.

"They have done that in response to our constructive efforts to get rid of armed robbers and hostage-takers."

Tensions

A few residents have now returned to pick through the charred remains, hoping to recover some of their belongings.

The incident comes just a week after Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered the police and army to take a new tough line with armed men, who have been responsible for at least seven separate kidnappings in the space of a few weeks.

As part of the new policy, security forces last week raided another slum inside the city and arrested more than 100 people, though most were later released.

The BBC's Alex Last in Nigeria says what concerns local leaders, and the oil companies, is that this new tough policy will only increase tensions in an already volatile region.

The abductions and attacks on oil facilities have led to oil companies withdrawing staff, cutting Nigeria's oil production by a quarter.

Foreigners in Nigeria's oil capital, Port Harcourt, now move around with several armed guards.

Oil industry sources say hostage-taking has become an attractive business, as oil companies strike clandestine ransom deals - frowned upon by the government.


Posted by Publisher at 09:07 AM | Comments (0)

August 23, 2006

Nigeria police 'killed suspects'

Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian police of summarily killing 12 suspected armed robbers captured in a police raid in Abia state.

The 12 had been paraded before the press the previous day, after the raid in the southern town of Umuahia.

Four others were shot dead in the raid. Amnesty has called for a public inquiry into what happened.

In an unrelated incident, Niger Delta militants say 10 of their men were killed in a crackdown on kidnappers.

Police say they are investigating the deaths of the 12 in Umuahia and could not comment.

The men were arrested earlier in August and paraded before journalists.

The police said those who had sustained injuries during the raid would be treated, and others were to be taken for interrogation.

The next day the bodies of all 12 were found dumped outside the government hospital morgue.

Local press said there was little local sympathy for the suspects given the huge number of armed robberies which have plagued the state.

Firefight

Amnesty International says the accountability of the security services is a key issue, particularly with elections approaching and with the government's recent pledge to meet force with force when dealing with armed groups in the Niger Delta.

On Monday, a militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, said 10 of its fighters were killed in a firefight when their boats were ambushed by government forces on Sunday night.

Military sources confirmed the clash but gave no further details.

The group said it was trying to help hand over a Nigerian Shell oil worker, taken by gunmen almost two weeks ago, when they suddenly came under fire from ten patrol boats.

The clash was the most serious to take place since the president announced his new tough policy to tackle armed groups in the Delta.

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says the gun battle will only increase concerns, particularly among the oil companies, that a heavy-handed military approach could endanger the lives of the hostages still being held and escalate tensions in an already volatile region.

On Friday, about 100 people were arrested in a large military raid on a slum district of the city of Port Harcourt.

So far this year, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has carried out a string of attacks on the oil industry, cutting Nigerian oil production by more than a quarter.

Now attention will focus on what kind of response, if any, will come from the militants, our correspondent says.

Posted by Publisher at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2006

Pestalozzi student heads to Yale

A charity which provides scholarships for disadvantaged students from developing countries is celebrating the success of a pupil from Nigeria.

Bashir Adeniyi is flying to Connecticut in the US on Sunday to begin a course in engineering at Yale University.

He won his place after studying for the International Baccalaureate Diploma under the care of the Pestalozzi International Village, in Sedlescombe.

He is the East Sussex charity's first pupil to have won a place at Yale.

"When I found out that I got in I was shouting all through the night - I lost my voice the next day... and I couldn't talk," the 19-year-old said.

Pestalozzi Village was set up after World War II to help young people from low income families in developing countries.

The students live in the village in Sedlescombe and study for their International Baccalaureate at Hastings College.

Pestalozzi has seen about 150 students begin higher education courses.

Derek Marshall, chief executive of the charity, said: "They're very young, and so we expect to see them go home and make a huge contribution within the next two or three years.

"The oldest will only be in their mid-20s at this point, just having come out of university."

Other Pestalozzi students will be going to Oxford and Brighton universities this year.

Yale is one of the top three universities in the US, and Mr Adeniyi said he planned to return home to Nigeria once he had finished his course to help others attain their potential.

"I would like other people to also live the dream too," he said.

Posted by Publisher at 09:03 AM | Comments (0)

Nigeria launches kidnap crackdown

Nigerian police say that more than a hundred people have been arrested during raids on a slum area of Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta.

The operation is part of an attempt to tackle armed groups responsible for a wave of kidnappings in the Delta.

A German oil worker, held hostage by gunmen in south Nigeria for two weeks, was released unharmed on Saturday.

Guido Schiffarth was one of 15 people kidnapped by armed groups in the last two weeks. Five remain unaccounted for.

Security officials said the operation marked the start of a campaign ordered by President Olusegun Obasanjo on Tuesday, to break up armed gangs in the region.

"We have the mandate of the president to hunt them down and we are doing just that," a military spokesman said.

He said the operation which began at Diobu, a suburb of Port Harcourt, would extend to the creeks and swamps of the Delta "to flush out the criminals and terrorists whose stock in trade is to abduct oil workers in exchange for money."

Soldiers were seen patrolling the waterways on Saturday, while helicopters hovered over the city.

Oil production cut

Reports from Port Harcourt said there had been sporadic gunfire and soldiers had carried out house-to-house searches.

"This is the beginning of something bigger to drive all the bandits from the state," military spokesman Major Sagir Musa told news agency AP. "It will continue. It is ongoing."

The lack of employment, says the BBC's Alex Last in Lagos, has led to many young men joining armed groups.

Some diplomats and officials fear the government's heavy-handed approach may lead to more violence.

The abductions and attacks on oil facilities have cut Nigeria's oil production by 25%.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil exporter and the fifth-largest supplier of crude to the United States.

Militant leaders have launched attacks on the oil industry as part of their campaign for local control of oil wealth.

Posted by Publisher at 09:02 AM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2006

Nigerian women win U-20 opener

Nigeria beat Canada 3-2 in their opening game of the Under-20 Women's World Championship in Russia on Thursday.

Nigeria had to come from behind twice to secure the win.

Canada opened the scoring in the Group A encounter in the 25th minute through Kaylyn Kyle before Tawa Ishola equalised for the Falconets just four minutes later.

Amanda Ciccini put Canada ahead once again in the 71st minute.

Cynthia Uwak then proved to be the heroine as she scored two goals in the last 10 minutes of the match to secure all three points for Nigeria.

In the other Group A game, Australia beat their neighbours New Zealand 3-0.

Africa's other representatives at the tournament are the DR Congo, who open their Group D campaign with a match against the USA on Friday.

Posted by Publisher at 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2006

Babangida to contest Nigeria poll

Nigeria's former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida has announced he will be a candidate in the presidential election due to be held in April 2007.

In a press interview, he accused the country's present political elite of fuelling ethnic and religious violence.

Mr Babangida governed Nigeria for eight years until 1993.

He was toppled from power by mass protests after he annulled elections that were widely seen as having been won by a businessman, Moshood Abiola.

"I will contest in the election. Under the banner of the Nigerian people," Mr Babangida said in an interview with Reuters and the London newspaper the Financial Times.

Mr Babangida is a member of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), but it is far from certain whether the party would back him as its presidential candidate.

Vice-President Atiku Abubakar is also believed to be seeking the PDP nomination.

Challenge

"The challenge of the next leadership is to make Nigeria whole again," Mr Babangida said, blaming the political elite for fuelling violence that has killed at least 15,000 people since democracy was restored to Nigeria in 1999.

He dismissed suggestions that current President Olusegun Obasanjo would try to remain in power beyond his two-term constitutional mandate.

"As long as we conduct elections, which I am optimistic that we will in 2007, the transition process from civilian to civilian is feasible, it's workable," Mr Babangida said.

"We have a constitution. If you go outside that, it is like a breach."

Correspondents say there has been speculation in Nigeria that Mr Babangida gave financial support to Mr Obasanjo's 1999 election campaign, in return for a promise that he would become the president's chosen successor.

Mr Obasanjo has however denied favouring any particular successor to the presidency.

Posted by Publisher at 01:04 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria promises kidnap crackdown

Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo has promised to act against those suspected of involvement in a string of kidnappings in the Niger Delta region.

He said he had ordered 24-hour patrols in the Delta's creeks and swamps, and threatened action against oil firms who paid ransoms for their workers.

"We are going to be firm and say no to violence and hostage taking," he said.

Five groups of foreign oil workers have been seized in the delta in the past two weeks but no-one has been arrested.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, shortly after four foreign workers were freed unharmed, Mr Obasanjo vowed to confront "force with force".

"Wherever we find hostage-takers now, we will hunt them down. We will not accept this any longer," the statement read.

The two Norwegians and two Ukrainians freed on Tuesday were seized on 9 August from a supply vessel moored in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.

They were freed one day after four other workers were seized and five released.

Determination

Earlier this year, Mr Obasanjo pledged to create thousands of new jobs and construct a new motorway to the Niger Delta in an effort to calm tensions in the region.

But continued violence and kidnappings have seen a change in the president's tone.

A rise in attacks in recent months by militants, seeking more local control of the Niger Delta's rich oil resources, has cut Nigeria's oil production by 25%.

"Wherever we find hostage-takers now, we will hunt them down. We will not accept this any longer," he reportedly said at a meeting in the region.

"Nigeria is a signatory to international conventions which categorise hostage-takers and their accomplices in non-international conflict situations as terrorists to be hunted down wherever they go."

Confusion

Oil industry sources say hostage-taking has become an attractive business, as oil companies strike clandestine ransom deals.


The Delta is awash with weapons, unemployment is high and communities feel aggrieved at the lack of development.

Armed groups have proliferated, often linked to local politicians.

Three Filipinos, a Belgian and a Moroccan were released on Monday.

But four more workers, including two Britons, were seized on Sunday.

Nigerian authorities say they still do not have full details on how many hostages remain in captivity, although reports say at least six are still being held.


Posted by Publisher at 12:55 PM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2006

Nigeria hands Bakassi to Cameroon

Officials from Nigeria and Cameroon have held a joint ceremony in the disputed oil-rich Bakassi peninsula to mark its transfer to Cameroon.

Nigerian troops completed their withdrawal and transferred control of the northern part of the territory.

The rest of the peninsula will remain under Nigerian civil administration for the next two years, in line with an International Court of Justice ruling.

But the mainly Nigerian population is deeply unhappy about the handover.

The ceremony in the Bakassi fishing town of Archibong came four years after the International Court ruling.

Officials from both countries witnessed the Nigerian military lowering its flag and the Cameroon flag was then raised.

Natural riches

The decision was aimed at settling the territorial dispute, which had led to a series of bloody clashes between Nigeria and Cameroon in the 1990s.

Bakassi juts into the Gulf of Guinea, an area which may contain up to 10% of the world's oil and gas reserves. It is also rich in fish.

But the court ruling has not gone down well with Nigerians living in the peninsula, the BBC's Alex Last reports from nearby Calabar.

Most Archibong residents have said they would rather leave their ancestral land than be ruled by Cameroon, such is their level of mistrust.

Nigerian inhabitants have been given the option of staying under Cameroonian authority or being resettled in Nigeria.

But, despite the Nigerian government's promises, no accommodation has been set up for those wanting to leave.

Defiant locals

A few Bakassi young men have said they will stay and fight any attempt by Cameroon to administer the place.

They have requested help from militants along the coast in the Niger Delta, but it is unclear if any help is forthcoming.

Nigeria began withdrawing some 3,000 troops from the Bakassi peninsula on 1 August, years after they were sent in following complaints from Nigerian residents of harassment by Cameroonian police.

The two countries nearly went to war over the territory in 1981 and bloody clashes claimed 34 lives in 1994.

That year, Cameroon took Nigeria to the International Court in The Hague, which after years of legal wrangling ruled in favour of Yaounde in 2002.

Nigeria rejected the ruling, but the UN intervened and the two countries set up a UN-chaired joint commission to resolve the conflict.

The peninsula has been administered by Nigeria since independence from Britain in 1960.

However, Cameroon based its claim of sovereignty over the region on maps dating back to the colonial era.

Posted by Publisher at 06:10 PM | Comments (0)

UK bank details sold in Nigeria

Bank account details belonging to thousands of Britons are being sold in West Africa for less than £20 each, the BBC's Real Story programme has found.

It discovered that fraudsters in Nigeria were able to find internet banking data stored on recycled PCs sent from the UK to Africa.

The information can be found on a PC's hard disk, which is easy to access if the drive is not wiped before sending.

Anti-fraud expert Owen Roberts said simply deleting files was not enough.

Users should instead use a programme to wipe their hard drive before they sell or give away their PC, a process which over-writes what is already contained on the drive.

Alternatively, people should remove their hard drives before they give away their computers, he said.

'Surprisingly easy'

"It is surprising how easy it is to obtain documents people leave on their computers," said Mr Roberts, who is head of identity fraud at CPP Group.

Real Story found that second-hand computers from all over the developed world could be found in virtually every PC market in Nigeria's commercial capital of Lagos.

It said that while there was a genuine market for second-hand PCs in West Africa, identity fraud was a real problem.

Many of the PCs it found on sale in Lagos had come from UK council recycling points.

People are still being urged to give away their old PCs, but only after they have wiped the hard drive - not just to remove any bank details but also other personal information such as home addresses.

The Information Commissioner's Office, the UK government's regulatory office dealing with data protection, said companies had a legal requirement to delete people's personal information from their computers when it was no longer needed.

"It is essential that companies have appropriate procedures in place to ensure that personal records on computer hard drives are rendered unrecoverable when they dispose of computer equipment," said Assistant Commissioner Phil Jones.

"Under the Data Protection Act companies have a duty to store personal information securely and delete it when it is no longer required."

Real Story's investigation into the risk of identity theft from old PCs will be broadcast on BBC 1 at 19:30 on Monday, 14 August.

Posted by Publisher at 05:55 PM | Comments (0)

More oil kidnappings in Nigeria

Five foreigners, including two Britons have been taken by a group of armed men from a nightclub in Port Harcourt in southern Nigeria on Sunday night.

It is the fifth kidnapping in the oil-rich Niger Delta in two weeks. State police have made no arrests.

In most cases, hostages are released unharmed, usually after a financial deal is struck, but analysts say the ransom payments fuel the violence.

On Monday, three Filipinos were released 10 days after being kidnapped.

A rise in attacks in recent months by militants, seeking more local control of the Niger Delta's rich oil resources, has cut Nigeria's oil production by 25%.

A British Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson said they were in contact with the Nigerian authorities, and the companies the men work for will be in touch with their families.

Shooting

Reports say gunmen entered the Goodfellas bar in Port Harcourt popular with foreign oil workers and went around asking people their nationality and who was their employer. A barman said they took away five white people.

"They were shooting and everyone started screaming," driver George Ani told AP news agency.

"They took some expatriates but I don't know how many. I lay on the floor of my car until it was finished."

Blood stains were visible on the floor.

"The kidnappers ... burnt one of the vehicles they used, maybe to destroy anything that could give them out, and escaped through the waterway," a police spokeswoman in Port Harcourt told Reuters news agency.

Industry sources say hostage-taking has become an attractive business.

The Delta is awash with weapons, unemployment is high and communities feel aggrieved at the lack of development.

Armed groups have proliferated, often linked to local politicians.

The BBC's Alex Last in Nigeria says the money is often used to buy weapons and there are fears that the various often competing groups are trying to strengthen their positions ahead of elections early next year.

Release

The three Filipinos were freed on Monday and handed over to the Philippine embassy.

They had been working at the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas complex in Bonny.

There is no news on a German oil worker who was taken at the same time.

Last Wednesday, two Norwegians and two Ukrainians were seized from a ship offshore.

On Thursday, a Belgian and a Moroccan were abducted while travelling in a car.


Posted by Publisher at 05:55 PM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2006

Nigerian troops leaving Bakassi

Nigeria has begun to withdraw the last of its troops from the disputed oil-rich Bakassi peninsula.

The area is due to be handed over to Cameroon on Monday, in line with a World Court ruling which Nigeria has resisted implementing for years.

After United Nations mediation Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo agreed in June to cede the peninsula to Cameroon.

Most Bakassi residents are Nigerian and oppose the handover despite Cameroon's promises to respect their rights.

Bugles sounded and flags lowered as the last contingents of soldiers began to leave the peninsula, the BBC's Alex Last reports from the coastal village of Abana.

Most of the 3,000 troops who were previously stationed on the peninsula have already left, and the last will have gone by Monday when sovreignty is formally transferred to Cameroon.

Discontent

Part of the deal that led to the handover was an undertaking by Cameroon to respect residents' cultural, language, property and fishing rights, and not to impose "discriminatory" taxes.

But most people on the peninsula say they are Nigerian and do not want to be under foreign administration, and a few have said that they will fight any future Cameroonian administration.

The Nigerian government has offered to relocate those who want to leave, but it is not clear how many will be willing to give up their ancestral land and these rich fishing grounds.

One group, the Bakassi Movement for Self Determination, has declared independence for the region, saying it would reject Cameroonian sovereignty.

The troop withdrawal will be monitored by Germany, the United Kingdom, France and the United States.

A special transitional arrangement for the civilian administration will be in place for five years.

The territorial dispute sparked military clashes between Nigeria and Cameroon during the 1990s, before both sides agreed to go to the International Court of Justice.

Residents have the choice of remaining in Bakassi with their Nigerian nationality, taking up Cameroonian citizenship or moving to other parts of Nigeria, such as nearby Cross Rivers State.

Bakassi juts into the Gulf of Guinea, an area which may contain up to 10% of the world's oil and gas reserves.

It is also rich in fish.

The 2002 International Court of Justice ruling was based on a 1913 treaty between the former colonial powers, Britain and Germany.

The agreement also settles the border between Nigeria and Cameroon for 1,690km (1,056 miles) up to Lake Chad.

Some villages further north have already been exchanged.


Posted by Publisher at 01:13 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria 'to name corrupt leaders'

Nigeria's anti-corruption agency says it will publish the names of all past and present political leaders who have stolen money from the treasury.

The head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, said more than $400bn (£211) of oil revenue had been stolen.

He also said the move would deter corrupt politicians from seeking office in elections due next year.

Nigeria has been regarded as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

"Over $400bn in oil money has been stolen by bad leaders," Mr Ribadu said at a lecture in Lagos, quoted by This Day newspaper.

"We are going to trace the activities of past and present leaders and publish the names of those leaders who have laundered money, their accounts and the names of the banks where the money is being kept.

Accounts

"We will also close the accounts of those politicians who have laundered money and converted it for their political ambitions. This will stop bad people from coming into power," he said.

He promised the commission would monitor closely the use of revenue allocated to the three levels of government - federal, state and local - to ensure the money was not laundered.

President Olusegun Obasanjo created the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in 2002 by to try to stamp out corruption.


Posted by Publisher at 01:05 PM | Comments (0)

August 10, 2006

'Airlines terror plot' disrupted

A plot to blow up planes in flight from the UK to the US and commit "mass murder on an unimaginable scale" has been disrupted, Scotland Yard has said.

It is thought the plan was to detonate explosive devices smuggled in hand luggage on to as many as 10 aircraft.

Police are searching premises after 21 people were arrested. Home Secretary John Reid said they believed the "main players" were accounted for.

High security is causing delays at all UK airports.

The threat level to the UK has been raised by MI5 to critical after the arrests in London, High Wycombe and Birmingham.

Critical threat level - the highest - means "an attack is expected imminently and indicates an extremely high level of threat to the UK".

Three US airlines are believed to have been targeted.

Mr Reid said had the attack gone ahead it would have caused a loss of life of "unprecedented scale".

He said they were "confident" the main players were in custody, but neither the police nor government are "in any way complacent".

Prime Minister Tony Blair, on holiday in the Caribbean, paid tribute to the the police and the security services.

He said they had tracked the situation for a "long period of time" and had "been involved in an extraordinary amount of hard work."

"I thank them for the great job they are doing in protecting our country.

"There has been an enormous amount of co-operation with the US authorities which has been of great value and underlines the threat we face and our determination to counter it," he said in a statement.

BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera said the plot was thought to have involved a series of "waves" of simultaneous attacks, targeting three planes each time.

He also said the plan "revolved around liquids of some kind".

"Officials say the explosives would have been sophisticated and extremely effective," our correspondent said.

Airport 'crammed'

Meanwhile, at Heathrow Airport incoming short-haul flights have resumed, but long-haul services are seriously delayed. Several outbound services have been cancelled.

The airport is crammed with thousands of passengers, while at Stansted more than 2,000 people are queuing to pass through customs.

Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson said the alleged plotters had intended "mass murder on an unimaginable scale".

"We are confident that we have disrupted a plan by terrorists to cause untold death and destruction and to commit, quite frankly, mass murder," he said.

"We believe that the terrorists' aim was to smuggle explosives on to aeroplanes in hand luggage and to detonate these in flight. We also believe that the intended targets were flights from the United Kingdom to the United States of America."

Police had spoken to a "good number of community leaders to make them aware that a major operation was under way," he added.

Head of the Met's anti-terrorist branch Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke said the investigation had had "global dimensions" and had seen an "unprecedented level" of surveillance.

The decision to take action had been taken on Wednesday night, he added.

According to BBC sources the "principal characters" suspected of being involved in the plot were British-born. There are also understood to be links to Pakistan.


BBC home affairs correspondent Andy Tighe said police sources had told him they had found "interesting items" which were being examined.

In other major developments:

Houses in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, are evacuated by police

US air marshals are being sent to the UK to provide extra air security

The US Department of Homeland Security increased the threat level applied to US-bound commercial flights originating in the UK to "red" - the first time it has done this for flights coming in from another country

The Home Office confirmed there had been meetings overnight and on Thursday morning of the Cabinet's emergency committee, Cobra, chaired by Home Secretary John Reid, to discuss the terror alert

A spokesman for Number 10 said Tony Blair had briefed US President George Bush on the situation during the night

BBC home affairs correspondent Daniel Sandford said despite the arrests the threat level had been raised "in case there is some other sub-plot, back-up plot around this that the police aren't aware of".

The Department for Transport set out the details of the security measures at UK airports.


Passengers are not allowed to take any hand luggage on to any flights in the UK, the department said.

Only the barest essentials - including passports and wallets - will be allowed to be carried on board in transparent plastic bags.

"We hope that these measures, which are being kept under review by the government, will need to be in place for a limited period only," the statement said.

Posted by Publisher at 02:46 PM | Comments (0)

Oliseh charts a new course

Former Nigeria captain Sunday Oliseh may have retired from playing football but the midfielder is charting a managerial route in Belgium with second division side KAS Eupen.

By Oluwashina Okeleji

Eight months after hanging up his boots, one of Nigeria's most respected players of all times is keen to achieve further success as the sporting director of the modest Belgian side.

"Football has a special place in my life and that's what I want to prove here with Eupen," the 32-year-old told BBC Sport.

"Having spent half of my life playing professional football, I want to excel with this new challenge but on a different level altogether.

"That inexplicable pressure of what the next game will bring is obviously absent and that gives me a strong mental ability to do my job with relative ease."

Founded in 1945, KAS Eupen hail from the city of Eupen in the province of Liège, a German-speaking area in the east of Belgium.

This is familiar terrain for Oliseh who began his professional career with Club Liege in 1990.

Having played in Germany, Holland and become the first Nigerian to feature in Italy's Serie A (with Reggiana in 1996), Eupen's 6,000-capacity Kehrweg Stadion is a far cry from the stadiums Oliseh is used to but he is taking everything in his stride.

"Eupen is not one of the biggest clubs in Belgium but when I was approached to take this role, I knew they could become a massive side in the future," he noted.

"Everything here is run professionally and I believe my travels around the world will have a positive impact on this club.

"I've now been sporting director here for two months and it's both interesting and intriguing to be in management."

With the former Super Eagle having started and ended his career in Belgium, one wonders what the strong bond between Oliseh and the country is.

"My family is happy here and so am I. You could say that Belgium is my second home," the former Juventus and Ajax Amsterdam star explained.

"Eupen are happy I chose them instead of a top division club and I'm also happy, because the club is just 20 minutes from my home."

"I still follow football back in Nigeria but my strong attention is with my family and this new challenge."

Eupen may be mainly considered as an industrial and trade centre, but Oliseh is hoping the town will be the scene of a football revolution.

"I am confident that in the next few years, you will be hearing the name KAS Eupen across Europe."

Oliseh has known success with Nigeria, winning both the 1994 Nations Cup and the 1996 Olympics, so could this new role be the start of something that leads to the former international managing the Super Eagles in future?

"The football world is unpredictable but I only have one major task ahead, and it lies here in Eupen," he answered diplomatically.

With Belgium considered as the breeding ground for many Africans footballers seeking greener pastures in Europe, Oliseh could well be opening a door for aspiring compatriots in the coming years.


Posted by Publisher at 02:12 PM | Comments (0)

August 08, 2006

Nigeria starts Bakassi withdrawal

Nigerian troops have started to leave the Bakassi peninsula, ahead of Friday's deadline to hand the oil-rich area over to Cameroon, the army says.

Up to 3,000 troops will complete their withdrawal by next Monday, said Nigerian military spokesman Brig Gen Felix Chukwuma.

In June, President Olusegun Obasanjo said he would abide by a World Court ruling that gave the area to Cameroon.

Most Bakassi inhabitants are Nigerian and oppose the handover.

One group, the Bakassi Movement for Self Determination, has declared independence for the region, saying it would reject Cameroonian sovereignty.

"The people have declared their own republic, known as the Democratic Republic of Bakassi. We will no longer have anything to do with Nigeria, since Nigeria does not want anything to do with us," said Tony Ene, the interim head of the movement.

Transition

The BBC's Alex Last in Nigeria says most of the troops are expected to leave over the weekend, with an official ceremony to take place next Monday.

The troop withdrawal will be monitored by Germany, the United Kingdom, France and the United States.

A special transitional arrangement for the civilian administration will be in place for five years.

The territorial dispute sparked military clashes between Nigeria and Cameroon during the 1990s, before both sides agreed to go to the International Court of Justice.

Mr Obasanjo has tried to reassure Bakassi residents that their safety will be guaranteed even when Nigerian troops leave.

Cameroon has pledged to respect the culture, language, beliefs, property and fishing rights of the peninsula's people, and not to impose "discriminatory" taxes.

Residents have the choice of remaining in Bakassi with their Nigerian nationality, taking up Cameroonian citizenship or moving to other parts of Nigeria, such as nearby Cross-Rivers State.

Bakassi juts into the Gulf of Guinea, an area which may contain up to 10% of the world's oil and gas reserves.

It is also rich in fish.

The 2002 International Court of Justice ruling was based on a 1913 treaty between the former colonial powers, Britain and Germany.

The agreement also settles the border between Nigeria and Cameroon for 1,690km (1,056 miles) up to Lake Chad.

Some villages further north have already been exchanged.


Posted by Publisher at 01:09 PM | Comments (0)

August 07, 2006

Late bid to stop Bakassi handover

Hundreds of residents of the Bakassi peninsula say they have declared independence, days before Nigeria is to start transferring control to Cameroon.

The Bakassi Movement for Self Determination would reject Cameroonian sovereignty, the residents said.

They have also refused a Nigerian government offer to relocate them elsewhere in Nigeria.

Nigerian forces are due to start leaving the region this week, after the government agreed to the handover.

"The people have declared their own republic, known as the Democratic Republic of Bakassi. We will no longer have anything to do with Nigeria, since Nigeria does not want anything to do with us," said Tony Ene, the interim head of the movement.

The AP news agency reports that supporters waved new blue and white Bakassi flags, while Nigerian soldiers watched.

Respect

In June, Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo said he would abide by a 2002 World Court ruling to transfer the potentially oil-rich Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon.

Mr Obasanjo has tried to reassure Bakassi residents that their safety would be guaranteed even when Nigerian troops leave.

The territorial dispute sparked military clashes between Nigeria and Cameroon during the 1990s.

Most of those who live in Bakassi are Nigerians and are strongly opposed to coming under Cameroonian jurisdiction.

A special transitional arrangement will be in place for five years.

Cameroon has pledged to respect the culture, language, beliefs, property and fishing rights of the peninsula's people, and not to impose "discriminatory" taxes.

Bakassi juts into the Gulf of Guinea, an area which may contain up to 10% of the world's oil and gas reserves.

It is also rich in fish.

The 2002 International Court of Justice ruling was based on a 1913 treaty between the former colonial powers, Britain and Germany.

The agreement also settles the border between Nigeria and Cameroon for 1,690km (1,056 miles) up to Lake Chad.

Some villages further north have already been exchanged.

Posted by Publisher at 01:51 PM | Comments (0)

Police team-ups beat Nigeria's scammers

As part of BBC World Service's series on Intercontinental Cops, Jenny Chryss explores how investigators from London and Lagos have linked up to combat corruption and fraud in Nigeria.

Globally, Nigeria has become associated with what is known as "advance fee" or 419 fraud.

Virtually anyone with an email account will be familiar with this crime, which involves sending emails or faxes to potential victims around the world, sucking them into a highly attractive but utterly false financial deal.

Back in Nigeria, the rewards are potentially highly lucrative - but now, owing to a crackdown and much-improved co-operation between police forces globally, it has become more risky for the perpetrators.

"Historically we've always had a problem getting evidence from Nigeria, but that's changing," says Detective Sergeant Mark Radford, head of the Africa desk at New Scotland Yard.

"They're keen to co-operate and bring a lot of the criminals in Nigeria to justice."

Black money

At the holding cells in the centre of the country's commercial capital, Lagos, more than 50 suspects are waiting for court appearances on 419 charges. It is a busy place.

Recently Nigeria has, for the first time ever, begun a major crackdown on all sorts of economic crime - and it is needed.

Last year it was ranked the sixth most corrupt country in the world - and that was its best rating ever.

Now, though, internet service providers who allow online fraudsters to operate will face criminal charges, while decades in jail await the scammers themselves - with little chance of early parole.

Still, with rich pickings still to exploit, Nigeria's criminals will not give in easily.

As well as the most well-known scams, others are now coming into vogue. In one - the so-called "black money" scam - people are shown what appear to be bank notes which have been dyed.

The scammer appears to show how to remove the dye, and sells the "notes" for cash. In fact, the notes are worthless waste paper.

To give credence to their operations, the warehouses and hotels Nigerians use as meeting places are usually in European cities, with London being a favourite.

Olaolu Adegbite, head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission's Advance Fee Fraud section in Lagos, said one man from the US had ended up paying $2.1m after been conned in this way.

"The gentleman got convinced when he arrived in the UK and the men were well-dressed, some black, some white, and looked responsible," he said.

"He was convinced, he was carried away."

In this case the fraudster was eventually caught in Nigeria and sentenced to 342 years in jail. He must also repay the $2.1m in full.

State corruption

But there is a long way to go. Allegations of corruption go to the very highest level.

London detective Peter Clark has been trailing one Nigerian state governor, suspected of corruption in Nigeria and money-laundering in London, since January 2004.

Only when he began delving into what initially was a credit card fraud case that he realised how significant it might prove to be, when it became apparent that millions of pounds had been secretly moved from Nigeria into London banks.

For years, widespread corruption has been blamed for many of Nigeria's ills. Schools, hospitals and public services are falling far short of what could be expected of a country that is oil-rich and, in many areas, highly fertile.

And there is now growing evidence that the people living in Nigeria's poor Central Plateau state are worse off than they should be, because, it is alleged, the governor has siphoned off millions of pounds from the public purse.

Specifically, it is claimed he redirected at least £6m meant for environmental improvements into his own bank accounts.

"Every so often states make a bid to the federal government for extra works within their state - and what we've been able to find out is that as a result of cheques being issued for that work, the state governor basically steals that cheque," detective Clark said.

"We've identified that portions of that cheque have found their way into London bank accounts."

However, the governor of Central Plateau continues to rule because the assembly here has elected to keep him in office, where he has immunity from prosecution.

Although he declined to be interviewed by the BBC, the speaker of the assembly, Simon Lalong, told us the money allocated to the central plateau had been properly spent.

"We invited the EFCC to come and prove the allegations - because what we had at first was just paper telling us this is the bundle of allegations against his Excellency, including the jumping of bail," he said.

"They wrote and said this is the allegation, but we said, 'what are the facts?'"

In Nigeria it is being reported that 24 of the country's 36 state governors are now under investigation.

Allowing these men to go free is not an option for the EFCC chairman Nuhu Ribadu.

"If this country is going to change, if anything is going to work, we have to fight corruption, we have to establish rule of law and order," he says.

"We cannot do it alone, because we are fighting the power, the authority, those with the money, and we need those who are good, who understands the need of such things to stand by us."


Posted by Publisher at 12:23 PM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2006

Oil workers kidnapped in Nigeria

Gunmen have kidnapped three Filipino oil workers in southern Nigeria's petroleum-producing Niger Delta region.

The abductions follow the kidnapping of a German oil worker on Thursday and are the latest in a string of assaults on foreign contractors in the region.

The upsurge in attacks by militants has reduced Nigerian oil production by 25%. Militants demand more local control of the Delta's resources. Kidnappings have also been used to extort money from oil companies and from the government.

The three Filipinos had been working at the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas complex in Bonny.

"A group of gunmen intercepted their car, shot their tyre, fired into the air and took three Filipinos away in a speedboat," a police spokeswoman told Reuters news agency.

The German worker was kidnapped from the nearby city of Port Harcourt on Thursday.


Posted by Publisher at 12:13 PM | Comments (0)

Nigerian foreign minister resigns

Nigerian Foreign Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has resigned, days after being replaced as head of the country's economic reform team.

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, who negotiated the cancellation of $30bn debt to the Paris Club, was moved in June from the Finance Ministry to Foreign Affairs.

She had remained head of the economics team, but this week was replaced by the new Finance Minister, Nenadi Usman.

President Olusegun Obasanjo praised the minister's "monumental achievements".

A government stated quoted the president as accepting Mrs Okonjo-Iweala's resignation "based on your compelling need to take care of pressing family issues".

Critics of the president say the change may be because of a personal clash.

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala's ousting as head of the economic reform team was announced while she was in London, trying to secure further debt relief for Nigeria.

The BBC's Mannir Dan Ali in Abuja says many Nigerians are unsurprised by her resignation from the foreign ministry, believing that someone with her experience could not be expected to tolerate the treatment she had received over the past few months.

Debt relief

A former top World Bank executive, it was as Nigeria's finance minister and head of President Obasanjo's economic reform team that Mrs Okonjo-Iweala made her name at home and abroad.

She saved - rather than squandered - the government's profits from oil revenues.

Then she negotiated the largest debt relief deal in Africa, which saw Nigeria's $30bn debt to the Paris Club partly written off, saving the country $18bn.

But without warning in June, she was suddenly switched from being the minister of finance to the prestigious, but less powerful position of foreign minister.

Analysts were concerned but were reassured by the fact that she retained her post as head of the economic team, from which she was removed earlier this week.

Mrs Usman, who succeeded her first as finance minister and then as head of the economic team, has pledged to keep the reform programme going.


Posted by Publisher at 11:59 AM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2006

Nigeria replaces economy supremo

Former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been removed from her post as head of the country's economic reform team, officials say.

By Alex Last
BBC News, Lagos

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, who negotiated the cancellation of $30bn debt to the Paris Club, was switched in June from the Finance Ministry to Foreign Affairs.

She had remained head of the economics team, but has now been replaced by the new Finance Minister, Nenadi Usman.

There has been no official explanation for the move.

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala may still be Nigeria's foreign minister but that belies her apparent sudden fall from grace.

A former top World Bank executive, it was as Nigeria's finance minister and head of President Olusegun Obasanjo's economic reform team that she made her name at home and abroad.

She saved - rather than squandered - the government's profits from oil revenues.

Debt relief

Then she negotiated the largest debt relief deal in Africa, which saw Nigeria's $30bn debt to the Paris Club partly written off, saving the country $18bn.

But without warning in June, she was suddenly switched from being the minister of finance to the prestigious, but less powerful position of foreign minister.

Analysts were concerned but were reassured by the fact that she retained her post as head of the economic team. But now that has gone too.

Her successor, Nenadi Usman, has pledged to keep the reform programme going.

Some reports say President Obasanjo had decided that Mrs Usman had now settled into her new role and was ready to assume more of her duties.

But critics of the president say it appears the change is because of a personal clash.

The timing of the move has also raised eyebrows.

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala is currently in London, trying to secure further debt relief for Nigeria.

Although the country's economic reform program is unlikely to change in the short term, the state of Nigeria's finances will now be under even greater scrutiny.


Posted by Publisher at 01:23 PM | Comments (0)

Anichebe opts to fly with Eagles

Everton striker Victor Anichebe has ruled out playing for England, saying his international future lies with Nigeria instead.

By Oluwashina Okeleji
BBC Sport, Lagos

"I would love to represent Nigeria because that is where I'm from," the 18-year-old told BBC Sport.

"My family moved to England when I was just one year old, but I still feel Nigerian.

"I have been a fan from childhood and follow events back home on a regular basis."

Despite his ambition of flying with the Super Eagles someday he is only too aware of the challenges ahead in the coming months.

"I'm looking forward to competing for a starting spot at Everton and hitting goals on a regular basis," he said.

"The main thing for me is to keep working hard as I still have a long way to get to the top.

"The fans here are awesome and the management have been supportive, which makes my job extremely easy."

Anichebe has progressed through the Everton youth system, he became a regular under-18 academy player before graduating to the reserves.

He eventually made his senior debut as a substitute in an FA Cup fourth round tie against Chelsea in January 2006.

The youngster says playing alongside Nigeria captain Joseph Yobo also serves as a massive boost for him.

"It's nice to get a picture of the international camp from Joseph [Yobo]," he added.

"He paints the picture of a unit who are all proud to wear the family attire and being a part of that group will be great."


Posted by Publisher at 01:19 PM | Comments (0)

August 01, 2006

Ayegbeni makes Nigeria u-turn

Striker Yakubu Ayegbeni has declared that he is now ready to play for Nigeria.

By Oluwashina Okeleji
BBC Sport, Lagos

Ayegbeni had vowed not to return to the national side as long as coach Austin Eguavoen was in charge, following a dispute before the start of the last Nations Cup finals.

But the Middlesbrough forward told a Nigerian radio station that he has made peace with the coach.

"I never said I won't play for Nigeria any more because Nigeria is my country, my fatherland," he was quoted as saying.

"Whenever they call me, I will be ready to play, as long as I am free."

Regretting Nigeria's absence from the World Cup finals, Ayegbeni said the country must concentrate on lifting a third African title at the 2008 Nations Cup.

"We are blessed with talented players in Nigeria, which most countries in Africa cannot boast of.

"But preparation [for tournaments] has always been our problem.

"If we prepare very well, winning the next Nations Cup or even the World Cup will not be a headache."

Ayegbeni's charge of heart is certain to please Eguavoen, who said he will welcome his return to the Super Eagles.

"He is outstanding for his club and will continue to be invited to the national side," Eguavoen said in May.

"But he cannot insist on a place in the team, because no player is guaranteed a shirt in the Super Eagles.

"Yakubu should bear in mind that one day he would need the national team and then it will be too late," he said in a warning that the striker appears to have heeded.


Posted by Publisher at 12:54 PM | Comments (0)

Caf delays women's championship

Caf has postponed the start of the African Women's Championship (AWC), scheduled for September in Nigeria.

By Oluwashina Okeleji
BBC Sport, Lagos

The local organisers said the towns of Warri and Oghara in Delta State, selected to host the matches, will suffer from heavy rainfall during that month.

They asked Caf for the tournament to commence later, with the last week of October being offered as an alternative.

Caf communications director Suleiman Habuba said a firm date will be announced in the next few days.

Solomon Ogba, Delta State's commissioner for sport, said Caf's approval of their request will ensure the tournament is organised under better conditions.

"We plan to give the participating nations a perfect welcome and this is what the new month will afford us," Ogba told BBC Sport on Monday.

"Hosting a championship of this magnitude in the month of September will not have been good for us or our guests."

There had been doubts over Nigeria's commitment to host the competition, after they responded to Caf's plea to replace Gabon, who unexpectedly withdrew.

The 2006 AWC will be the third time that Nigeria will be hosting this competition, after organising it in 1998 and 2002.

Eight countries are due to take part, with the finalists representing the continent at the 2007 World Cup in China.


Posted by Publisher at 12:52 PM | Comments (0)

July 31, 2006

UN Council 'shocked' by Qana raid

The UN Security Council has expressed its "shock and distress" at an Israeli attack in which 54 Lebanese civilians, many of them children, were killed.

A statement agreed by all 15 members said the council "strongly deplores this loss of innocent lives".

However, it did not call for an immediate truce as requested by the Secretary General Kofi Annan.

More than 30 children died in the raid on Qana on Sunday, the deadliest Israeli raid since hostilities began.

Ceasefire

The statement was approved by a unanimous vote of the 15-member council at an emergency session on Sunday.

It also called for a permanent and sustainable ceasefire, but not an immediate truce as urged by Kofi Annan.

Washington continues to oppose calling for an immediate ceasefire at the UN.

President George W Bush said the US wanted "to develop a resolution that will enable the region to have a sustainable peace, a peace that lasts, a peace that will enable mothers and fathers to raise their children in a hopeful world".

The attack has led to the suspension of air strikes by Israel for 48 hours so that an investigation can be carried out into the Qana bombing.

Condemnation

Many countries condemned the attack, and France has circulated a draft resolution calling for an immediate end to the fighting.

Earlier, Mr Annan had told the council, "Action is needed now before many more children, women and men become casualties of a conflict over which they have no control."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Sunday the situation could not continue and that all hostilities ought to cease once a UN resolution was adopted.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson, who is travelling with Mr Blair in the US, said the prime minister accepted that Qana had "changed things".

In a joint statement issued with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr Blair said "the tragic events of today have underlined the urgency of the need for a ceasefire as soon as possible".

Posted by Publisher at 09:40 AM | Comments (0)

Israel 'not ready for truce yet'; Lebanon accuses Israel of war crimes

Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz has said that despite a 48-hour halt to air strikes on south Lebanon, Israel cannot agree to an immediate ceasefire.

Speaking in parliament, Mr Peretz said if the offensive stops, "the extremists will rear their heads anew" allowing the threat they pose to quickly return.

Israel will "expand and strengthen" its attack he said, ahead of Cabinet talks on possibly broadening the offensive.

Israel has halted air raids to allow an inquiry into civilian deaths in Qana.

At least 54 people, many of them children, were killed in Qana on Sunday when the house they were sheltering in was hit by Israeli war planes - the deadliest Israeli raid since hostilities began on 12 July.

Mr Peretz described the temporary cessation of air strikes on southern Lebanon, which Israel says is to allow an investigation into the incident and give civilians trapped in the region a chance to escape, as a "humanitarian gesture".

Mr Peretz was interrupted by Arab members of the Israeli parliament many times as he addressed the special Knesset session.

The defence minister's comments came after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the US will seek a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire this week.

UN resolution plan

Speaking after talks with Israeli officials in Jerusalem, Ms Rice said the US will call for UN Security Council action on a comprehensive settlement.

She said it will comprise three parts: "a ceasefire, the political principles that provide for a long-term settlement and the authorisation of an international force to support the Lebanese army in keeping the peace."

"As I head back to Washington, I take with me an emerging consensus on what is necessary for both an urgent ceasefire and a lasting settlement," Ms Rice said.

"I am convinced we can achieve both this week," she added.

Earlier, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, on a trip to the US, said he was optimistic of the chances of an end to hostilities.

While calling for "maximum pressure" to get the Security Council resolution passed, he also called for "maximum restraint" in the region and welcomed Israel's 48-hour ceasefire in the south to allow the deaths at Qana to be investigated.

Ground battle

Meanwhile, fighting between Hezbollah militants and Israeli ground troops has been continuing in southern Lebanon.

According to the BBC's Richard Miron on the Lebanon-Israel border, Israeli war planes are circling the conflict zone, though with the Israeli air force saying it is maintaining the ceasefire it is unclear whether they are participating in the fighting.

There were Israeli air strikes in eastern Lebanon early on Monday, but Israel said they came before its suspension came into effect.

Israeli jets carried out two raids near Yanta, 5km (three miles) from the Syrian border, at 0130 (2230GMT Sunday), Lebanese security sources told the Associated Press.

An Israeli army spokesman told AP that the flights over southern Lebanon were only suspended from 0200 (2300GMT).

Despite the air raid stoppage, Israel is reserving the right to take action against any targets it says are preparing attacks against it.

Hezbollah militants have vowed to retaliate after the Qana air strike, though there have been no reports of rocket attacks on Israel since the pause in air raids began.

Lebanon's health minister says about 750 people - mainly civilians - have been killed by Israeli action.

A total of 51 Israelis, including at least 18 civilians, have been killed in the conflict.

Posted by Publisher at 09:37 AM | Comments (0)

July 28, 2006

Nigeria team in money palaver

Nigeria's preparations for next month's U-20 Women's World Championship has been disrupted by financial problems.

By Oluwashina Okeleji
BBC Sport, Lagos

The players, camping in Lagos ahead of the championship, were locked out of their hotel rooms on Wednesday after the Nigeria FA failed to pay their bills.

They were also barred from using their training ground, belonging to the Nigeria Air Force, for the same reason.

Russia host the 16-team world championship between 17 August and 3 September.

"This is an unnecessary distraction for these young girls, months after securing a world cup ticket," said Emmanuel Teteh, the team's head coach.

"I don't think this should be the case with the championship just a few weeks away.

"I'm very worried because we have a target of going a step better than we did in Thailand two years ago.

"It's really sad that things like this happen at this crucial stage.

"But everyone is aware of the administrative crisis that has affected our football.

"Now that it is over, we can hopefully look ahead.

"We are facing teams who are in a better psychological state and if we want to do well we do not need this distraction."

Quarter-finalists at the 2004 tournament, Nigeria are in the same group as China, Finland and Canada.

Posted by Publisher at 08:00 AM | Comments (0)

July 24, 2006

Nigeria opt out of Ghana friendly

Nigeria have cancelled a friendly with Ghana, scheduled for 15 August in London.

By Oluwashina Okeleji
BBC Sport, Lagos

Amos Adamu, a director in Nigeria's sports ministry, said they would be unable to raise a team for the game.

"I had a meeting with coach Austin Eguavoen and he told me he was not aware of the game in London," Adamu told BBC Sport.

"The sports ministry is also unaware of the game.

"Besides, it is rather too late to start preparing for a game that is just three weeks away.

"For now, the attention of the football family is on organising successful board elections for the Nigeria FA in August."

The match had been arranged by the previous NFA board led by Ibrahim Galadima, which was voted out of office at an extra-ordinary congress in Abuja last Tuesday.

Nigeria, which placed third at the last African Cup of Nations finals, have not played a game since February.

Ghana, which will be hosting the next Cup of Nations finals, have no competitive games until 2008.

Both teams last met during the group stages of the 2006 Nations Cup, with Nigeria winning 1-0.

Posted by Publisher at 07:48 PM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2006

Nigeria building search goes on

A search for survivors is continuing after a building collapsed in Nigeria's main city of Lagos on Tuesday.

At least 25 bodies had been recovered by Thursday afternoon and 50 survivors had been rescued by Wednesday evening. No more survivors appeared after that.

It is not known how many were in the block when it fell. Officials say bad construction caused the accident.

Lifting equipment sent by a building firm to help the rescue on Wednesday did not return on Thursday morning.

People are digging with spades and picks, the BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says.

Heavy rain has further hampered the rescue operation.

"Nobody has been pulled out between last night and this morning," Red Cross disaster officer Umar Mairiga said.

"The official figure we have is still 20 dead and 50 survivors."

The Red Cross is co-ordinating the search, with much of the digging being done by local people.

Lagos state governor Bola Tinubu vowed to prosecute those responsible for allegedly shoddy construction of the 36-flat complex, news agency AP said.

Crowds cheered as a woman was brought out alive on Wednesday morning, AP reported, but no more cries for help have been heard from inside the buidling since then.

But police later had to beat off crowds of upset relatives looking for missing relatives. The collapse happened after many of the occupants had returned from work on Tuesday evening.

"It was a gory sight. I was coming out of my house when I heard a loud bang and the four-storey structure suddenly caved in," eyewitness Debo Ajala told AFP.

Our correspondent says the building in the residential area of Ebute Metta was relatively new - thought to be not more than three years old.

Dozens have died in recent years in Lagos as poorly maintained buildings have collapsed.

In March, one of Lagos' tallest buildings caved in during a heavy thunderstorm in the heart of the commercial district. The building had been sealed off after a fire on the eighth floor.

Posted by Publisher at 02:37 PM | Comments (0)

New building collapses in Nigeria

At least 20 people have died and many are trapped after a building collapsed in Nigeria's main city of Lagos.

The block of flats caved in on Tuesday evening and rescuers have so far pulled more than 50 people from the wreckage.

Heavy lifting equipment arrived at the site to help people using their bare hands to reach those inside.

Lagos state governor Bola Tinubu vowed to prosecute those responsible for allegedly shoddy construction of the 36-flat complex, news agency AP said.

More than 100 people are feared to have been in the building when it collapsed, according to the AFP news agency.

A BBC correspondent at the scene says there are fears for those still trapped in the rubble as they are no longer reachable by mobile phone.

Trapped people

"We are still hopeful that more people will be brought out alive as rescue work progresses," said Red Cross worker Umar Mairiga told Reuters news agency.

Overnight, distraught relative were in touch with those inside, but the calls had stopped by morning. Rescuers had said they had heard trapped people crying out for help.

Crowds cheered as a woman was brought out alive on Wednesday morning, AP reported.

But police later had to beat off crowds of upset relatives looking for missing relatives on Wednesday.

The collapse happened after many of the occupants had returned from work on Tuesday evening.

"It was a gory sight. I was coming out of my house when I heard a loud bang and the four-storey structure suddenly caved in," eyewitness Debo Ajala told AFP.

Lagos state police spokesman, Bode Ojajuni, said the authorities had launched an investigation into the cause of the collapse, the agency reports. The building is thought to have housed some 180 people in the 36 apartments.

Our correspondent says the building in the residential area of Ebute Metta was relatively new - thought to be not more than three years old.

Such collapses in the past have been blamed on substandard construction and flouting of building regulations, he says.

Dozens have died in recent years in Lagos as poorly maintained buildings have collapsed.

In March, one of Lagos' tallest buildings caved in during a heavy thunderstorm in the heart of the commercial district. The building had been sealed off after a fire on the eighth floor.

Posted by Publisher at 02:09 PM | Comments (0)

Hard times for Nigerian oil town

With oil prices at a 25-year high, this should be a boom time for Nigeria's oil capital, Port Harcourt - but it isn't.

By Mark Gregory
Business Daily, BBC World Service, Port Harcourt, Nigeria

Instead, the town's business is reeling with militant attacks on oil installations, kidnappings and a general rise in lawlessness.

All this has reduced oil production - and made foreign investors wary of doing business in Port Harcourt and its surrounding areas.

Hard times

In the town's market area, everything seems well on the surface. Vendors and shoppers crowd the stalls, haggling for food and clothes.

But Mr Mohammed, who runs a tailoring business in the market, says times are hard.

"Business is bad, unlike before," says Mr Mohammed.

"Especially all these shootings and killings here have contributed a lot."

It's not just the people in the market who are suffering.

The security issue in neighbouring Delta state is now so bad that it has become impossible to attract foreign companies to work there.

James Ibori, the governor of Delta State, says the threat of violence is hampering economic development.

"Because of the oil-related activities in the area, very many credible construction companies are not even prepared to go to to the most difficult terrain, that we should be really developing, to work," says Mr Ibori.

"In my state, I have a challenge to build a bridge right now. The first phase of the bridge will cost 15 billion naira (£67m; $123m)."

"I was looking for a company that has the capacity and the equipment to work in that terrain," says Mr Ibori.. "They are very reluctant to even accept working."

"It's the case of the chicken or the egg. We want to improve our infrastructure, but we are not able to attract credible companies to deliver the infrastructure."

Poor infrastructure

Militant attacks are not the only problem affecting the economy of Port Harcourt. This used to be a flourishing manufacuturing center for industries such as plastics and textiles.

But in the last 20 years, many of these businesses have disappeared.

Some people blame the oil industry and its grip on the local economy for the decline in other industries.

One of those is Chief Agu, who is the chairman of the local branch of the Manufacturing Association of Nigeria.

"The existence of oil services may have contributed to the closure of some industries in Port Harcourt," says Chief Agu. "This is because there is competition in the use of facilities. These facilities are very expensive."

"For instance, the rents for industrial sites and for offices for staff are very high. Only those businesses where profit margins are high enough can pay for this and exist in Port Harcourt."

On top of all that, non-oil businesses have been hit by the same problems that make life difficult for people and business in the rest of Nigeria - namely, poor infrastructure.

" A major problem of the manufacturing sector in Nigeria is the infrastructure and utilities. The roads were allowed, in particular, to deteriorate during the military regime," says Chief Agu.

"We have a problem of electricity. Most of the industries are running on public supply and generators and owning a generator is very expensive."


Yet, it's not all gloom for Port Harcourt's people. On one short stretch of road, there were at least 34 evangelical Protestant churches.

It seems that there is one sector, at least, that is booming in Port Harcourt.

Posted by Publisher at 01:54 PM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2006

Shock at shot oil worker verdict

A Nigerian policeman has been cleared of killing an Aberdeenshire oil worker who was shot in the African country five years ago.

David Gillan was fatally wounded in November 2001 while travelling with his wife, Diane, after a night out.

The Foreign Office confirmed a judge had dismissed the case on 14 July, claiming he needed stronger evidence to link the killing to Timothy Alayade.

Mr Gillan's wife was understood to be shocked at the decision.

Diane Gillan is now living back in Turiff, Aberdeenshire.

The couple had lived in Port Harcourt for five years with their two children Connor and Kayleigh, who were eight and seven at the time.

Single wound

Mr Gillan was being chauffeur driven to his family home in an oil worker's compound when he was shot.

He died from a single gunshot wound from a bullet that went through the car's tail light and back seat before hitting him in the back.

It was three years before the case was eventually brought to trial and it has been repeatedly delayed ever since.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "The judge read out a long ruling on the case and said the court had not presented enough evidence against the accused."


Posted by Publisher at 01:51 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria unions warn over job cuts

Nigeria's main trade union body has raised the possibility of a strike over government plans to cut 33,000 jobs - 20% of all civil servants.

Cutting so many jobs at one time "is not in the national interest", said Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) leader Adams Oshiomhole.

The reforms are intended to improve efficiency in Nigeria's civil service.

The government says many of those to be sacked are unfit, guilty of serious misconduct or "ghost workers".

The minister in charge of civil service reform, Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, said that those who did not lose their jobs would be given an unspecified pay rise.

'House-cleaning exercise'

"This country cannot withstand the social consequences of offloading 33,000 workers at once. If it does that, the consequences will be grave," Mr Oshiomhole said.

"We are therefore calling on President Olusegun Obasanjo and the federal government to ask el-Rufai to put this exercise on hold and open up discussions with the unions in the civil service on the issue."

Announcing the cuts earlier this month, Mr Rufai said many people had been employed without the proper qualifications after the recruitment of civil servants was decentralised in 1988 under the military government.

"There was no monitoring mechanism such that ministers just went to their villages and packed everybody [to fill the public service]. That was the problem," he was quoted as saying in ThisDay newspaper.

Elections are due next year and Mr Rufai said he wanted to hand over a "fairly decent" public service.

The government said it has earmarked 50bn naira ($389m) for the "house-cleaning exercise", which would be used not only to pay for redundancies but also increased salaries.

Mr Rufai is one of the team brought in by President Obasanjo to help turn round Nigeria's economy.

Nigeria is Africa's largest oil exporter but most of its people live in poverty.

In April, Nigeria used its oil revenues to pay off its debts to the Paris Club of creditor governments - the first African country to do so.


Posted by Publisher at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2006

Nigeria deny coach advert

Football authorities in Nigeria have rubbished an advert on a website asking applicants to join the race to coach the national team.

Oluwashina Okeleji
BBC Sport, Lagos

A letter posted on the website with the signature of the chairman of the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) Ibrahim Galadima asks interested coaches to apply to handle the Super Eagles.

The advert demands prospective applicants to pay US$2,000 as application and processing fees.

But Galadima says the advert is a plot to defraud unsuspecting coaches.

"We have not asked anyone to help us look for a coach and it is simply an impersonating and criminal act by the individual involved," Galadima told BBC Sport.

"We did not advertise for any foreign coach and we don't have any link with the fraudulent advertisers of the coaching job of Nigeria.

"I urge coaches and agents to disregard the advert since there is no such vacancy in Nigerian football for now.

"We shall place an advert if the need arises, but for now anybody that applies does so at his own risk."

Meanwhile, the extraordinary congress of the NFA scheduled for the capital Abuja, from 18-19 July will go ahead as planned.

Congress will decided whether fresh elections are needed for the leadership of the NFA.

Fifa secretary general Urs Linsi and his Caf counterpart Mustapha Fahmy are expected at the congress.


Posted by Publisher at 02:50 PM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2006

Nigeria at the crossroads

The tragic comedy that Nigerian football has become over the last seven months could be brought to a long overdue end or enter yet another macabre chapter on Tuesday.

By Osasu Obayiuwana

That is the power that the extraordinary congress of the Nigeria FA wields when it meets in Abuja, to decide the future of the incumbent FA board.

But the biggest surprise to unbiased watchers of the country's football landscape is that the congress has been convened in the first place.

Fifa, following two months of detailed enquiries, adjudged the December 2005 poll that gave Nigeria FA chairman Ibrahim Galadima and his board a new four-year term to be free of malpractices that could invalidate the result.

This pronouncement was supposed to have brought an end to the war of attrition between the Nigeria FA and Seidu Sambawa, the previous sports minister, who refused to recognise the legitimacy of the election and frustrated the board from carrying out its duties.

Fifa upholds Nigeria elections

That logical assumption was turned on its head when Urs Linsi, Fifa's general secretary, visited Nigeria in the weeks preceding the World Cup finals.

Even though Linsi reaffirmed the legitimacy of December's poll during his one-day visit in May, he brokered a perplexing 'peace deal' that gave Tuesday's congress the right to determine whether elections for a new board be conducted by the end of August.

Conferring legitimacy on a duly elected Nigeria FA (NFA) board on the one hand, while giving Tuesday's extraordinary congress the power to prematurely terminate the mandate of a board that still has 42 months to run - if they so choose - has done little for Fifa's credibility.

No one would shed a tear for the demise of any FA board that was found to have assumed office by illegitimate methods, no matter how late in the day the damning evidence was discovered.

But it will certainly set a bad precedent for football if an FA board that Fifa has judged to be legitimate can be turfed out for no genuine and transparent reason.

It is also perplexing that while Fifa had no problems suspending Greece on 3 July, after dragging their feet over completing reforms to national laws guaranteeing the autonomy of their FA, Nigeria - an identical case - was treated differently.

Greece was suspended after it appeared they would fail to complete the changes by a 15 July deadline Fifa set nine months ago.

This compelled the Europeans to expedite legislative action, enabling Fifa to lift the ban after a nine-day period.

In contrast, Nigeria was threatened with a December 2004 ban for the same offence and given 18 additional months to complete the changes, after Fifa accepted a plea from the government for more time.

Strangely, no firm date was set for the completion of the reforms during Linsi's May visit, apart from a promise to complete them by "the year's end."

With Nigeria's inexcusable failure to qualify for the last World Cup and with less than four years to produce a first-rate side to lead the 2010 challenge on African soil, it is imperative that Nigeria puts its chaotic house in order by doing what is fair and just.

That is the onerous responsibility of the delegates that will decide the direction of Nigerian football on Tuesday.

Posted by Publisher at 02:17 PM | Comments (0)

July 11, 2006

Fifa investigates Zidane red card

Fifa is to investigate Zinedine Zidane's dramatic sending off during Sunday's World Cup final in Berlin.

The Frenchman was dismissed in extra-time for a headbutt on Marco Materazzi which happened seconds after the Italian apparently insulted him.

Materazzi has denied calling Zidane a "terrorist" or insulting his mother.

Fifa will now launch an investigation into Zidane's conduct to enable it to clarify the circumstances surrounding the incident as exactly as possible.

Zidane and Materazzi exchanged words with 10 minutes left of extra-time before Zidane lowered his head and rammed Materazzi in the chest, knocking him to the ground.

Materazzi defended himself on Tuesday in the Italian newspaper La Gazetta dello Sport, when he said: "It was the kind of insult you will hear dozens of times and just slips out of the ground.

"I didn't call Zidane a terrorist and certainly didn't mention his mother."

Zidane, who was born and grew up in Marseille, is the son of Algerian immigrants and has suffered taunts about his heritage throughout his football career.

But Materazzi added: "I am ignorant, I don't even know what an Islamic terrorist is; my only terrorist is her," he said pointing to his 10-month-old daughter.

"I did not bring up Zidane's mother; for me a mother is sacred."

Materazzi and Zidane became involved in a verbal spat with 10 minutes to go in extra-time with France and Italy drawing 1-1 in the World Cup final.

After Materazzi's insult Zidane shoved his head into the Italian's chest and was sent off, with Italy going on to win the match 5-3 on penalties.

"I held his shirt, for only a few seconds," said Materazzi, who had scored Italy's equaliser after Zidane put France ahead from the penalty spot.

"He turned towards me and scoffed at me, looking at me with super arrogance, up and down.

"He said 'if you really want my shirt, you can have it later.'

"It's true, I shot back with an insult."

Media organisations across Europe have been trying to decipher what Materazzi said to provoke such an extreme reaction from Zidane.

But it remains unclear exactly what was said and the BBC has broadcast two different versions.

BBC Radio Five Live asked for help from a deaf lip reader, Jessica Rees, who read the words phonetically to an Italian translator.

She deciphered the insult as being "you're the son of a terrorist whore" - a translation also carried by many national newspapers in Britain on Tuesday.

The BBC's Ten O'Clock News also called in experts to study the television footage of the incident and determined the following:

Materazzi's first word to Zidane was "no" before he then told him to "calm down".

He then accused him of being a "liar" and wished "an ugly death to you and your family" on the day the Frenchman's mother had been taken to hospital ill. This was followed by "Go f*** yourself".

Zidane's agent, Alain Migliaccio, has hinted that Zidane will soon reveal exactly what was said by Materazzi.

Piara Powar, national co-ordinator for the anti-racism group Kick It Out told Five Live, said: "If there was a racial slur then Fifa needs to act."

Keith Hackett, head of referees in England, said that if it can be proved that Matterazzi racially abused the Frenchman, then Fifa should take retrospective action for "the good of the game."

Posted by Publisher at 01:16 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria launches $4m fraud probe

Nigeria's anti-corruption agency has launched a probe into allegations of fraud after a massive overpayment was made to a maritime organisation.

More than $4m (£2.2m) was paid to the International Seabed Authority (ISA) in March for a bill of $22,000 (£12,000), according to the president's office.

The ISA, surprised by the amount, contacted the Nigerian Embassy in Jamaica, said the president's office.

Officials say an investigation has been launched into foreign ministry staff.

According to the statement, the probe would determine whether staff had deliberately inflated the debt in order to pocket the difference.

No details were given as to what the payments were for.

The Nigerian ambassador in Kingston, Jamaica, was "instructed to take possession of the money", and officials connected to the transfer of the monies were detained, the president's office said.

The ISA was set up through the UN to monitor maritime resources.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has set up a special anti-corruption body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, to fight fraud and corruption in a country ranked as one of the most corrupt in the world.

Posted by Publisher at 12:43 PM | Comments (0)

July 10, 2006

Italy 1-1 France

Italy beat France 5-3 in a penalty shoot-out to win the World Cup after an absorbing 1-1 draw in Berlin.

Fabio Grosso scored the winning penalty after France's David Trezeguet missed.

Playing his last game before retiring, Zinedine Zidane's career ended in disgrace after he was sent off for crazily headbutting Marco Materazzi.

Zidane had put France ahead early on with a coolly-taken chipped penalty, before Materazzi levelled with a header from an Andrea Pirlo corner.

The result caps an incredible period for Italian football, with the domestic game embroiled in a corruption scandal similar to 1982 when they last won the World Cup.

They have now won the competition four times, one fewer than Brazil, and it was the first time they managed to win a World Cup match on penalties after three failed attempts.

But France legend Zidane may forever be haunted by the moment of madness which cost him a second World Cup title.

Only Zidane knows why he chose to shove his head into Materazzi's chest after the two had exchanged words with 10 minutes left of extra-time.

He had started so well, too, with a goal after six minutes that meant Zidane, who scored twice in the 1998 final, became the fourth man to score in two World Cup finals after Brazilians Vava and Pele and Germany's Paul Breitner.

He casually chipped a penalty in off the crossbar after Florent Malouda had won the spot-kick with a fall after Materazzi appeared to catch his foot as he came across to challenge.

But Italy recovered well from their unfortunate start and the industrious Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso quickly began to set the tempo of the game.

Through Pirlo's dead-ball delivery, they were soon on level terms. The AC Milan midfield maestro whipped over a corner from the right and Materazzi thumped a header past Fabien Barthez.

France failed to learn their lesson. Moments later Materazzi saw another header cleared off the line by Lilian Thuram before Luca Toni nodded onto the bar - both efforts from Pirlo corners.

Thierry Henry had had a quiet first half, but he burst into life after the break with two turbo-charged runs that struck fear into the heart of the Italian defence.

It was a more open final than many had predicted and both teams were attacking with gusto, though Italy came within a whisker of taking the lead when Toni was adjudged offside after heading in a Pirlo free-kick.

At the other end Henry was causing problems with his pace and Gianluigi Buffon had to be alert to parry away a snap-shot from the Arsenal striker.

As it went into extra-time, France had started to dominate proceedings.

Malouda was only kept out by a last-ditch Fabio Cannavaro tackle before Franck Ribery poked agonisingly wide and Buffon tipped Zidane's header over.

It was Zidane's last meaningful contribution to the French cause as with 10 minutes left of extra-time, his professional career ended in shameful circumstances.

He became involved in a dispute with Materazzi and, inexplicably, headbutted the Italian in the chest.

After the assistant referee informed referee Horacio Elizondo of the incident, the Argentine was left with no choice but to send Zidane off.

His team-mates looked shell-shocked, but they held on to force penalties for only the second time in a World Cup final after Italy lost to Brazil in 1994.

Pirlo, Materazzi, Daniele de Rossi, Alessandro del Piero and Grosso made no mistake as Italy became the most successful European country in World Cup history.

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Italy: Buffon, Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Materazzi, Grosso, Camoranesi (Del Piero 86), Pirlo, Gattuso, Perrotta (Iaquinta 61), Totti (De Rossi 61), Toni.
Subs Not Used: Amelia, Barone, Barzagli, Gilardino, Inzaghi, Nesta, Oddo, Peruzzi, Zaccardo.

Booked: Zambrotta.

Goals: Materazzi 19.

France: Barthez, Sagnol, Thuram, Gallas, Abidal, Ribery (Trezeguet 100), Vieira (Diarra 56), Makelele, Zidane, Malouda, Henry (Wiltord 107).
Subs Not Used: Boumsong, Chimbonda, Coupet, Dhorasoo, Givet, Govou, Landreau, Silvestre.

Sent Off: Zidane (110).

Booked: Sagnol, Diarra, Malouda.

Goals: Zidane 7 pen.

Italy win 5-3 on penalties.

Att: 69,000.

Ref: Horacio Marcelo Elizondo (Argentina).

Fifa man of the match: Andrea Pirlo

TRIVIA
Italy won their fourth World Cup title, following victories in 1934, 1938 and 1982. Brazil are the only country to have won the competition five times. This was only the second World Cup final to be decided by a penalty shoot out. The Squadra Azzurra have conceded only two goals during Germany 2006. They have now equalled France's record set in 1998, for least goals conceded by World Cup finalists.

Zinedine Zidane's opener marked his third career goal in a World Cup final. He became only the fourth player to net three goals in the most prestigious match in world football. This record is shared with Brazil's Pele and Vava and England's Geoff Hurst. The 34 year old French legend also became the fourth player to score in two World Cup finals, joining Vava, Pele and Paul Breitner of Germany. Zidane became the fourth player to be sent off in a World Cup final, joining countryman Marcel Desailly (1998), and Argentines Pedro Monzon and Gustavo Abel Dezotti (1990).

Zidane's goal ended Italy's clean sheet streak of four matches, one short of the World Cup best. This record was also set by Italy in 1990. Italy are unbeaten in 25 international matches, their longest such sequence since 1939. Their 12 goals at this tournament were scored by 10 different players. This equals France's record set in 1982.

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 12:21 PM | Comments (0)

Germany 3-1 Portugal

Two long-range efforts from Bastian Schweinsteiger ensured hosts Germany overcame Portugal to claim third place.

Germany took the lead when midfielder Schweinsteiger cut in from the left and drilled in a swerving shot.

The Germans went two up when the lively Schweinsteiger's free-kick was sliced into his own net by Armando Petit.

Schweinsteiger sealed the victory with another rasping shot from 25 yards and Nuno Gomes headed Portugal a late consolation after a Luis Figo cross.

Goalkeeper Oliver Kahn came in for his 86th cap, while Figo, who was rumoured to have had an argument with coach Luiz Felipe Scolari before the match, was relegated to the substitutes' bench.

The hosts started positively with Sebastian Kehl going close with a shot through a crowded box that appeared to strike Nuno Valente's hand, while Klose slashed a drive wide on the counter.

With only pride at stake, Portugal expressed the kind of freedom that has deserted their play in their previous two outings against England and France.

But apart from Pauleta's curling shot from close range and Kehl's deft lob, neither team could muster the enthusiasm needed to seriously trouble the opposing keeper.

The referee, who was officiating his first game for three weeks, made up for his inactivity by regularly awarding free-kicks for tame fouls.

But the quality of the resulting set-pieces were poor, with only Lucas Podolski's stinging left-foot strike causing any problems.

Michael Ballack's yawn from the bench summed up the first 45 minutes, but his boredom turned to delight 10 minutes after the restart when Schweinsteiger unleashed a fierce drive from long range.

Portugal keeper Ricardo will have felt he could have done better with the shot that was driven straight at him.

And five minutes later Germany were two up, with Schweinsteiger again at the heart of the attack.

The midfielder's low free-kick cannoned off Petit as he tried to clear and ended up in the back of the helpless Ricardo's net.

On 76 minutes the disappointing Pauleta made way for Figo who won his 127th and final cap for Portugal.

But even he was unable to lift the despondent Portuguese and Schweinsteiger again found the net from outside the box with a sweetly-struck drive that gave Ricardo no chance.

Both Miroslav Klose and Podolski were then withdrawn, leaving France striker Thierry Henry needing two to tie and a hat-trick to win the Golden Boot in Sunday's final.

Figo's last act in his number seven shirt for Portugal was to lay on a goal for Gomes who headed in from close range.

But the night belonged to the hosts who deservedly claimed third spot to the delight of the home support and coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

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Germany: Kahn, Jansen, Nowotny, Metzelder, Lahm, Schneider, Kehl, Frings, Schweinsteiger (Hitzlsperger 79), Klose (Neuville 64), Podolski (Hanke 71).
Subs Not Used: Asamoah, Ballack, Borowski, Friedrich, Hildebrand, Lehmann, Mertesacker, Huth, Odonkor.

Booked: Frings, Schweinsteiger.

Goals: Schweinsteiger 56, Petit 61 og, Schweinsteiger 78.

Portugal: Ricardo, Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Costa, Meira, Nuno Valente (Nuno Gomes 69), Costinha (Petit 45), Maniche, Deco, Ronaldo, Pauleta (Figo 77), Simao.
Subs Not Used: Boa Morte, Caneira, Miguel, Paulo Santos, Postiga, Quim, Tiago, Viana.

Booked: Ricardo Costa, Costinha, Paulo Ferreira.

Goals: Nuno Gomes 88.

Att: 52,000

Ref: Toru Kamikawa (Japan).

Fifa man of the match: Bastian Schweinsteiger


TRIVIA
This was Germany's third World Cup bronze medal. They have collected more than any other nation. Brazil, France and Poland finished third twice.

Bastian Schweinsteiger became the 15th player to score twice in a single match at the tournament. Petit's own goal was the fourth at the 2006 World Cup. The 1954, 1974 and 1998 World Cups also witnessed four own goals. Germany used 22 players. Only goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand did not feature. Argentina and Spain also used 22 players during the 2006 finals.

Costinha's yellow card was his fourth of the tournament, tying him with Ghana's Asamoah Gyan for most cautions received at the 2006 World Cup. The only other player ever to receive four yellow cards at a single World Cup was Bulgarian Zlatko Jankov in 1994. Portugal amassed a total of 24 yellow cards during the finals, breaking the record (23) that was held by Bulgaria since 1994.

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 12:13 PM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2006

Nigeria rescues women's tourney

After weeks of uncertainty, Nigeria's Delta State has agreed to rescue this year's African women's championship.

Oluwashina Okeleji
BBC Sport, Lagos

The Delta State government will foot the bill for the fifth edition of the continental championship in September.

This development means the Super Falcons will defend the title they won in South Africa in 2004 on home soil.

Warri and Oghara in Delta State also hosted the 2000 tournament won by the seemingly invincible Super Falcons.

As Nigeria also hosted the inaugural edition in 1998 in Kaduna and Abeokuta, this is a competition football fans here are familiar with.

There had been doubts over Nigeria's commitment to hosting the competition, since Caf approached the NFA following the last-minute withdrawal of Gabon.

According to Delta state commissioner for Sport, Solomon Ogba, the state will go a step further than it did four years ago.

"Warri is Nigeria's home of female football and it's an honour for us to host the championship again," Ogba told BBC Sport.

Eight countries are due to take part with the two finalists qualifying for the 2007 Fifa women's championship to be held in China.

Posted by Publisher at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2006

Eguavoen sings Obi's praises

Nigeria coach Austin Eguavoen believes John Mikel Obi is capable of taking English football by storm.

Eguavoen has told BBC Sport that Chelsea's new big-money signing is the "jewel" of Nigerian football.

The Super Eagles coach is convinced the 19-year-old midfielder is destined for greatness for club and country.

"Right now he's the jewel of Nigerian football, stepping into the shoes of Jay-Jay Okocha," Eguavoen said.

Obi finally resolved his future last month when he signed for the English Premiership champions in a multi-million-dollar move.

The Nigerian teenager had been at the centre of an astonishing tug-of-war between Chelsea and their big rivals Manchester United.

Eguavoen, who led the Super Eagles to third place at this year's African Nations Cup, said Nigeria should work closely with Chelsea to ensure the smooth development of the talented midfielder.

He said: "Mikel has matured a lot as a player but we still need to guide and protect him as he's still very young.

"He's an asset to Nigerian football and I'm sure [Chelsea manager] Jose Mourinho and the other big players at the club will be able to guide him."

With competition for first team places at the London club expected to be fierce, Eguavoen told BBC Sport that Obi will have to work hard in training and be patient.

"Whether or not he gets the chance to play is the major question but if he doesn't get to play as often as he would like, then he shouldn't be downcast.

"He must learn to fight in training and, hopefully, when he gets his chance he'll do Nigeria proud because we're all looking up to him.

"Discipline is the key word he should remember, especially as many people see him as an ambassador not only for the national team but the country as a whole."

Posted by Publisher at 01:03 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria bishops scorn US 'cancer'

Nigeria's Anglican Church says the US branch of the church is "a cancerous lump" that should be "excised".

Nigerian bishops were responding to a proposal from the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams last week.

He had suggested the introduction of a two-tier system of church membership to avoid complete disintegration over the issue of homosexuality.

The US branch, known as the Episcopal Church, outraged conservatives by consecrating gay Bishop Gene Robinson.

There have also been disagreements surrounding church blessings for same-sex couples.

Division, not schism

Dr Williams has been attempting to straddle the bitter divisions, and last week proposed a solution.

He suggested that the Anglican Communion, which is the loose network of individual Anglican churches around the world, could be divided into "associated" and "constituent" provinces.

Under this system, the Episcopal Church would accept a lesser role to avoid a schism with the majority of more conservative churches.

Dr Williams urged both sides to heed the need for change, arguing that: "Neither the liberal nor the conservative can simply appeal to a historic identity that doesn't correspond with where we now are."

'Too accommodating'

In their statement, posted on two websites, the Nigerian bishops commend Dr Williams' idea as "brilliant as the heartbeat of a leader who wants to preserve the unity of the Church by accommodating every shred of opinion no matter how unbiblical".

But they dispute whether the challenge is really to "fashion out a novel establishment that is elastic enough to accommodate all the extremes of the referred modes of expression of the same faith".

"A cancerous lump in the body should be excised if it has defied every known cure," they say.

"To attempt to condition the whole body to accommodate it will lead to the avoidable death of the patient."

Instead Dr Williams should persuade churches that chose to "walk apart" to "return to the path", say the bishops.

Ambition

The Nigerian Anglican Church is Africa's largest Anglican church, with an estimated 17.5 million members.

It has led traditionalist attempts to expel the Episcopal Church and, according to the BBC's religious affairs correspondent, Robert Pigott, has even hinted that it might have to take over from England the role of leading a truly Bible-believing Communion.

Our correspondent says this statement is a sign of their intent to lead other Anglican churches in opposition to the Americans at a meeting of what is known as the Global South in September - and perhaps at a meeting of all 38 autonomous Anglican churches next February.

Posted by Publisher at 01:02 PM | Comments (0)

Portugal 0-1 France

France booked a World Cup final spot against Italy after Zinedine Zidane's first-half penalty earned victory over a disappointing Portugal in Munich.

Zidane struck coolly past Ricardo on 33 minutes after Thierry Henry was tripped inside the box by Ricardo Carvalho.

Henry saw another shot trickle wide and Franck Ribery forced Ricardo to save.

Luis Figo and Deco saw shots saved by Fabien Barthez and Figo nodded over late on, but France stayed in control and thoroughly deserved their win.

Raymond Domenech's side will now play Italy in the final in Berlin on Sunday at 1900 BST.

The final will be Zidane's last game before he retires from professional football and is a chance to win his second World Cup after the 1998 triumph on home soil.

Zidane's influence on proceedings was not quite as substantial as in the previous rounds against Spain or Brazil, but apart from a lively start Portugal rarely looked like ending their French curse.

They have not beaten France since 1975 and have still never beaten them in a major competition.

But Luiz Felipe Scolari - who lost his 100% record as a coach at World Cup finals - saw his side begin well, with Deco and Figo both forcing saves from Fabien Barthez with low 20-yard drives.

Cristiano Ronaldo was being roundly booed every time he touched the ball after his histrionics against England, but he was in fine form and twice had shots blocked as he surged at the French defence.

Having made a slow start, Domenech's side clinically took the lead just after the half hour mark.

Henry turned exquisitely just inside the area and was brought down by Carvalho, Zidane stepping up to decisively strike the penalty past Ricardo, who managed to get a hand on it.

Ronaldo tried to win a spot-kick of his own moments later, but his theatrical dive under the slightest challenge from Willy Sagnol was ignored by referee Jorge Larrionda.

Henry had a chance straight after the restart to double the lead, but after twisting and turning in the box his shot squirmed under Ricardo and out for a corner.

Portugal looked far from threatening with the out-of-sorts Pauleta on his own up front and Ricardo had to save Ribery's drive as France stayed in control.

The second half was a dire affair, scrappy and lacking any real creativity - it suited the French down to a tee because they never let Portugal back into the game.

Their best chance was down to Barthez. He bizarrely parried a Ronaldo free-kick into the air but from six yards Figo could only head the rebound over.

Figo and his team-mates tired badly and they simply could not muster a late rally to provide the French with any sort of threat.

Scolari furiously marched onto the pitch at the final whistle to remonstrate with referee Larrionda, but had little reason to complain.

The 57-year-old, who had won 12 World Cup games in a row as coach of Brazil and Portugal, was finally left to suffer the bitter taste of defeat.

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Portugal: Ricardo, Miguel (Paulo Ferreira 63), Meira, Ricardo Carvalho, Nuno Valente, Costinha (Postiga 74), Maniche, Deco, Ronaldo, Pauleta (Simao 68), Figo.
Subs Not Used: Boa Morte, Caneira, Nuno Gomes, Paulo Santos, Quim, Ricardo Costa, Tiago, Viana.

Booked: Ricardo Carvalho.

France: Barthez, Sagnol, Thuram, Gallas, Abidal, Ribery (Govou 72), Vieira, Zidane, Makelele, Malouda (Wiltord 69), Henry (Saha 85).
Subs Not Used: Boumsong, Chimbonda, Coupet, Dhorasoo, Diarra, Givet, Landreau, Silvestre, Trezeguet.

Booked: Saha.

Goals: Zidane 33 pen.

Att: 66,000.

Ref: Jorge Larrionda (Uruguay).

Fifa man of the match: Lilian Thuram

Posted by Publisher at 01:01 PM | Comments (0)

Germany 0-2 Italy (aet)

Stunning late extra-time strikes from Fabio Grosso and Alessandro del Piero took Italy into the World Cup final at Germany's expense with a 2-0 win.

An absorbing semi-final seemed set for penalties until Grosso curled man of the match Andrea Pirlo's pass past Jens Lehmann with just one minute left.

Del Piero then finished an Italy break with a delicate chip into the corner.

Germany's Lukas Podolski earlier sent a header wide and saw a shot saved, but the hosts' Cup dreams were shattered.

There were, unsurprisingly, tears among German players and fans after the extraordinary end to an enthralling encounter - in which Italy also hit the woodwork twice in extra-time.

The opening 90 minutes were intriguing - but goalless - and it was in the extra period that the game truly exploded into life.

The Italians, famed for their defensive strength, adopted an increasingly attacking approach, aware of the Germans' brilliant record at penalty shoot-outs.

Substitute Alberto Gilardino's shot rebounded off the post and Gianluca Zambrotta's drive struck the bar.

But Podolski led the German attacking threat, missing the header from David Odonkor's cross and forcing a brilliant one-handed save from Gianluigi Buffon.

Del Piero then squandered a shooting chance from the edge of the box after great work from Vincenzo Iaquinta and Francesco Totti and Pirlo forced a diving save from Lehmann.

But Pirlo still had time to have his say as, with Italy pushing forward in numbers, he threaded the ball to Grosso whose first-time shot left Lehmann with no chance.

The goal was timed at 119 minutes and Germany, and their supporters who had crammed into Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park, were stunned.

And as Jurgen Klinsmann's side pushed forward in desperation, Gilardino found the ball in space and rolled it to Del Piero who sent a clinical finish beyond the advancing Lehmann into the roof of the net.

The opening 90 minutes saw Italy work the first clear opening as Totti's astute pass picked out Simone Perrotta, but Lehmann smothered the ball.

Fabio Cannavaro, exceptional throughout the match, marshalled the Italian back line effectively and limited Germany in the opening period.

Italy saw a Pirlo free-kick on 24 minutes elude both Luca Toni and Marco Materazzi by a fraction.

Then Toni was played in by Grosso, only for his goalbound shot to be blocked by Per Mertesacker.

Germany, however, fashioned the best chance of the first half, but Bernd Schnieder shot over after finding rare space behind the Italian defence.

Buffon had to make his first real save, and had to race from his goal to block as Miroslav Klose danced his way into the area.

Germany were on top and Buffon parried a close-range effort from Podolski 12 minutes later.

But extra-time seemed inevitable as Michael Ballack, not at his imperious best, sent a free-kick over the top from 20 yards.

Indeed, the 90 minutes ended without a goal - opening the dramatic extra period in which Grosso and Del Piero wrote themselves into Italian football history.

Their delight at the final whistle was in stark contrast to Germany, who were left bereft as their dream of lifting the World Cup on home soil came to a sudden, heart-breaking end.

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Germany: Lehmann, Friedrich, Metzelder, Mertesacker, Lahm, Borowski (Schweinsteiger 72), Ballack, Kehl, Schneider (Odonkor 83), Klose (Neuville 111), Podolski.
Subs Not Used: Jansen, Huth, Nowotny, Hanke, Kahn, Asamoah, Hitzlsperger, Hildebrand.

Booked: Borowski, Metzelder.

Italy: Buffon, Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Materazzi, Grosso, Camoranesi (Iaquinta 90), Perrotta (Del Piero 104), Gattuso, Pirlo, Totti, Toni (Gilardino 74).
Subs Not Used: Zaccardo, Barzagli, Peruzzi, Nesta, Amelia, Barone, Inzaghi, Oddo.

Booked: Camoranesi.

Goals: Grosso 119, Del Piero 120.

Att: 65,000

Ref: Benito Archundia Tellez (Mexico).

Fifa man of the match: Andrea Pirlo


TRIVIA
By defeating hosts Germany, Italy have reached their sixth World Cup final, denying Germany a record eighth final appearance. The Italians are now in position to become the second nation to have won at least four World Cup trophies.

Italy have now kept five clean sheets and have conceded only one goal (an own goal by Cristian Zaccardo) in the tournament. Their five shut-outs equals a record for a nation in a World Cup campaign.

Germany joined Chile (1962), Italy (1990) and South Korea (2002) as hosts to have been halted in the semi-finals. Their defeat was the third in a World Cup match that was decided in extra time. They also fell to England in the 1966 final (4-2) and to Italy in the 1970 semi-finals (4-3).

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 12:46 PM | Comments (0)

July 03, 2006

England 0-0 Portugal

England went out of the World Cup 3-1 on penalties after their quarter-final with Portugal ended 0-0.

England lost skipper David Beckham to injury just after half-time and Wayne Rooney was sent off after 62 minutes for a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho.

They battled on bravely for the rest of normal time and extra-time with 10 men to take the game to a shoot-out.

But Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher missed to end their hopes and Sven-Goran Eriksson's reign.

The Swede leaves his post as England coach after going out at the quarter-final stage of a major tournament for the third time in succession and now hands over to Steve McClaren.

Eriksson had promised a big performance from his side but until Rooney's early exit it was not forthcoming.

The young striker endured a frustrating game and his patience finally snapped as he got tangled up with Carvalho and Armando Petit and appeared to aim a stamp at the Chelsea player's groin.

The incident occurred right in front of Argentine referee Horacio Elizondo, who was urged on by Portugal players - including Rooney's Manchester United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo - to take action.

Elizondo took a moment before sending Rooney from the field and with him seemingly went England's World Cup hopes.

But roared on by the England fans that made the AufSchalke Arena like a home game, they finally showed the passion and heart for a battle so often missing in this World Cup campaign.

Portugal were far from their best but they at least caused some worrying moments at the back for England in a tense first half.

A deep Luis Figo free-kick was not dealt with by Gary Neville or Lampard and there was huge relief for England to see Tiago slip with the goal at his mercy.

Tiago almost caused further problems when he was given a free header in the box that Paul Robinson clambered across to save.

Eriksson was forced to change things round six minutes into the second half with Beckham struggling with an ankle problem.

Beckham almost won a penalty with his last contribution of the game - and probably his chances of winning a World Cup - when his cross hit the hand of Nuno Valente but England's appeals came to nothing.

He was replaced by Aaron Lennon and was seen on the sidelines looking anguished as treatment was performed on his ankle, although he did later bear the pain long enough to berate the referee following Rooney's dismissal.

Lampard, who endured another miserable time in front of goal, mistimed a volley after finding himself unmarked from a Gerrard corner.

Lennon's introduction gave England brief hope as his pace took him past two players, but when the ball fell for Rooney he almost completely missed and Joe Cole's effort was just too high.

But then came Rooney's premature exit, with Joe Cole sacrificed for Peter Crouch.

With temperatures again close to 30C it seemed only so long that England's brave 10-man backs-to-the-wall effort could hold out the Portugal onslaught.

England's best hope of a goal was a set-piece and Lampard fired in a free-kick that Ricardo did well to keep out, with Lennon scuffing his attempt to put in the rebound.

A deflected John Terry shot just looped over the bar after some brilliant work from an outstanding Owen Hargreaves, but Helder Postiga also blazed over in a nerve-jangling injury time.

The drama continued through to extra-time with England showing remarkable energy to match their opponents.

Crouch almost got on the end of a Gerrard cross but at the other end it needed some desperate last-ditch defending and some solid keeping from Robinson.

The game seemed destined to be decided by a penalty shoot-out, just like when the sides met at the same stage of Euro 2004.

And unfortunately for England it ended in the same result - with Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari getting the better of Eriksson.

Only Hargreaves - who had easily his best game in an England shirt - was successful from the spot.

Lampard, Gerrard and Carragher - who scored at the first attempt but had to retake - all saw their efforts saved by Ricardo, who became the first player in World Cup shoot-out history to save three penalties.

Hugo Viana and Armando Petit had missed to give Eriksson's side brief hope, but when Helder Postiga and Ronaldo scored England's dream of being crowned world champions was over for another four years.

Portugal now face France in Wednesday's semi-final in Munich.

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England: Robinson, Neville, Terry, Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Hargreaves, Beckham (Lennon 51), Gerrard, Lampard, Joe Cole (Crouch 65), Rooney, Lennon (Carragher 118).
Subs Not Used: Campbell, James, Bridge, Jenas, Carrick, Downing, Carson, Walcott.

Sent Off: Rooney (62).

Booked: Terry, Hargreaves.

Portugal: Ricardo, Miguel, Meira, Ricardo Carvalho, Nuno Valente, Figo (Postiga 86), Maniche, Petit, Tiago (Viana 74), Ronaldo, Pauleta (Simao 63).
Subs Not Used: Paulo Ferreira, Caneira, Ricardo Costa, Quim, Boa Morte, Nuno Gomes, Paulo Santos.

Booked: Petit, Ricardo Carvalho.

Att: 52,000.

Ref: Horacio Marcelo Elizondo (Argentina).

Fifa man of the match: Owen Hargreaves

TRIVIA
Portugal and England were involved in the third penalty shoot-out of the 2006 World Cup. Only the 1990 finals produced more (four). England and Italy are the only nations to have lost all three World Cup shoot-outs they have been involved in. England have been eliminated by a Luiz Felipe Scolari led side in the last three major tournaments.

Wayne Rooney became the third English player to be sent off during a World Cup match. He joined Ray Wilkins (1986) and David Beckham (1998) who also saw a direct red card in a World Cup encounter. Portugal have seen an opposing player sent off on four separate occasions, a figure with which they lead all other nations at the 2006 finals.

This goalless draw was the first time Portugal had failed to win inside 90 minutes at this tournament. However it extended their unbeaten run in competitive matches to 17. It was the Portuguese' 17th World Cup match in their history and the first to finish in a draw.

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports


Posted by Publisher at 12:42 PM | Comments (0)

Brazil 0-1 France

Thierry Henry's superb volley sent holders Brazil out of the World Cup as France moved into the semi-finals.

Inspired by man-of-the-match Zinedine Zidane, France were the better side in the first half, but failed to create clear chances to trouble Dida.

That changed just before the hour when Zidane swept a free-kick to the far post where it was sumptuously volleyed past the Brazilian goalkeeper by Henry.

Fabien Barthez denied Ronaldo late on to set up a semi-final with Portugal.

Prior to that save Barthez had flapped on a couple of occasions, but it was a mark of Brazil's lacklustre play that Ronaldo's shot came in stoppage time.

Brazil had strolled their way to the quarter-finals, but Carlos Alberto Parriera's side had no answer to a France team that combined defensive discipline with some wonderful attacking play.

France's route to the last eight has involved plenty of huffing and puffing, but the knockout stages have brought out the best in Raymond Domenech's side.

Zidane was magnificent throughout, while after the interval the speed of Henry and Franck Ribery unsettled the Brazilian defence.

As early as the first minute Brazil were given a glimpse of what they were to experience for the remaining 89 minutes as Zidane glided away from a succession of Brazilian tackles as he executed a quick turn and that trademark stepover.

A Zidane flick that deceived Cafu was equally breathaking, while he held off and teased Kaka by juggling the ball.

Not to be outdone, Brazil's number 10 Ronaldinho deftly touched the ball into Ronaldo's path before the Brazilian striker was closed down by the French defence.

A Zidane free-kick set up France's best chance in the first half but Florent Malouda headed over.

A minute before the interval another piece of Zidane wizardry released Patrick Vieira, who was scythed down by Juan, who was booked.

Within a minute of the second half starting Vieira went close with a glancing header from a Zidane free-kick.

As the second half developed Henry began to come to the fore, first sprinting past Cafu, then troubling Lucio, before the Frenchman's backheel nearly released Vieira.

So often in their careers with France, Henry and Zidane have failed to quite click, but on 57 minutes they combined to devastating effect.

Zidane whipped in a free-kick to the far past that Henry spectacularly volleyed past Dida into the roof of the net.

Soon after the waspish Ribery nearly created a second goal for France when his penetrative cross was almost inadvertently turned into the Brazilian goal by defender Juan.

Ribery then almost latched on to a Henry pass, but Dida just got to the ball before the Marseille winger.

The win means France have beaten Brazil in three of their four World Cup encounters.

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Brazil: Dida, Cafu (Cicinho 76), Lucio, Juan, Carlos, Juninho (Adriano 63), Silva, Ze Roberto, Kaka (Robinho 79), Ronaldinho, Ronaldo.
Subs Not Used: Cris, Emerson, Fred, Gilberto, Julio Cesar, Luisao, Mineiro, Ricardinho, Rogerio.

Booked: Cafu, Juan, Ronaldo, Lucio.

France: Barthez, Sagnol, Thuram, Gallas, Abidal, Ribery (Govou 76), Makelele, Vieira, Zidane, Malouda (Wiltord 81), Henry (Saha 85).
Subs Not Used: Boumsong, Chimbonda, Coupet, Dhorasoo, Diarra, Givet, Landreau, Silvestre, Trezeguet.

Booked: Sagnol, Saha, Thuram.

Goals: Henry 57.

Att: 48,000.

Ref: Luis Medina Cantalejo (Spain).

Fifa man of the match: Zinedine Zidane

TRIVIA
This is only the fourth World Cup in which all four semi-finalists are European teams, following 1934, 1966 and 1982. The last time this happened, 24 years ago, three of the four current semi-finalists were also among the last four: Italy, Germany and France.

France ended Brazil's all-time record streak of 11 straight World Cup match wins, dating back to 1998 when they lost the final to France 3-0. That was also the last World Cup match Brazil had failed to score in.

Thierry Henry scored his sixth World Cup goal, surpassing Platini on the competition top scorer list for France. Henry now only trails France's top scorer Just Fontaine, who netted 13 goals at the 1958 World Cup. Goalkeeper Fabien Barthez made his 15th World Cup appearance, tying Maxime Bossis as most capped French player at the World Cup.

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

Germany 1-1 Argentina

Germany beat Argentina 4-2 in a penalty shoot-out after a tense quarter-final in Berlin ended 1-1 after extra-time.

Argentina led when Roberto Ayala took advantage of slack marking to head in a Juan Riquelme corner after 49 minutes.

But with 10 minutes left Michael Ballack's cross was flicked on by Tim Borowski and Miroslav Klose headed home his fifth of the tournament.

Germany scored from their first four kicks but Ayala and Esteban Cambiasso both missed to send the hosts through.

The match ended on a sour note when players and officials from both sides clashed on the pitch, with punches thrown between the rival camps.

Fifa is almost certain to view footage of the incident and could decide to take action against one or both of the teams - although it later emerged that unused Argentina substitute Leandro Cufre was red-carded after the game for his part in the melee.

It was a dramatic finish to a game that took a while to live up to its billing, with both sides failing to reproduce the all-out attacking football of their earlier four matches.

Germany, who now play Italy a semi-final in Dortmund on Tuesday, 4 July, at 2000 BST, had scored inside six minutes in three of their previous games, but there was no flying start this time despite being roared on by the majority of the 72,000 fans in the Olympiastadion.

They still managed the only chances of a disappointing opening half.

Ballack was close with a flashing header from a Bernd Schneider cross, while defender Per Mertesacker turned well to fire in a shot just over the bar.

The South Americans were happy to play their usual patient build-up game, while the Germans were equally content to sit back, bide their time and pick off any stray passes.

Too often Argentina's passage in the final third was blocked by the German defence, who prevented their opponents from an attempt on goal for the opening 45 minutes.

Four minutes after half-time a gap appeared in the German defence when Riquelme's corner found Ayala to head his seventh goal for his country.

Argentina had chances to add to their advantage, most notably when Carlos Tevez set up Maxi Rodriguez, but his usually reliable shooting escaped him and he fired into the side-netting.

Ballack had an effort blocked by Ayala after Abbondanzieri had come for a cross and failed to collect.

The keeper injured himself in colliding with Klose and was eventually replaced by Leonardo Franco.

Ten minutes later the substitute keeper was picking the ball out of the net.

Substitute Borowski helped on Ballack's inswinging cross and Klose, who had been kept quiet until then, added the finishing touch with a stooping header.

Neither side could do the business in normal time and some weary bodies took to the field for extra-time, with both managers having used all their changes.

It resulted in a tense 30 minutes of extra-time and an almost slow walk towards the dreaded penalty shoot-out, with both sides restricted to long-range efforts of little note.

Rodriguez was booked for diving in the area although television replays later suggested he had a case for a penalty, having been tripped by Philipp Lahm.

In the shoot-out Oliver Neuville and Ballack, who could barely walk during the extra-time period and could be a doubt for Tuesday's semi-final, made no mistake from the spot before Ayala saw his effort saved by Jens Lehmann.

German pair Lukas Podolski and Borowski and Argentina's Rodriguez were all successful.

But when Cambiasso's low effort was kept out by Arsenal keeper Lehmann the Germans celebrated their fourth World Cup shoot-out success in as many attempts.

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Germany: Lehmann, Friedrich, Mertesacker, Metzelder, Lahm, Schweinsteiger (Borowski 74), Frings, Ballack, Schneider (Odonkor 62), Klose (Neuville 85), Podolski.
Subs Not Used: Asamoah, Hanke, Hildebrand, Hitzlsperger, Huth, Jansen, Kahn, Kehl, Nowotny.

Booked: Podolski, Odonkor, Friedrich.

Goals: Klose 80.

Argentina: Abbondanzieri (Franco 71), Sorin, Ayala, Coloccini, Heinze, Maxi, Gonzalez, Riquelme (Cambiasso 72), Mascherano, Crespo (Cruz 78), Tevez.
Subs Not Used: Aimar, Burdisso, Cufre, Messi, Milito, Palacio, Saviola, Scaloni, Ustari.

Booked: Sorin, Mascherano, Maxi, Cruz.

Sent-off: Cufre (after the game, for unsporting behaviour)

Goals: Ayala 49.

Att: 72,000.

Ref: Lubos Michel (Slovakia).

Fifa man of the match: Michael Ballack

TRIVIA
Germany's progress continues a trend since 1984 that the hosts have reached at least the semi-finals in a major championship on European soil. Germany remained perfect in World Cup penalty shoot-outs, recording their fourth straight triumph. The only German to miss a spot kick in 18 attempts in World Cup shoot-outs was Uli Stielike in 1982 against France.

For Argentina it was their first World Cup penalty shoot-out defeat, having won their previous three. Roberto Ayala had earlier become the first player to beat the German defence in 336 minutes of play.

Miroslav Klose extended his lead in the 2006 World Cup top scorers' table, by netting his fifth of the tournament. Klose joined Gerd Muller, Jurgen Klinsmann and Helmut Rahn as the only German players to have scored at least 10 World Cup goals.

The dismissal of unused Argentine substitute Leandro Cufre in the scuffle that directly followed the penalty shoot-out, made him a record 10th Argentine to be sent off in a World Cup match. Just like predecessor Claudio Caniggia, Cufre was red carded whilst not even formally on the pitch.

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 12:40 PM | Comments (0)

Italy 3-0 Ukraine

Italy will meet Germany in the World Cup semi-finals as they beat Ukraine to extend their unbeaten run to 23 games.

Ukraine adopted a policy of containment but were behind after six minutes when keeper Olexandr Shovkovskiy was unable to keep out Gianluca Zambrotta's shot.

Italy extended their lead when Luca Toni guided home a 59th minute header.

Maxim Kalinichenko twice hit the woodwork for Ukraine either side of Italy's second, before Toni sealed the win as he converted Zambrotta's cross.

Italy were well worth their win, with Gianluigi Buffon superb in goal.

Ukraine's hopes of saving the game were scuppered by Buffon's heroics as he saved from Kalinichenko and Gusev early in the second half.

Ukraine's cause was not helped by the anonymity of Andriy Shevchenko, who for long periods was reduced to a virtual spectator by the close attentions of the Italian defence.

Ukraine's defence proved less disclipined.

Just before Zambrotta's goal Mauro Camoranesi had gone close with a run and a shot as the Ukraine defence backed off.

Ukraine failed to learn the lesson of allowing Italy to run at them and Zambrotta punished their laxness.

Shovkovskiy got his hands to Zambrotta's shot, but it was too powerful for him as the ball flew into the corner of the net.

Francesco Totti's exquisite back-heel released Zambrotta into the space he exploited so zealously for his goal and throughout the Roma playmaker's vision and touch illuminated the game.

Totti also provided the cross for Italy's second goal as Toni shook off the attentions of Andriy Gusin before stooping to head past Shovkoskiy.

Italy's buoyant start prompted an immediate tactical switch from Ukraine as coach Oleg Blokhin threw on Andriy Vorobey in place of Viacheslav Sviderskiy, who had been man-marking Francesco Totti.

But Ukraine still struggled to threaten Buffon in those opening 45 minutes, their best efforts a misdirected Shevchenko header and an Anatoliy Tymoschuk shot.

In first-half stoppage time Ukraine had to make a second substitution when the injured Andriy Rusol limped off and was replaced by Vladislav Vashchuk.

Ukraine were more positive after the restart and Kalinchenko's downward header hit the post as Buffon pushed the ball on to the woodwork.

Fabio Cannavaro proved just as alert when he brilliantly headed clear Vorobey's cross from the right.

Immediately after Toni's first goal, Ukraine struck the woodwork for a second time when Kalinchenko rose above Fabio Grosso to thump a header against the bar.

Ukraine's slim hopes of causing an upset disappeared when Zambrotta's cross presented Toni with the easiest of chances to claim his second goal of the tournament.

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Italy: Buffon, Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Barzagli, Grosso, Perrotta, Pirlo (Barone 68), Gattuso (Zaccardo 76), Camoranesi (Oddo 68), Toni, Totti.
Subs Not Used: Amelia, Del Piero, Gilardino, Iaquinta, Inzaghi, Nesta, Peruzzi.

Goals: Zambrotta 6, Toni 59, 69.

Ukraine: Shovkovskiy, Nesmachniy, Sviderskiy (Vorobey 20), Rusol (Vashchuk 45), Tymoschuk, Shelayev, Gusev, Gusin, Kalinichenko, Milevskiy (Byelik 72), Shevchenko.
Subs Not Used: Nazarenko, Pyatov, Rebrov, Rotan, Shust, Voronin, Yatsenko, Yezerskiy.

Booked: Sviderskiy, Kalinichenko, Milevskiy.

Att: 50,000.

Ref: Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium).

Fifa man of the match: Gennaro Gattuso


TRIVIA
This 3-0 triumph equals Italy's second biggest winning margin ever at the World Cup. The 7-1 victory against the United States in 1934 remains their most comprehensive World Cup success.

Italy have reached the semi-final knock-out stage of the World Cup for the seventh time, and the first time since 1994. They also reached this stage in 1934, 1938, 1970, 1982 and 1990. They qualified for the last four in 1978, but never went through a knockout phase as they advanced from a semi-final group stage. Opponents have still not scored a goal against Italy at this tournament. The only goal the Italians have conceded so far was an own goal by Cristian Zaccardo in the match against United States (1-1).

Ukraine have been the best debutants at the 2006 World Cup as they reached the quarter-finals.

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 12:25 PM | Comments (0)

June 30, 2006

Nigeria police 'fight corruption'

The Nigerian police force has rejected the conclusions of a new report that it is regarded as one of the country's most corrupt institutions.

A police spokesman said the force had the highest quality control system.

He said the Centre for Law Enforcement Education (Cleen) survey did not reflect changes implemented since the arrival of the new inspector general.

Last year, Nigeria's former police chief was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to six months in prison.

The other institution named in the survey as corrupt is the country's national electricity provider, the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

PHCN officials are alleged to have demanded money for maintaining power supplies.

Nigeria is routinely ranked as being seen as one of the world's most corrupt countries by watchdog Transparency International.

Manipulation

According to Cleen director Innocent Chukwuma, their survey was conducted across Nigeria between October and December last year.

He said that those surveyed were asked about their "perception of corruption - whether it had decreased or increased in the last seven years of President Obasanjo's government when a lot has been put into the fight against corruption".

This included a question on how they regarded government agencies.

"Seventy-eight percent of the respondents say that corruption has indeed increased," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

Uproot corruption

But police spokesman Haz Iwendi said surveys were easily manipulated.

"This survey does not reflect the present reality on the ground, there are lots of changes going on," he told the BBC.

He said the police were actively exposing those who were corrupt within the service, unlike other government agencies.

"Nigeria's police has the best quality mechanism in this country - there's no organisation that cleanses itself like the Nigerian police force."

Meanwhile, the most senior Anglican cleric in Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, called on the government to do more to uproot corruption.

Archbishop Akinola complained that few people accused of corruption were being put behind bars.

Speaking ahead of a national conference of the Church of Nigeria, he called on Nigerians to vote against any corrupt politician standing in the general elections scheduled for next year.


Posted by Publisher at 12:09 PM | Comments (0)

June 28, 2006

Nigeria journalists deny sedition

Two Nigerian journalists have denied charges of sedition, linked to a story about a new presidential aircraft.

The Daily Independent's Rotimi Durojaiye was charged after one of his articles questioned the cost and age of President Olusegun Obasanjo's plane.

The other journalist, Gbenga Aruleba, was arrested after discussing the article on his talk show on private television station, AIT.

The two men face up to two years in prison if convicted.

They are accused of seeking to "bring into hatred or contempt or excite disaffection against the person of the president."

Their bail application was denied.

Mr Durojaiye's article "Controversy over age, cost of presidential jet" suggested that the Mr Obasanjo's official plane may have experienced technical problems.

"All we are saying is that we are trying to protect the life of the president of this country," the managing director of the Daily Independent newspaper Ted Iwere told reporters outside the courtroom.

"I strongly believe that it is democracy that is on trial. Reporters must be granted and guaranteed the opportunity to discharge their duty," said AIT (African Independent Television) owner Raymond Dokpesi.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CJP) has condemned the arrest of Mr Aruleba.

The government's opponents have accused it of cracking down on criticism ahead of next year's elections.

Posted by Publisher at 02:13 PM | Comments (0)

Brazil 3-0 Ghana

Ronaldo became the highest scorer in World Cup finals history as Brazil beat Ghana to book a quarter-final place against France.

The 29-year-old took just five minutes to go past Gerd Muller's tally of 14, latching on to Kaka's through ball and rounding Richard Kingson to slot home.

Adriano tapped in Cafu's cross and Ze Roberto ran through to wrap it up while Ghana's Asamoah Gyan was sent off.

John Mensah had the Africans' best chance, but Dida saved his header.

Brazil will now meet France in the last eight on Saturday in Frankfurt at 2000 BST.

The scoreline was perhaps a touch harsh on Ghana, who recovered from a horror start to match their more illustrious opponents.

It was a start made more remarkable by the African side's defensive naivety than Brazil's attacking prowess, as twice in five minutes they got caught out at the back.

The first time they were saved by a flag incorrectly ruling Ronaldo offside, the second time they pushed up and allowed Kaka to feed in Ronaldo, who shimmied past Kingson and slotted in.

After all the criticism, it was yet another record-breaking goal for the peerless Real Madrid man.

Still Ghana failed to learn. Ze Roberto found Adriano in acres of space only for the striker to fluff his lines, trying to round Kingson but falling to the floor and being booked for a dive.

Brazil began strolling - if they needed a reminder they were in a game Matthew Amoah's 20-yard drive that flew just wide should have done the trick.

But it did not seem to, as Amoah shot straight at Dida and then Gyan turned Lucio superbly before rifling over on the stretch from 12 yards.

Two minutes before half-time, they had a golden chance to level. Mensah rose unchallenged from a corner, but to Ghana's dismay his bullet header struck Dida's leg and bounced away from danger.

Just before the break they were punished when Brazil launched a quick counter-attack and Cafu crossed for a seemingly offside Adriano to bundle home.

Ghana coach Ratomir Dujkovic was so incensed that he was sent to the stands for the second half after remonstrating with the referee.

The second goal was hard on Ghana after a spirited response to their early errors and to their credit they continued to plough forward after the break.

John Pantsil flashed a header wide from another set-piece and Gyan and Haminu Draman both wildly lashed over from good positions.

As Brazil sat back Stephen Appiah fed in Gyan, but the hero of the win over Czech Republic was foiled again by an impressive diving stop from Dida.

Until Gyan was sent off - his second yellow card was for diving - Brazil did not look like adding to their tally, a Pantsil header at his own goal a rare venture into the Ghana penalty area.

But with 11 against 10 they stepped up the pace and Ghana's misery was compounded when substitute Ricardinho floated a ball over the top and Ze Roberto flicked it past Kingson, ran round him and rolled into an empty net.

The defending champions are slowly but surely clicking into gear at this World Cup finals.

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Brazil: Dida, Cafu, Lucio, Juan, Carlos, Emerson (Silva 45), Ze Roberto, Kaka (Ricardinho 83), Ronaldinho, Adriano (Juninho 61), Ronaldo.
Subs Not Used: Cicinho, Cris, Fred, Gilberto, Julio Cesar, Luisao, Mineiro, Rogerio, Robinho.

Booked: Adriano, Juan.

Goals: Ronaldo 5, Adriano 45, Ze Roberto 84.

Ghana: Kingson, Pantsil, Shilla, Mensah, Pappoe, Draman, Eric Addo (Boateng 60), Appiah, Muntari, Amoah (Tachie-Mensah 69), Gyan.
Subs Not Used: Otto Addo, Adjei, Ahmed, Kuffour, Mohamed, Owu, Pimpong, Quaye, Sarpei.

Sent Off: Gyan (81).

Booked: Appiah, Muntari, Pantsil, Eric Addo, Gyan.

Att: 65,000.

Ref: Lubos Michel (Slovakia).

Fifa man-of-the-match: Ze Roberto


TRIVIA
Ronaldo became the World Cup's all-time top scorer by netting his 15th goal in the finals. He thereby surpassed Gerd Muller's tally of 14, in his 18th successive World Cup match, the longest streak by a current player. Cafu set a Brazilian record by playing in his 19th game. The competition record is 25 World Cup matches by Lothar Matthaus.

Adriano's goal was Brazil's 200th in the World Cup. They are the first nation to reach this milestone. Ze Roberto became the seventh Brazilian goalscorer at the 2006 World Cup. No other nation has more than six different goalscorers.

Brazil won their 11th straight World Cup match, extending their all-time record. They're also on an 11-match unbeaten run, which is two shy of their own competition record set between 1958-1966.

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 02:12 PM | Comments (0)

Spain 1-3 France

France struck twice in the last 10 minutes to see off Spain and set up a quarter-final meeting with Brazil.

Spain went ahead through David Villa's superbly struck penalty after Lilian Thuram rashly fouled Ibanez Pablo.

France soon equalised when Frank Ribery rounded Iker Casillas after he was found by Patrick Vieira's clever pass.

With seven minutes to go Vieira powered in a header and with Spain pushing forward Zinedine Zidane broke clear for a solo effort in stoppage time.

Zidane, who struggled in France's first two group games, looks to have finally found his rhythm, prompting and cajoling his teammates to victory just as he did during their successful 1998 campaign.

France's victory also means Brazil will again face their nemesis Zidane, the player who scored twice against them in the 1998 World Cup final.

An absorbing game offered two contrasting styles, with Spain pursuing a patient passing game while France adopted a more direct approach to try to utilise Thierry Henry's pace.

Mariano Pernia went close with a dipping free-kick, though the Spain defender was soon on defensive watch as he courageously blocked a Zidane shot.

While Pernia showed bravery, his defensive colleague Carles Puyol relied on athleticism to head back to Casillas to stop Zidane's pass reaching Henry.

The Arsenal striker finally escaped the attentions of the Spain defence when he broke down the right and sent over an inviting cross that neither Vieira or Ribery could reach.

Villa's penalty briefly stopped France in their tracks.

Thuram was too eager to challenge Ibanez and Italian referee Roberto Rosetti had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

Barthez guessed correctly, but Villa's shot - low and powerful - was unstoppable.

Five minutes before the interval France equalised with an elegant goal as Vieira's quick pass released Ribery.

Finishing has not been the Marseille's winger strongest point in France's group games, but Ribery's speed got him round Iker Casillas and his sidefooted finish eluded Pernia and Puyol as they tried to cover back.

France's equaliser saw the game shift up a notch in intensity in the second half.

Just as Vieira had released Ribery, Zidane did the same for Florent Malouda, whose lobbed effort drew a one-handed save from Casillas.

Just past the hour Ribery skipped his way past Pernia, but he was unable to find a French player with his powerful cross.

France's invigorating start to the second half prompted Spain coach Luis Aragones to make a double substitution as he brought on Luis Garcia and Sanchez Joaquin.

With 12 minutes left Joaquin ghosted past Eri Abidal before firing a shot into the side netting.

But it was France who found an extra gear in the last 10 minutes as first Vieira and then Zidane punished Spain.

It was a deflected Zidane free-kick that Vieira headed in and France's captain applied the coup de grace with a run and powerful shot that gave Casillas no chance.

The defeat was the first Spain had suffered under Aragones in 25 games since he took charge after Euro 2004.

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Spain: Casillas, Pablo, Puyol, Sergio Ramos, Pernia, Fabregas, Xavi (Senna 72), Alonso, Villa (Joaquin 54), Torres, Raul (Luis Garcia 54).
Subs Not Used: Salgado, Marchena, Albelda, Reyes, Antonio Lopez, Iniesta, Canizares, Juanito, Reina.

Booked: Puyol.

Goals: Villa 28 pen.

France: Barthez, Sagnol, Thuram, Gallas, Abidal, Ribery, Zidane, Makelele, Vieira, Malouda (Govou 74), Henry (Wiltord 88).
Subs Not Used: Landreau, Boumsong, Dhorasoo, Silvestre, Saha, Givet, Diarra, Trezeguet, Chimbonda, Coupet.

Booked: Vieira, Ribery, Zidane.

Goals: Ribery 41, Vieira 83, Zidane 90.

Att: 43,000.

Ref: Roberto Rosetti (Italy).

Fifa man of the match: Patrick Vieira.


TRIVIA
This was the 700th match in the history of the World Cup. The French were one of the combatants in the very first game and they featured in the previous centennial match four years ago.

The last time France qualified for the quarter-finals was at the 1998 World Cup, which they went on to win. Since losing to Slovakia in their first match of 2006, the French have now won five and drawn two matches, keeping four clean sheets and not conceding more than two goals in any of the seven games.

France have ended Spain's 10 match unbeaten run at the World Cup. It was also the first defeat in 26 international matches for the Spaniards, in a sequence stretching back to a 1-0 loss to Portugal at Euro 2004.

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 02:11 PM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2006

Filipino oilmen freed in Nigeria

Two Filipino oil workers have been released after being held for five days in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta.

Six gunmen in a speedboat seized the two near the south-eastern city of Port Harcourt on Tuesday.

It is the latest in a string of abductions and assaults on foreign oil workers in the region by militants, who want more local control of oil wealth.

It has led to a 25% cut in Nigeria's oil production - a key factor in the high world price of crude oil.

A local official said the contract workers for Petroleum Geo-Services (PGS) were released on Sunday in good health and taken to Port Harcourt.

The Niger Delta is home to Nigeria's oil industry, but there is widespread poverty and numerous armed militia groups which operate in the area.

One group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), says it is fighting for greater local control of the oil revenues and compensation from oil companies for pollution in the Delta.

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says in most previous cases armed groups have taken hostages to extort money from oil companies and the government. Details of payments are never released.


Posted by Publisher at 04:28 PM | Comments (0)

England 1-0 Ecuador

David Beckham became the first England player to score at three World Cups as his free-kick earned a quarter-final tie against Portugal on Saturday.

Beckham defied illness to curl home from 30 yards on the hour mark, but England made hard work of Ecuador.

The South Americans could have gone in front early on, Carlos Tenorio's shot deflecting off Ashley Cole and on to the bar after John Terry's mistake.

Frank Lampard missed two fine chances but England had done enough to win.

Sven-Goran Eriksson's side will now play Portugal - after their stormy 1-0 win against Holland - on Saturday 1 July at 1600 BST in Gelsenkirchen.

Again Eriksson will point to a job done, but again it was an England display which will produce more questions than answers.

They had to rely on a trademark free-kick from Beckham, who was later sick on the pitch after suffering from dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Playing a 4-1-4-1 formation with Wayne Rooney up front alone, England looked comfortable and clumsy in equal measure on a strange afternoon in Stuttgart.

Yet they started off by doing the sensible thing in the stifling heat, with Michael Carrick at the hub as they passed the ball around and made Ecuador do the running.

However, the first genuine chance fell to the South Americans and after an error by John Terry they came agonisingly close to taking the lead.

Terry completely mis-timed a headed clearance and the ball fell to Carlos Tenorio to run clean through, the striker's fierce shot crashing off the bar thanks to a fine sliding block from Ashley Cole.

It was a Jekyll and Hyde performance from England - one minute keeping the ball with ease, the next giving it away and inviting pressure on to them.

Rooney cut an isolated figure as England put more effort into not conceding than scoring but they still looked shaky at the back, as Rio Ferdinand nearly put through his own net and Terry was booked for a neck-high tackle on Carlos Tenorio.

The decision to play Carrick in the holding role gave England a better base to build from, but Lampard and Gerrard were not getting forward enough to give the increasingly frustrated Rooney some much-needed support.

The 20-year-old could only look on with envy at the other end as Carlos Tenorio and Agustin Delgado hunted as a pair, causing Terry and Ferdinand to lose their usual composure.

Gerrard took it upon himself to improve things after the break as he bombed forward from the left, only to see his centre run across the six-yard line with no England player in sight.

When the breakthrough came, it was like travelling back in time to 2001 when Beckham was at the very peak of his powers.

He sized up the opportunity from 30 yards, wonderfully whipped the ball over the wall and towards the bottom corner and saw it creep past Cristian Mora at his near post.

Lampard twice had chances straight after to double the lead, first dragging a left-foot shot wide then failing to find Rooney in the box when he should have shot himself.

He missed a sitter with 17 minutes left too, blazing over from 14 yards after some sensational skill from Rooney by the left touchline.

Fortunately, it made no difference. England, for the second time under Eriksson, have reached the last eight of the World Cup finals.

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England: Robinson, Hargreaves, Terry, Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Beckham (Lennon 87), Carrick, Gerrard (Downing 90), Lampard, Joe Cole (Carragher 77), Rooney.
Subs Not Used: James, Campbell, Bridge, Carson, Crouch, Jenas, Neville, Walcott.

Booked: Terry, Robinson, Carragher.

Goals: Beckham 60.

Ecuador: Mora, De la Cruz, Hurtado, Espinoza, Reasco, Valencia, Edwin Tenorio (Lara 69), Castillo, Mendez, Delgado, Carlos Tenorio (Kaviedes 71).
Subs Not Used: Villafuerte, Ambrossi, Ayovi, Benitez, Borja, Guagua, Lanza, Perlaza, Saritama, Urrutia.

Booked: Valencia, Carlos Tenorio, De la Cruz.

Att: 52,000.

Ref: Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium).

Fifa man-of-the-match: John Terry


TRIVIA
David Beckham's goal was his second from a free kick at the World Cup. Only four other players have achieved that feat before: Pele and Roberto Rivelino (both Brazil), Teofilo Cubillas (Peru and Bernard Genghini (France). Beckham is the first ever English player to have scored at three different World Cups, in 1998, 2002 and 2006 (one goal at each). Beckham's free kick was the 63rd in the history of the World Cup and the sixth in 2006. Only three World Cups have seen more goals from free kicks than in 2006. The record is nine set four years ago.

Ashley Cole earned won his 50th cap. All his international matches have come under Eriksson's reign.

Argentina are the only team ever to have scored against England at this stage. In other second round matches, England beat Paraguay 3-0 in 1986, Belgium 1-0 in 1990, Denmark 3-0 in 2002 and now Ecuador 1-0.

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 04:00 PM | Comments (0)

Portugal 1-0 Holland

Portugal booked their place in the last eight of the World Cup and a meeting with England on Saturday after beating Holland in a stormy encounter.

Both teams finished the game with nine men after a game which equalled the World Cup record for bookings - 16 - and broke the record for red cards.

Deco and Costinha were dismissed for Portugal, while Khalid Boulahrouz and Gio van Bronkhorst saw red for Holland.

Maniche scored the only goal, firing into the top corner after 23 minutes.

Luiz Felipe Scolari's side will now play England on Saturday 1 July at 1600 BST in Gelsenkirchen, live on BBC One, Radio Five Live and on the BBC Sport website.

Russian referee Valentin Ivanov set the tone for his performance by booking players from the start for late tackles that he could have given free-kicks for.

Costinha was the first to go, his first offence a sliding foul on Philip Cocu and his second a blatant handball, leaving Ivanov with little choice.

Portugal should have been reduced to nine when Figo was only booked for headbutting Van Bommel, who took his time before falling to the floor.

Soon after Figo was at it again. This time it was his turn to fake serious injury as he tangled with Boulahrouz, who was handed a second booking and dismissed.

There was more action in the referee's notebook than on the pitch.

Deco was booked for a flying foul on Johnny Heitinga and he was off soon after, shown a second yellow for refusing to hand the ball back to Holland as Ivanov continued to throw cards around like confetti.

The bookings prevented a young and inexperienced Holland side from gaining any sort of momentum as they chased the game.

Their miserable evening was compounded in the fourth minute of stoppage time when Van Bronckhorst was shown a second yellow for a minor foul.

Yet they had started so brightly, keen to test Ricardo from range as Mark van Bommel and Robin van Persie went close in the early stages.

From being in control the Dutch seemed to switch off - and their lapse in concentration invited pressure that cost them a goal.

Deco found space down the right and his cross was laid off by Pauleta to Maniche, who shimmied to create room and hammered the ball into the top corner from 16 yards.

Maniche blasted over as Portugal poured forward but their plans took a turn for the worse when Cristiano Ronaldo limped off with an injured thigh after half an hour.

The Dutch seemed to gain encouragement from this and Van Persie twisted and turned sublimely in the Portugal box before toe-poking wide from an acute angle.

Costinha's dismissal forced Scolari into a change at the break but it was a surprising decision to take off Pauleta and play Luis Figo as the lone striker in a 4-4-1 formation.

They were nearly pegged back immediately but Cocu fluffed his lines, slamming against the underside of the bar from eight yards after Nuno Valente's poor control.

Ricardo tipped a Van Bommel drive round the post before the keeper did well to parry a Wesley Sneijder shot from distance, but Holland never seriously looked like forcing extra-time.

It was Marco van Basten's first competitive defeat as Dutch coach and leaves Holland still waiting for their first win against Portugal since 1991.

As for Scolari, the Brazilian can look forward to yet another finals meeting with Sven-Goran Eriksson - his teams put England out of the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004.

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Portugal: Ricardo, Nuno Valente, Ricardo Carvalho, Meira, Miguel, Maniche, Deco, Costinha, Figo (Tiago 84), Pauleta (Petit 45), Ronaldo (Simao 34).
Subs Not Used: Boa Morte, Caneira, Nuno Gomes, Paulo Ferreira, Paulo Santos, Postiga, Quim, Ricardo Costa, Viana.

Sent Off: Costinha (45), Deco (78).

Booked: Maniche, Costinha, Petit, Figo, Deco, Ricardo, Nuno Valente.

Goals: Maniche 23.

Holland: Van der Sar, Van Bronckhorst, Mathijsen (Van der Vaart 56), Ooijer, Boulahrouz, Cocu (Vennegoor of Hesselink 84), Sneijder, Van Bommel (Heitinga 67), Robben, Kuyt, Van Persie.
Subs Not Used: Babel, De Cler, Jaliens, Kromkamp, Landzaat, Maduro, Stekelenburg, Timmer, van Nistelrooy.

Sent Off: Boulahrouz (63), Van Bronckhorst (90).

Booked: Van Bommel, Boulahrouz, Van Bronckhorst, Sneijder, Van der Vaart.

Att: 41,000.

Ref: Valentin Ivanov (Russia).

Fifa man-of-the-match: Maniche


TRIVIA
This was the first World Cup match ever with four red cards. It was the third game at this tournament with at least three. The 16 cards shown are a record for a World Cup encounter equalling the Cameroon - Germany fixture at the 2002 tournament.

Costinha's dismissal was the third for a Portuguese player at a World Cup. Deco's was the fourth. Both Joao Pinto and Beto were sent off in 2002 against South Korea. The red cards for Khalid Boulahrouz and Giovanni van Bronckhorst were the fifth and sixth for Dutch players at the World Cup. The four dismissals took the 2006 total of red cards to a record 23, breaking the record set in 1998.

Luiz Felipe Scolari has taken his perfect record at the World Cup to 11 matches. He won seven matches as coach of Brazil in 2002 and has now added four wins with Portugal. The Portuguese have reached the quarter-finals for the second time in their history and the first since 1966, and this victory means they now hold the best current unbeaten run in competitive matches by a European nation with 16. They ended the Dutch streak of 15.

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 03:59 PM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2006

Ukraine 1-0 Tunisia

Ukraine reached the knockout stages on their World Cup debut with a narrow victory against 10-man Tunisia.

Andriy Shevchenko's 71st-minute penalty sealed victory after Chelsea's new recruit had tumbled over in the area.

Striker Ziad Jaziri's dismissal just before half-time for a second bookable offence stunned Tunisia, who needed a win to stand any chance of qualifying.

Ukraine's victory sealed second spot in Group H and a second round match against Switzerland in Cologne.

The Swiss topped Group G ahead of France, and the game will take place on Monday (2000 BST).

But Ukraine will enter the match with problems in defence, as both Vyacheslav Svidersky and Andriy Rusol are suspended after picking up bookings.

In a dismal encounter, Ukraine failed to dominate their final group match despite their one-man advantage.

Tunisia can feel a degree of injustice, after conceding a questionable penalty, and having their own claims for a spot-kick denied.

Both sides had named unchanged line-ups, but offered little to excite a big crowd in Berlin.

A slip by Bolton centre-back Radhi Jaidi in the third minute nearly cost Tunisia.

He tried a backheel only for Andriy Voronin to intercept - but the Bayer Leverkusen forward failed to take advantage.

Jaziri picked up his first booking from Paraguayan referee Carlos Amarilla for a blatant dive when challenged by Andriy Rusol.

The first real chance fell Ukraine's way in the 20th minute when the ball broke to Anatoliy Tymoschuk and he tried to beat Ali Boumnijel with power instead of passing to Shevchenko, and the Tunisian keeper saved.

In the dying seconds of the half, Jaziri was dismissed after bringing Tymoschuk down from behind.

Despite being reduced to 10 men, Tunisia showed some spark in the second half.

Ania Yari's free-kick appeared to be deflected over the bar by the hand of striker Voronin, but a corner was awarded.

Shevchenko broke the deadlock when he earned a dubious penalty after going down under a challenge from Karim Hagui.

The £30m striker calmly converted from the spot for his second goal of the tournament and kissed his shirt in celebration.

Voronin twice went close to extending Ukraine's lead, with a late shot which forced Boumnijel to parry, and then firing wide from close-range.

But Tunisia nearly snatched an equaliser with a dangerous header from substitute Francileudo dos Santos.

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Ukraine: Shovkovskiy, Nesmachniy, Rusol, Sviderskiy, Tymoschuk, Shelayev, Gusev, Rebrov (Vorobey 54), Kalinichenko (Gusin 75), Shevchenko (Milevskiy 88), Voronin. Subs Not Used: Yatsenko, Yezerskiy, Pyatov, Chigrynskiy, Vashchuk, Nazarenko, Byelik, Rotan, Shust.

Booked: Sviderskiy, Shelayev, Tymoschuk, Rusol.

Goal: Shevchenko 71 pen.

Tunisia: Boumnijel, Haggui, Jaidi, Ayari, Trabelsi, Mnari, Bouazizi (Ben Saada 79), Chedli (Santos 79), Namouchi, Nafti (Ghodhbane 90), Jaziri.
Subs not used: Essediri, Yahia, Gmamdia, Chikhaoui, Nefzi, Jemmali, Saidi, Kasraoui, Melliti.

Sent Off: Jaziri (45).

Booked: Jaziri, Bouazizi, Jaidi.

Att: 72,000

Ref: Carlos Amarilla (Paraguay).

Fifa man of the match: Anatoly Tymoshchyuk

TRIVIA
Ukraine have become the second debutant to survive the group phase, following Ghana. They have now kept a clean sheet in seven of their eight matches in 2006.

Vyacheslav Sviderski and Andri Rusol received their second yellow card and will be suspended for Ukraine's next match.

Tunisia have never survived the group phase in four attempts. They amassed 14 yellow cards in their three matches, more than any other team. Zaid Jaziri became the first ever Tunisian player to be sent off in a World Cup match. His red card was the 18th shown at this tournament, one more than during the entire last World Cup. The record for most dismissals in one World Cup tournament is 22 and was set in 1998.

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 10:31 AM | Comments (0)

Saudi Arabia 0-1 Spain

Spain strolled their way to three wins from three and top spot in Group H as their second string beat a poor Saudi Arabia outfit in Kaiserslauten.

Having enjoyed a wealth of possession, the only surprise was that Juanito's header was the only goal at half-time.

Mabrouk Zaid produced a string of saves in the Saudi goal, with Joaquin, Jose Antonio Reyes and David Albelda denied.

However, a late Saudi surge did cause Spain some discomfort, with Saad Al Harthi firing a fine chance over.

The result means Spain will face France, who finished runners up in Group G behind Switzerland, in the second round on 27 June in Hanover (2000 BST).

Saudi Arabia knew before kick off they had to score at least four goals to stand a chance of qualifying, but survival was clearly priority number one as they allowed Spain, who had changed their entire first XI, to feel their way into the match.

With Cesc Fabregas pulling the strings in midfield and Joaquin particularly dangerous on the right flank, Luis Aragones' side created a host of chances in the first half.

Joaquin (twice), Reyes and Albelda all forced Zaid into full-length saves from range, while Raul was a constant nuisance with his movement and touch on his first start in these finals.

With the Saudis clearly reluctant to commit players forward, it was only a matter of time before Spain took the lead and so it was when defender Juanito rose unmarked to power home the opener with his head.

Even that failed to ignite Saudi Arabia's forward play, though Sami Al Jaber did enjoy a rare foray forward on 40 minutes that ended with a tame shot.

With Fabregas and Reyes also stinging Zaid's palms before half-time, the only surprise was that Marcos Paqueta's outfit conceded just one goal in the first 45.

In truth, Saudi Arabia started in better form in the second, with Spain having to defend their lines on more than one occasion.

Hussein Sulimani twice brought decent saves from Santiago Canizares from range, while Nawaf Al Temyat thought he had earned the Saudis a penalty - until he was shown a yellow card for diving over Carlos Marchena's tackle.

With Spain showing a tendency to over-complicate their forward play, they were unable to enjoy a more comfortable end to the game.

And after Fernando Torres, David Villa and Antonio Lopez had wasted decent chances, Al Harthi could have snatched the most unlikely of draws at the death when he collected Mohamed Noor's pull-back.

However, he spooned harmlessly over from six yards to make it 10 matches without a win in World Cup finals for Saudi Arabia.

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Saudi Arabia: Zaid, Dokhi, Tukar, Al Montashari, Khathran, Sulimani (Massad 81), Noor, Khariri, Aziz (Al Temyat 13), Al Jaber (Mouath 68), Al Harthi.
Subs Not Used: Al Anbar, Al Bahri, Al Daeyea, Al Qadi, Ameen, Khojah.

Booked: Al Jaber, Al Temyat.

Spain: Canizares, Salgado, Marchena, Antonio Lopez, Juanito, Albelda, Reyes (Torres 69), Iniesta, Joaquin, Fabregas (Xavi 66), Raul (Villa 45).
Subs Not Used: Casillas, Pernia, Puyol, Luis Garcia, Alonso, Sergio Ramos, Senna, Pablo, Reina.

Booked: Albelda, Reyes, Marchena.

Goals: Juanito 36.

Att: 46,000

Ref: Coffi Codjia (Benin).

Fifa man of the match: Juanito

TRIVIA
Spain have now won seven consecutive group matches at the World Cup. This is the third time they have started the finals with three straight victories, following 1950 and 2002. Spain are now unbeaten in 25 matches, and have not lost since 22 June 2004, when Portugal beat them 1-0 at Euro 2004.

Spain's longest unbeaten streak is 31 between September 1994 and January 1998 under coach Javier Clemente. They're unbeaten in 10 World Cup matches, winning seven and drawing three. Together with Brazil, who have won 10 straight, they hold the longest running unbeaten sequence. The all-time record is 13 unbeaten matches by Brazil (1958-1966).

Saudi Arabia's winless streak at the World Cup was extended to 10 matches. The last time they won a match at the World Cup was on 29 June 1994 when they defeated Belgium 1-0.

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 10:30 AM | Comments (0)

Togo 0-2 France

Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry scored as France secured their place in the knockout stages of the World Cup.

France needed victory to ensure their progress from Group G, but they were frustrated by a spirited Togo defence during a goalless first half.

But Vieira, celebrating his 30th birthday, eased the nerves as he fired home from inside the box on 55 minutes.

And Henry turned before sending in a low shot six minutes later to set up a second round tie against Spain.

The win seemed comfortable in the end, but it was anything but for much of the opening hour as France looked in real danger of making an early exit from the competition.

Raymond Domenech's men were held out by a Togo back line which proved far more resilient than it did against South Korea and Switzerland.

The pattern of the game was set early on when David Trezeguet's seventh-minute header was acrobatically tipped over by Kossi Agassa.

Henry then put Franck Ribery through, but the Marseille midfielder chose to pass to Trezeguet, who was judged offside as he put the ball into the net.

Ribery then shot wildly over when put through by Henry on 29 minutes.

Such missed opportunities just added to France's nerves as they saw many promising attacking positions come to nothing.

Togo keeper Agassa was in inspired form, repelling France attacks, most notably in the first half when he stopped Florent Malouda's stinging drive.

After the interval, France were straight back on the attack and Trezeguet's shot from Ribery's low pass was deflected wide more by luck than judgement.

Ribery was, in fact, to prove the most profligate of the France attackers, as he repeated his first-half howler when he hammered high and handsome after Malouda's low cross picked him out.

It was beginning to look like one of those nights for France - until the birthday boy intervened.

Ribery - atoning for his earlier misses - passed to Vieira who turned and slammed home past Agassa from inside the box.

Still Togo threatened to stun their feted opponents, and France were pleased to see Willy Sagnol block a goalbound shot from Emmanuel Adebayor.

But five minutes later, Arsenal striker Henry made the game safe as he latched on to Vieira's flick-on and turned before firing a typically clinical shot into the net.

The second goal killed the match as a contest and France held out for the win - but they know they will need to improve if they want to overcome Luis Aragones' in-form Spain.

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Togo: Agassa, Nibombe, Abalo, Tchangai, Aziawonou, Cherif-Toure (Olufade 59), Senaya, Salifou, Forson, Mohamed, Adebayor (Dossevi 75).
Subs Not Used: Agboh, Akoto, Atsou, Erassa, Malm, Obilale, Tchagnirou, Toure, Assemoassa.

Booked: Aziawonou, Cherif-Toure, Salifou.

France: Barthez, Gallas, Silvestre, Thuram, Sagnol, Malouda (Wiltord 73), Makelele, Vieira (Diarra 81), Ribery (Govou 77), Trezeguet, Henry.
Subs Not Used: Boumsong, Chimbonda, Coupet, Dhorasoo, Givet, Landreau, Saha.

Booked: Makelele.

Goals: Vieira 55, Henry 61.

Att: 45,000

Ref: Jorge Larrionda (Uruguay).

Fifa man of the match: Patrick Vieira


TRIVIA
France gained their first maximum at the World Cup since the 3-0 victory over Brazil in the 1998 final, ending a five-match winless sequence in the competition, which had equalled their all-time record.

Lilian Thuram won his 117th cap, surpassing Marcel Desailly's record mark of 116 appearances for France. Thierry Henry scored his fifth World Cup goal and is now ranked joint second with Michel Platini on the all-time scorers list for France. Just Fontaine leads this list with 13 World Cup goals.

Patrick Vieira became the sixth player in World Cup history to score on his birthday. In 1982, Michel Platini was the first French player to do so and he repeated this feat four years later.

Trivia Stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 10:29 AM | Comments (0)

Switzerland 2-0 South Korea

Switzerland booked their place in the second round with a gutsy victory in their final Group G game in Hanover.

Hakan Yakin's pin-point cross was met by the brave Philippe Senderos who powerfully headed Switzerland in front.

Jin-Chul Choi and Chun-Soo Lee went close for South Korea before Alexander Frei scored a controversial second.

Frei rounded the keeper after the referee overruled his assistant's offside flag, ensuring the Swiss will now meet Ukraine in the second round.

The clean sheet ensured Switzerland preserved their record of not having conceded a goal in any of their group games.

And heading into the game they only needed a point to qualify.

But their high-tempo start suggested they were keen to finish the group as winners.

Frei was the first to try his luck from distance, while at the other end Ji-Sung Park tested Pascal Zuberbuhler with a low drive from 30 yards.

And Switzerland's purposeful start was rewarded on 23 minutes when the superb Yakin bent in a pin-point free-kick that Senderos comprehensively dispatched.

The Arsenal centre-half's courage came at the expense of a nasty cut to his face after head-butting Jin-Cheul Choi in the process of scoring, leaving both players needing treatment.

Yakin's sweet left foot from set-pieces was a constant threat for the South Koreans and shortly before the break he stung the hands of Woon-Jae Lee with a free-kick.

South Korea produced their best chance of the half when Chun-Soo Lee broke through the Swiss defence and fired in a fierce drive that was well palmed away by Zuberbuhler.

And as the lively half came to a close, Switzerland were in pole position to win the group.

The South Koreans began the second half with more zest and pegged the Swiss back in their own half, who themselves looked happy to sit back and preserve their lead.

But despite Senderos' substitution following an awkward fall on his arm, the Switzerland defence looked comfortable in repelling the South Korean attacks.

At the other end, the solitary Swiss striker Frei had two chances to kill the game, the best of which crashed against the post.

Jin-Chul Choi should have done better with a free header while Jung-Hwan Ahn shot low.

But with 15 minutes left, referee Horacio Elizondo ignored his assistant's flag to allow Frei in to slot home Switzerland's second and seal the 2002's semi-finalists' fate.

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Switzerland: Zuberbuhler, Spycher, Senderos (Djourou 53), Philipp Degen, Muller, Wicky (Behrami 88), Vogel, Yakin (Margairaz 70), Cabanas, Barnetta, Frei.
Subs Not Used: Benaglio, Coltorti, David Degen, Dzemaili, Grichting, Gygax, Lustrinelli, Magnin, Streller.

Booked: Senderos, Yakin, Wicky, Spycher, Djourou.

Goals: Senderos 23, Frei 77.

South Korea: Woon-Jae Lee, Young-Pyo Lee (Ahn 62), Choi, Jin-Kyu Kim, Dong-Jin Kim, Ho Lee, Nam-Il Kim, Ji-Sung Park, Chu-Young Park (Seol 65), Chun-Soo Lee, Jae-Jin Cho.
Subs Not Used: Baek, Won-hee Cho, Chung, Do-Heon Kim, Sang-Sik Kim, Yong-Dae Kim, Young-Kwang Kim, Eul-Yong Lee, Song.

Booked: Chu-Young Park, Jin-Kyu Kim, Choi, Chun-Soo Lee.

Att: 43,000

Ref: Horacio Marcelo Elizondo (Argentina).

Fifa man of the match: Alexander Frei

TRIVIA
This is the first time Switzerland have finished as first round group winners at the World Cup. At their last appearance in 1994, the Swiss were ousted in the second round by Spain.

Switzerland have now kept a clean sheet in three consecutive World Cup matches. They are the only team yet to concede a goal at the 2006 World Cup. The last side to negotiate the first round group phase without conceding was Argentina in 1998. The Swiss managed a first ever World Cup block-out against France in their opening fixture of this tournament, bringing to an end their unwanted all-time competition record of 22 matches without a clean sheet.

South Korea go out, having progressed beyond the group phase in only one previous World Cup - four years ago, when they were joint hosts. South Korea have now played European teams 18 times at the World Cup, winning only three times. All three victories came in 2002 on home soil.

Trivia Stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 10:16 AM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2006

Czech Republic 0-2 Italy

Italy won convincingly to finish top of Group E and eliminate the Czech Republic from the World Cup.

Substitute Marco Materazzi scored the opening goal with a powerful header from Francesco Totti's corner.

The Czech's hopes of progress effectively ended when Jan Polak was sent off for a second bookable offence in first-half stoppage time.

And Filippo Inzaghi killed the game off near the end when he broke from almost halfway to round Petr Cech and score.

The Czech Republic had started the tournament in superb form by beating the USA 3-0, but their fortunes changed when Jan Koller went off with a hamstring injury near the end of that game.

Devoid of a focal point in attack, they were convincingly beaten in their next game by Ghana and failed to produce their best form against Italy.

The Italians were not hugely impressive, but did enough to win and set up a seemingly straightforward passage to the semi-finals.

They will face Australia in the second round and, if they win that, probably the Ukraine or Switzerland in the quarter-finals.

Skipper Pavel Nedved was inevitably prominent for the Czech Republic in the opening stages.

Milan Baros was put through by a delicious curling pass from Nedved after nine minutes, but the Aston Villa striker's touch was heavy and Gianluigi Buffon smothered.


Minutes later, Nedved tested his Juventus team-mate Buffon with two searing drives from the edge of the area.

Francesco Totti was at the heart of many of Italy's attacks, but his side lacked fluidity in the early stages.

Their first goal came from the unlikely source of Materazzi, who had come on in place of the injured Alessandro Nesta after 26 minutes.

Totti delivered an inswinging corner from the right and the Inter Milan defender rose above Jan Polak to power in a header from nine yards out.

The goal knocked the Czech Republic's confidence. Their early exuberance petered out and Baros began to look isolated in attack.

And their predicament became even worse when Polak was shown a red card after two minutes of first-half stoppage time.

The defender, who had earlier been booked for a crude challenge on Mauro Camoranesi, brought down Totti from behind and was given a second yellow.

Totti made the most of the tackle by rolling around theatrically, but the referee had little option but to send Polak off.


Czech coach Karel Bruckner brought on skilful winger Jiri Stajner in place of veteran Karel Poborsky at the interval and his side pushed forward in search of goals.

The talismanic Nedved surged forward from midfield to find himself one-on-one with Buffon after only a few minutes.

His shot was blistering, but too close to the keeper, who parried.

The increasing adventurousness - and numerical disadvantage - of the Czech Republic inevitably left space for Italy.

Inzaghi, who came on for Alberto Gilardino after 61 minutes, wastefully put a header wide after a jinking run from Andrea Pirlo.

But he made no mistake three minutes from the end when he evaded the offside trap to advance unhindered from the halfway line and round Cech to score.

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Czech Republic: Cech, Grygera, Kovac (Heinz 78), Rozehnal, Jankulovski, Plasil, Polak, Nedved, Poborsky (Stajner 46), Rosicky, Baros (Jarolim 64).
Subs Not Used: Blazek, Galasek, Jiranek, Kinsky, Koller, Mares, Sionko.

Sent Off: Polak (45).

Booked: Polak.

Italy: Buffon, Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Nesta (Materazzi 17), Grosso, Camoranesi (Barone 73), Pirlo, Perrotta, Gattuso, Totti, Gilardino (Inzaghi 60).
Subs Not Used: Amelia, Barzagli, Del Piero, Iaquinta, Oddo, Peruzzi, Toni, Zaccardo.

Booked: Gattuso.

Goals: Materazzi 26, Inzaghi 87.

Att: 50,000

Ref: Benito Archundia Tellez (Mexico).

Fifa man of the match: Marco Materazzi

TRIVIA
Italy have extended their unbeaten run in all international matches to 21. This marks the longest streak for the Italians since 1935-39 when they remained unbeaten for 30 matches. This victory ensured Italy have progressed from the group phase for the eighth consecutive time and the 11th time in total.

Substitutes Filippo Inzaghi and Marco Materazzi became the second and third oldest scorers ever for Italy at the World Cup. Daniele Massaro is the oldest Italian to score in the finals. In 1994 he was 33 years and 36 days old when he netted against Mexico. Materazzi had never scored before in 28 previous international matches. Inzaghi notched his 22nd goal for Italy in his 50th international match. It was the 13th Italian World Cup goal scored by a substitute, more than any other nation.

Jan Polak's red card was the sixth for a player from the Czech Republic / Czechoslovakia at the World Cup and the second at this tournament following Tomas Ujfalusi's dismissal against Ghana. The Czech Republic have failed to survive the group phase of a World Cup for the fifth time in nine tries.

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 01:46 PM | Comments (0)

Ghana 2-1 USA

Ghana clinched a place in the last 16 of the World Cup against Brazil by ending the hopes of the United States with victory in Nuremberg.

Haminu Dramani gave Ghana, who lost their group opener to Italy, the lead after he robbed Claudio Reyna but Clint Dempsey's first-time shot made it 1-1.

Stephen Appiah restored Ghana's lead from a controversial penalty - awarded against USA defender Oguchi Onyewu.

Brian McBride sent a diving header against the post for the USA.

Referee Markus Merk stamped his early mark on the game, booking Eddie Lewis and Michael Essien inside the first six minutes.

With plenty at stake both sides were prepared for a physical battle and Lewis needed treatment for an eyebrow cut, which was caused by John Mensah's stray elbow.

Dramani then raised Ghana's hopes of a place in the knockout stages by firing them ahead.

Dramani's shuddering challenge caught Reyna in possession and the Ghana star made ground before curling his shot around keeper Kasey Keller's dive.

Essien's role in the battle for midfield supremacy was pivotal to Ghana's hopes and he won the ball to release the pacy Razak Pimpong, who pulled his shot wide.

The USA's ponderous build-up play allowed Ghana time to get bodies behind the ball but when they took a more direct route it proved to be effective, with McBride rising to flick the ball on for Landon Donovan, who sliced his shot wide.

The Americans suffered a blow when playmaker Reyna limped off but they made light of it when they levelled just before half-time.

DaMarcus Beasley intercepted Derek Boateng's pass and curled a delicious cross into the path of Dempsey, who crashed home a first-time shot.

But referee Merk added one more twist to the first half, with a controversial penalty award.

He penalised Onyewu, who appeared to win a clean header as Pimpong collapsed dramatically, and then allowed Appiah to dispatch the spot-kick.

Donovan swung in a dangerous free-kick as the USA piled on the pressure at the start of the second half but Ghana showed their threat on the break and Keller had to claw away a powerful shot from Matthew Amoah.

For all their possession, the Americans showed little guile and wit to break down Ghana in a game that continued to be dominated by referee Merk's whistle.

The USA's luck was out as McBride dived full-length to head Lewis' cross against the post before Onyewu headed inches over the bar from a corner.

The American fans may well believe that they were victims of some debatable refereeing decisions and they were angry when Mensah was only shown a yellow card for a dreadful, cynical foul on substitute Bobby Convey.

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Ghana: Kingston, Mensah, Pantsil, Shilla, Mohamed, Appiah, Essien, Dramani (Tachie-Mensah 80), Boateng (Otto Addo 45), Amoah (Eric Addo 59), Pimpong.
Subs Not Used: Adjei, Ahmed, Kuffour, Owu, Pappoe, Quaye, Sarpei.

Booked: Essien, Shilla, Mensah, Appiah.

Goals: Dramani 22, Appiah 45 pen.

USA: Keller, Onyewu, Conrad, Cherundolo (Johnson 60), Bocanegra, Dempsey, Reyna (Olsen 40), Lewis (Convey 74), Beasley, Donovan, McBride.
Subs Not Used: Albright, Berhalter, Ching, Hahnemann, Howard, O'Brien, Wolff.

Booked: Lewis.

Goals: Dempsey 43.

Att: 41,000

Referee: Markus Merk (Germany).

Fifa man of the match: Stephen Appiah

Posted by Publisher at 01:44 PM | Comments (0)

Japan 1-4 Brazil

Brazil striker Ronaldo became the joint highest scorer in World Cup history as he scored twice against Japan.

The 29-year-old headed in an equaliser before half-time to go past Pele and then curled in his 14th finals goal at the end to go level with Gerd Muller.

Japan went ahead through Keiji Tamada's left-foot drive but Brazil took control through Ronaldo, Juninho Pernambucano's 30-yarder and Gilberto's sweet strike.

Ronaldo wrapped it up and the Group F winners now play Ghana in the last 16.

In the process, Brazil made it 10 consecutive wins at World Cup finals and they finally produced the sort of free-flowing football their fans have been waiting for.

They went into the game under a different sort of pressure - they had already qualified but had come under heavy criticism for a lack of flair in their performances.

No-one had suffered more than Ronaldo. Branded overweight and unfit, the top scorer at the 2002 World Cup was perhaps only one game away from being dropped.

He needed a goal and nearly got it straight away, producing a trademark shimmy to create space - only to see Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi make a fine save.

Kawaguchi was in for a busy night. Twice Robinho tested him, once with a left-foot snap-shot, then with a curler after a majestically mazy run.

He pulled off a blinder to deny Ronaldo and then made the save of the tournament to almost unbelievably tip over a thunderous Juninho drive from 20 yards.

Just when it seemed a matter of time until Brazil scored, they were hit by a brilliant Japan counter-attack.

Alex found some space on the left and slipped in a lovely ball to Tamada, who took a touch and hammered a stunning left-footer into the top corner of Dida's net.

But, with almost the last touch of the half, Ronaldo buried his demons, heading in from close-range after Cicinho nodded Ronaldinho's centre back across goal.

He should have scored again just after the break following an exquisite one-two with Ronaldinho on the edge of the area but could only guide a right-foot shot inches wide from 16 yards.

It did not take Brazil much longer to go ahead and it was a horror moment for the previously outstanding Kawaguchi.

Juninho hit a hopeful shot from 30 yards that swung and dipped and deceived Kawaguchi as it went through the stopper's attempted save.

It was party time for the Brazilians and they wrapped up the points when Ronaldinho fed Gilberto and the 30-year-old skilfully drilled home a left-foot shot from a tight angle.

Ronaldo was not finished yet though - and he saved the best until last in Dortmund.

Taking a pass from Robinho, he superbly manoeuvred some space before side-footing brilliantly into the far corner from outside the area.

Brazil, and their star striker, have finally arrived at the 2006 World Cup.

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Japan: Kawaguchi, Santos, Tsuboi, Kaji, Nakazawa, Hidetoshi Nakata, Ogasawara (Koji Nakata 56), Nakamura, Inamoto, Maki (Takahara 60), Tamada, Takahara (Oguro 66).
Subs Not Used: Doi, Endo, Fukunishi, Komano, Moniwa, Narazaki, Ono, Yanagisawa.

Booked: Kaji.

Goals: Tamada 33.

Brazil: Dida (Rogerio 82), Lucio, Juan, Cicinho, Gilberto, Kaka (Ze Roberto 71), Ronaldinho (Ricardinho 71), Silva, Juninho, Ronaldo, Robinho.
Subs Not Used: Adriano, Cafu, Carlos, Cris, Emerson, Fred, Julio Cesar, Luisao, Mineiro.

Booked: Gilberto.

Goals: Ronaldo 45, Juninho 53, Gilberto 59, Ronaldo 81.

Att: 65,000.

Ref: Eric Poulat (France).

Fifa man of match: Ronaldo


Posted by Publisher at 01:42 PM | Comments (0)

Croatia 2-2 Australia

Harry Kewell's late strike sent Australia through to the second round after a thrilling Group F decider.

Darijo Srna's precise free-kick gave Croatia an early lead.

Australia were level through Craig Moore's penalty after Stjepan Tomas handled a cross, but Croatia hit back through Nico Kovac's bobbling drive.

Kewell was on hand to fire home from close range to send the Socceroos through, while Dario Simic, Brett Emerton and Josip Simunic all saw red.

Australia's draw sets up a second-round clash with Group E winners Italy as Japan failed to overhaul group winners Brazil.

The Socceroos surprisingly opted to leave out first-choice goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer in favour of the taller Zeljko Kalac.

And the replacement keeper's first touch was to pick the ball out of the net after Srna's bending set piece caught him out.

Mark Viduka's mistimed lunge on Nico Kovac on the edge of the area brought about the free-kick and Srna sweetly dispatched Croatia's first goal of the tournament.

But far from being rocked by the early setback, the Australians pressed forward and took control of possession.

And Viduka almost made up for his error when he burst through on goal, but he was left fuming when Josip Simunic appeared to have wrestled the Middlesbrough striker to the ground.

Kewell and Tim Cahill both went close with long-range efforts as the Socceroos camped inside the Croatian half.

And they were rewarded for their endeavour on 38 minutes when Tomas' moment of madness handed Australia a penalty.

Tomas rose to deal with an in-swinging cross and his outstretched arm just clipped the ball which was cleverly spotted by English referee Graham Poll.

Newcastle defender Moore stepped up to coolly slot home the resulting spot-kick.

Dado Prso wasted a decent chance to put Croatia back ahead but blasted over a close-range effort, and it was the Aussies who would have been the most satisfied going in level at the break.

Ten minutes after the interval Australia returned the favour for Tomas' earlier kindness when the unimpressive Kalac misread Kovac's tame drive, allowing the ball to hop over him into his net.

With Australia streaming forward for the vital equaliser the game became stretched and Kewell took advantage of some space, forcing an instinctive reflex save from Stipe Pletikosa.

And moments later the keeper bravely threw himself underneath two Australian challenges to heroically keep Aloisi out.

But he was helpless to prevent the Australia equaliser as Kewell, who looked to be in an offside position, turned home John Aloisi's flick from Marco Bresciano's in-swinging cross.

Simic and Emerton were both dismissed for two bookable offences in the final 10 minutes, while Simunic, who received a second caution, was mistakenly not shown a red by referee Poll.

To add to the drama, Cahill had a goal disallowed as Poll had already blown for full time and as Simunic complained, the referee handed him his third yellow of the match and an overdue red card.

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Croatia: Pletikosa, Simic, Tudor, Tomas (Klasnic 84), Simunic, Srna, Nico Kovac, Babic, Kranjcar (Jerko Leko 65), Prso, Olic (Modric 73).
Subs Not Used: Balaban, Bosnjak, Butina, Didulica, Ivan Leko, Seric, Tokic, Vranjes.

Sent Off: Simic (85), Simunic (90).

Booked: Simic, Tudor, Simunic, Pletikosa.

Goals: Srna 3, Nico Kovac 56.

Australia: Kalac, Neill, Moore, Chipperfield (Kennedy 75), Emerton, Grella (Aloisi 63), Culina, Cahill, Sterjovski (Bresciano 71), Kewell, Viduka.
Subs Not Used: Beauchamp, Covic, Lazaridis, Milligan, Popovic, Schwarzer, Skoko, Thompson, Wilkshire.

Sent Off: Emerton (87).

Booked: Emerton.

Goals: Moore 39 pen, Kewell 79.

Att: 52,000

Ref: Graham Poll (England).

Fifa man of the match: Harry Kewell

Posted by Publisher at 01:41 PM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2006

Filipino oilmen seized in Nigeria

Two Filipino oil workers have been kidnapped in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta, police have confirmed.

Six gunmen in a speedboat seized the two near the south-eastern city of Port Harcourt on Tuesday.

Police say it not yet clear which group is responsible for the abductions, as no-one has made contact.

It is the latest in a string of assaults on foreign oil workers in the region by militants, who want more local control of oil wealth.

The upsurge of attacks has cut Nigeria's oil production by 25% - a key factor in the high world price of crude oil.

The abductees are contract workers for Petroleum Geo-Services (PGS).

"Six armed men came in a boat and abducted the two Filipinos. They were not harmed or injured. We have no contact with them since the sad incident took place," a PGS spokesman told AFP news agency.

The Niger Delta is home to Nigeria's oil industry, but there is widespread poverty and numerous armed militia groups which operate in the area.

One group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), says it is fighting for greater local control of the oil revenues and compensation from oil companies for pollution in the Delta.

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says in most previous cases armed groups have taken hostages to extort money from oil companies and the government.


Posted by Publisher at 11:46 AM | Comments (0)

Nigerians warned of UK fraudsters

Nigeria has warned its citizens to be wary of fraudsters when they travel to the United Kingdom.

The information ministry said there had been an increase in robberies and other crimes suffered by Nigerians in the UK.

The ministry said the tricks included "pouring tomato juice or other substances upon their victim's dress, and then offer to help remove it".

Nigeria is known for its "419 scams" in which gullible businessmen are tricked out of large amounts of money.

Nigeria's information ministry said it was making a statement based on warnings received from Nigeria's High Commission in London.

"There is no evidence that Nigerians are being specifically targeted but ostentatious dressing [and] spending... may identify a target," it said.

"They may also feign to pick an object which had fallen under their victim's seat" in order to distract attention, the statement said.

It warned Nigerians that "major flashpoints" for these crimes included airports, hotels and restaurants, high streets, shopping centres, markets, tube stations, bus stops and even inside buses.

"The occurrences have been particularly high at Heathrow Airport, Oxford Street, Piccadilly and Charing Cross," the ministry warned.

The British Tourist Authority declined to comment.

The 419 scams, named after an article in Nigeria's penal code, usually involve e-mails making promises of a share in millions of dollars, which is to follow an up-front payment.

Posted by Publisher at 11:44 AM | Comments (0)

Sweden 2-2 England

England will play Ecuador in the last 16 of the World Cup after securing a draw with Sweden to top Group B.

England went in front when Joe Cole hit a sensational lob from 35 yards, only for Marcus Allback to equalise when he headed home from a right-wing corner.

Steven Gerrard headed in Joe Cole's 85th-minute cross, but Henrik Larsson levelled for Sweden in injury time.

The result was marred by a knee injury to striker Michael Owen, who was stretchered off in the first minute.

England will now meet Ecuador in the second round on Sunday at 1600 BST in Stuttgart, while Sweden play Germany in Munich 24 hours earlier.

It was an improved display from England, but they will be concerned by the way they struggled after the break having dominated the first half.

England knew if they could win or draw they would avoid a knock-out encounter with in-form hosts Germany.

But if Sven-Goran Eriksson was looking for a bright start from his side, it could barely have been any worse.

With less than a minute on the clock, Owen picked the ball up on the left and as he tried to pass it, his right knee buckled underneath him.

He immediately crawled to the touchline in agony and received treatment before being stretchered off, replaced by Peter Crouch.

Owen's team-mates looked shell-shocked at such a cruel twist of fate and the contest took time to get going as a result.

When it did get going it was England in the ascendancy, as Joe Cole fired over and Rooney went on a mazy dribble only to see Teddy Lucic block his goalbound shot.

When they went ahead, it was thanks to a goal that announced Joe Cole on the world stage as one of the stars of this tournament.

The Chelsea midfielder chested down a clearance 35 yards out, let the ball bounce and hit the most outrageous, dipping volley that Andreas Isaksson could only help into the top corner.

In a World Cup already full to the brim of sensational strikes, this one will remain up there with the very best.

England were buzzing, Joe Cole and Rooney in particular, and Frank Lampard and Rooney shot just over as England tried to double their lead.

But they were hit by a sucker-punch six minutes after the break, as Allback rose all too easily to glance home a Tobias Linderoth corner.

Former Villa striker Allback nearly made it two from another corner as England failed to learn their lesson, this time the ball ricocheting off Jamie Carragher's arm and Paul Robinson brilliantly reacting to tip it onto the bar.

From being in total control, England were all of a sudden in disarray.

Another corner, another free header - this time for Lucic - and Olof Mellberg volleyed against Robinson's crossbar.

England still looked shaky at the back and substitute Gerrard had to hack the ball off the line after Kim Kallstrom fired goalwards, as yet again a corner caused chaos.

Just as England looked like they were on the rack, Joe Cole crossed for Gerrard to nod in at the far post.

But they were denied a first win over Sweden since 22 May 1968 when they failed to clear another ball pumped into their box and Larsson pounced to poke home.

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Sweden: Isaksson, Lucic, Mellberg, Edman, Alexandersson, Linderoth (Andersson 90), Kallstrom, Ljungberg, Jonson (Wilhelmsson 54), Larsson, Allback (Elmander 74).
Subs Not Used: Alvbage, Hansson, Ibrahimovic, Nilsson, Rosenberg, Shaaban, Stenman, Anders Svensson, Karl Svensson.

Booked: Alexandersson, Ljungberg.

Goals: Allback 51, Larsson 90.

England: Robinson, Carragher, Ferdinand (Campbell 56), Terry, Ashley Cole, Beckham, Lampard, Hargreaves, Joe Cole, Rooney (Gerrard 69), Owen (Crouch 4).
Subs Not Used: Bridge, Carrick, Carson, Downing, James, Jenas, Lennon, Neville, Walcott.

Booked: Hargreaves.

Goals: Joe Cole 34, Gerrard 85.

Att: 45,000.

Ref: Massimo Busacca (Switzerland).

Fifa man of the match: Joe Cole

TRIVIA
Marcus Allback scored the 2,000th goal in World Cup history by netting Sweden's equaliser (1-1). Henrik Larsson's goal came 12 years after his first in the World Cup in 1994. The Swedish forward has now joined Pele, Uwe Seeler, Diego Maradona, Michael Laudrup and Sami Al Jaber as players who managed to net in the World Cup 12 years after their maiden goal in the competition.

Larsson appeared in the finals for the 12th time, becoming Sweden's most capped World Cup player ever. He equalled Kennet Andersson as Sweden's all-time World Cup top scorer with five goals, and also became the 19th player to score at three or more of the competition finals.

Michael Owen was substituted in the fourth minute of the match, equalling the fastest substitution in World Cup history. Sol Campbell became the tenth English player to appear in three World Cups, and England are still without a victory over Sweden since 22 May 1968.

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 11:18 AM | Comments (0)

Paraguay 2-0 Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago's spirited World Cup campaign ended with defeat by Paraguay in Kaiserslautern.

The Caribbean side went behind in the 25th minute through a headed own goal from Gillingham defender Brent Sancho.

Paraguay doubled their lead through Nelson Cuevas four minutes from time for a scoreline which slightly flattered the South Americans.

Trinidad attacked with gusto, but defeat left them goalless and bottom of the group on their tournament debut.

The Soca Warriors can consider themselves unlucky not to have got off the mark after launching waves of second-half attacks.

It was a disappointing anti-climax for the smallest country, with a population of just 1.3 million, to qualify for the finals.

Trinidad will look back with some pride on a campaign which saw a gutsy draw with Sweden and a battling defeat by England.

They went into their final group game needing a win, and England to beat the Swedes, for any chance of going through on goal difference.

While the other Group B game in Cologne ended in a draw, effectively rendering this match a dead rubber, Trinidad again emerged with credit.

Coach Leo Beenhakker was able to bring Dundee keeper Kelvin Jack back from injury to replace Shaka Hislop and also recalled Avery John after a one-match ban.

A busy opening saw Jack soon pressed into action with a diving left-handed save to deny Roque Santa Cruz's header from a probing Edgar Barreto free-kick.

Trinidad hit back as Glen forced Aldo Bobadillo to parry and Aurtis Whitley fired a drive just over.

Paraguay, who had no hope of qualifying after two earlier defeats, were posed early questions by former Manchester United and Aston Villa striker Dwight Yorke.

As the sides traded blows, Werder Bremen striker Nelson Valdez caused a few scares for Trinidad, without seriously threatening.

But then Paraguay dealt a huge blow to their opponents' slender qualification hopes with a fortunate opening goal.

Sancho deflected into the net after Toro Acuna's free-kick was headed on by Julio dos Santos.

Boosted by the lead, Paraguay began to dominate and Denis Caniza's shot under Jack 10 minutes later appeared to have increased the lead before a late offside flag ruled out the goal.

Denzil Theobald also cleared off the line from Carlos Paredes, but Trinidad emerged for the second half with renewed vigour, and a Carlos Edwards cross just evaded the advancing Yorke and Chris Burchill.

Urged on by a noisy band of supporters, they continued to push forward through the impressive Luton midfielder Edwards and Yorke.

The pair almost combined again, before the ball fell to substitute Evans Wise, on for Glen, who struck his shot into the side netting.

Port Vale's Birchall fired over from distance and veteran midfielder Russell Latapy - capping a fine international career - shot wide as a host of chances went begging.

Paraguay made Trinidad pay as Cuevas combined for a neat one-two with Santa Cruz before stylishly slotting home to seal the victory and third place in the group.

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Paraguay: Bobadilla, Nunez, Gamarra, Caceres (Manzur 78), Caniza (Da Silva 88), Barreto, Acuna, Paredes, Dos Santos, Santa Cruz, Valdez (Cuevas 66).
Subs Not Used: Bonet, Cabanas, Gavilan, Gomez, Lopez, Montiel, Riveros, Toledo, Villar.

Booked: Paredes, Dos Santos.

Goals: Sancho 25 og, Cuevas 86.

Trinidad and Tobago: Jack, Avery John (Jones 31), Sancho, Lawrence, Birchall, Whitley (Latapy 66), Edwards, Theobald, Glen (Wise 41), Stern John, Yorke.
Subs Not Used: Andrews, Charles, Cox, Gray, Hislop, Ince, Samuel, Scotland, Wolfe.

Booked: Sancho, Whitley.

Att: 46,000

Ref: Roberto Rosetti (Italy).

Fifa man of the match: Julio Dos Santos


TRIVIA
Paraguay are eliminated at the group stage for the first time in four appearances. On each of the other three they also managed to win just one group match.

Trinidad & Tobago are the third debutants at the 2006 Fifa World Cup to have been knocked out. The others are Ivory Coast and Togo. The Caribbeans are leaving Germany without a goal scored. They join a list of only eight countries who have not scored a single goal in a World Cup finals.

Leo Beenhakker became the first coach to be in charge of seven World Cup matches and not get a victory.

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

Ecuador 0-3 Germany

Hosts Germany made it three wins out of three in the World Cup as they beat Ecuador to finish top of Group A.

Miroslav Klose, now with four goals, became the tournament's leading scorer, first putting the Germans ahead early on by rifling home from close range.

He then coolly slotted in from Michael Ballack's brilliant chip before Lucas Podolski slid home to wrap it up.

If England avoid defeat against Sweden in their Group B tie, they will play Ecuador in the last 16 on Sunday.

The Germans were clearly taking the threat of a possible meeting with England more seriously than Ecuador and, despite having already qualified, were at full strength.

Having started the World Cup as dark horses, Germany's qualification for the knockout stages has been remarkably easy.

Granted, they have not faced any sort of test yet, coming up against a poor Costa Rica, a woeful Poland and now Ecuador who rested half of their first-team regulars.

But they have beaten every team they have faced, and they never seriously looked in any danger of not getting all three points once again in Berlin.

They took an early lead when Ecuador hopelessly failed to clear their lines and Bastian Schweinsteiger cleverly pulled the ball back for Klose to arrow into the corner from eight yards.

In truth, Germany should have had it wrapped up well before the break.

Klose just failed to connect with a Philipp Lahm cross, Bernd Schneider lashed one off target and Ballack's audacious 50-yard lob flew just over the bar.

Podolski looked like he desperately needed a goal to boost his flagging confidence, but when the killer second came, it fell to his strike partner once more.

Ballack's sumptuous chip cut out two defenders and Klose - albeit clumsily - rounded Cristian Mora and slotted home to double the advantage.

If Podolski was worried, he need not have been. Just before the hour mark, he finally broke his World Cup duck.

Germany repelled an Ecuador attack and broke quickly on the counter, Schweinsteiger sending Schneider away down the right from where the midfielder crossed superbly for a sliding Podolski to guide the ball home.

They cantered home after that, coach Jurgen Klinsmann using his substitutions to give Klose, Torsten Frings and Schneider a rest ahead of their last 16 tie on Saturday.

Which - as they look most likely to face Sweden - is almost certain to be their first real test of the 2006 World Cup.

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Ecuador: Mora, De la Cruz, Espinoza, Ambrossi, Guagua, Valencia (Lara 63), Edwin Tenorio, Ayovi (Urrutia 68), Mendez, Borja (Benitez 45), Kaviedes.
Subs Not Used: Castillo, Delgado, Hurtado, Lanza, Perlaza, Reasco, Saritama, Carlos Tenorio, Villafuerte.

Booked: Valencia.

Germany: Lehmann, Friedrich, Mertesacker, Huth, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Frings (Borowski 66), Ballack, Schneider (Asamoah 72), Klose (Neuville 66), Podolski.
Subs Not Used: Hanke, Hildebrand, Hitzlsperger, Jansen, Kahn, Kehl, Metzelder, Nowotny, Odonkor.

Booked: Borowski.

Goals: Klose 4, 44, Podolski 57.

Att: 72,000.

Ref: Valentin Ivanov (Russia).

Fifa man of the match: Michael Ballack


TRIVIA
Germany have now won their group in each of the last five World Cup editions (including 2006). The last time Germany failed to finish first in the group phase was in 1986 when they were runners-up to Denmark in Group E.

Germany have now scored in each of their first three matches at the 2006 World Cup. In 2002 they scored in every match except for the final against Brazil (2-0). Miroslav Klose's opening goal in the 4th minute was the second fastest World Cup goal ever by a German player. The German record is held by Rudiger Abramczik who scored in the third minute against the Netherlands in 1978.

Klose's opening goal was also the fourth fastest goal scored at the 2006 World Cup and the first goal conceded by Ecuador this tournament. Klose has now lifted his World Cup total to nine goals. Only Gerd Muller (14), Jurgen Klinsmann (11) and Helmut Rahn (10) have scored more World Cup goals for Germany.

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 11:16 AM | Comments (0)

Costa Rica 1-2 Poland

Bartosz Bosacki notched his first goals for Poland to help his side to victory in Group A's dead rubber and ease the pressure on coach Pawel Janas.

With both sides already eliminated from the competition, it was an uninspiring start before Costa Rica's Ronald Gomez fired a low free-kick past Artur Boruc.

However, Bosacki equalised minutes later, volleying home from a corner.

And the defender sealed the win with a thumping header, before Paulo Wanchope saw a late effort denied for offside.

The win ensured Poland, who were favourites to progress to the second round alongside Germany before the tournament, ended their campaign with a valuable win that might help keep Janas in a job following a raft of criticism.

A languid start was memorable only for referee Shamsul Maidin's booking count, a tally that had reached 10 by the end of the match.

However, after 24 minutes the match sprung to life when the Poles fell behind to Gomez's low free-kick, allowed to squirm through his own legs by keeper Boruc.

Suddenly, both sides offered more purpose and the match developed into an open contest.

Ireneusz Jelen's fine break down the right flank caused Costa Rica problems before it was eventually cleared, while Wanchope should have done better when he failed to generate any power from Gomez's square-ball into the box.

But it was left to Bosacki to net the game's second, and Poland's equaliser, when he volleyed in Maciej Zurawski's corner for his first international goal on his 13th appearance.

Just like the opener, the goal owed much to a keeping error, this time Jose Porras failing to collect the cross amid muted cries for a foul by Ebi Smolarek.

A see-saw end to the half saw Zurawski force another good block after a fine break, before Gomez launched a free-kick towards goal that was only denied by Jacek Bak's headed clearance.

With the sweltering 28C temperature taking its toll, the second half failed to produce much early urgency, though Costa Rica twice went close before the hour through Cristian Bolanos' looped effort and Wanchope's tame header.

But, just as it did in the second half, proceedings livened up midway through the half and, after Jacek Krzynowek had forced a fine save from long range, Bosacki notched his second of the game with a towering header at the back post from the resulting corner.

Costa Rica fought admirably thereafter, and even thought they had grabbed a late equaliser when Wanchope, hoping to mark his World Cup swansong with a goal, poked home.

However, the effort was rightly ruled out for offside and the match petered out to draw a line under proceedings of what was an ultimately pointless encounter in Hanover.

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Costa Rica: Porras, Drummond (Wallace 70), Gonzalez, Umana, Marin, Bolanos (Saborio 78), Solis, Centeno, Badilla, Wanchope, Gomez (Hernandez 82).
Subs Not Used: Mesen, Fonseca, Bernard, Azofeifa, Sequeira, Nunez, Rodriguez, Alfaro, Martinez.

Booked: Umana, Marin, Gomez, Badilla, Gonzalez.

Goals: Gomez 24.

Poland: Boruc, Baszczynski, Bak, Bosacki, Zewlakow, Krzynowek, Szymkowiak, Smolarek (Rasiak 85), Radomski (Lewandowski 64), Jelen, Zurawski (Brozek 45).
Subs Not Used: Jop, Gancarczyk, Kosowski, Kuszczak, Mila, Dudka, Giza, Fabianski.

Booked: Radomski, Bak, Zewlakow, Baszczynski, Boruc.

Goals: Bosacki 33, 66.

Att: 43,000

Ref: Shamsul Maidin (Singapore).

Fifa man of the match: Bartosz Bosacki

TRIVIA
Poland's win was only their second in the last eight World Cup matches - the other victory being a 3-1 triumph over the United States in 2002. Jacek Bak made his 75th appearance for Poland and became the nations sixth most capped player. Grzegorz Lato is record holder for Poland with 100 caps.

Costa Rica have failed to win their last five World Cup matches, losing the last four. Their most recent victory came in their opening match of the 2002 tournament against China (2-0). The all-time record of nine consecutive defeats was set by Mexico between 1930 and 1958.

Referee Shamsul Maidin from Singapore showed ten yellow cards in this match. More cards have been shown in only three World Cup matches.

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 11:09 AM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2006

Spain 3-1 Tunisia

Teenager Cesc Fabregas came off the bench to guide Spain into the last 16.

Tunisia had taken a surprise lead on eight minutes after Joahar Mnari beat Iker Casillas at the second attempt.

But on 71 minutes Ali Boumnijel spilled Fabregas' shot allowing Raul to score, with the Arsenal midfielder then setting up a goal for Fernando Torres.

The Atletico Madrid striker scored his third goal of the tournament when he won and scored a stoppage-time penalty, a spot-kick Boumnijel almost saved.

The win sent Spain to the top of Group H with six points, though Tunisia still have a chance of qualifying.

It was Spain coach Luis Aragones' decision to introduce Fabregas - the youngest Spanish player to appear in a World Cup - and striker Raul at the beginning of the second half that turned the game.

Until then Tunisia had frustrated Spain, through some clever tactics as well as brave defending, masterminded by Bolton centre-back Radhi Jaidi.

Indeed the North African side had taken the lead with their very first attack.

It was a goal that owed everything to the persistence and skill of Zaid Jaziri, who after brushing past Carles Puyol, beat three other Spanish players before picking out the advancing Mnari.

The Nuremberg midfielder's volley was parried by Iker Casillas, but Mnari made no mistake from the rebound.

David Villa spearheaded Spain's attempts to pull level in the first half, going close with a free-kick and then releasing Torres with a clever pass.

For a split second Torres glimpsed goal, before Hatem Trabelsi moved in to outmuscle the Atletico Madrid striker.

As well as providing defensive cover, Trabelsi was just as keen to scamper forward to give Tunisia a useful attacking outlet on the right.

Tunisia rode their luck at times - Luis Garcia flicking a header wide from Xavi's free-kick after the Liverpool forward had been fouled by Anis Ayari.

Garcia's Liverpool team-mate flashed a long-range shot narrowly wide and on the stroke of half-time Ayari headed Xabi Alonso's header off the line.

But Fabregas's arrival changed the game with the midfielder having an immediate impact, thumping a shot goalward that Boumnijel did well to beat away.

Soon after Aragones went for broke, throwing on his third substitute as Real Betis winger Joaquin replaced Valencia striker David Villa.

Joaquin provided the pass for a second Fabregas shot that set up Spain's equaliser, an effort Boumnijel was unable to hold, allowing Raul to score from close range.

A rush of blood to the head by Boumnijel proved fatal to Tunisia's hopes of coming away with a point as Fabregas released Torres.

Boumnijel was caught hopelessly out of position allowing Torres to flick the ball into the unguarded net.

Late on Torres was fouled by Alaeddine Yahia as he jumped for the ball, though the Spain forward was slightly lucky to score with the penalty, a goal that means he is the World Cup's current top goalscorer.

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Spain: Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Puyol, Pablo, Pernia, Xavi, Alonso, Senna (Fabregas 45), Luis Garcia (Raul 45), Torres, Villa (Joaquin 56).
Subs Not Used: Albelda, Antonio Lopez, Canizares, Iniesta, Juanito, Marchena, Reina, Reyes, Salgado.

Booked: Puyol, Fabregas.

Goals: Raul 72, Torres 76, 90 pen.

Tunisia: Boumnijel, Haggui, Jaidi, Ayari (Yahia 56), Trabelsi, Mnari, Bouazizi (Ghodhbane 56), Chedli (Gmamdia 79), Namouchi, Nafti, Jaziri.
Subs Not Used: Ben Saada, Chikhaoui, Essediri, Jemmali, Kasraoui, Melliti, Nefzi, Saidi, Santos.

Booked: Ayari, Trabelsi, Jaidi, Gmamdia, Jaziri, Mnari.

Goals: Mnari 8.

Att: 52,000.

Ref: Carlos Eugenio Simon (Brazil).

Fifa man of the match: Xabi Alonso

TRIVIA
Spain are now unbeaten in 24 matches. Their last defeat came on 22 June 2004, when Portugal beat them 1-0 at Euro 2004.

Raul joined Butragueno, Hierro and Morientes as the fourth Spanish player to score five World Cup goals. Raul also became the 18th player to score at three or more World Cups. Fernando Torres is now top scorer of the 2006 World Cup with three goals.

Tunisia are on a streak of 10 matches without a win at the World Cup. This string started after they became the first African nation to gain a World Cup victory, when they beat Mexico 3-1 in 1978.

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 01:33 PM | Comments (0)

Saudi Arabia 0-4 Ukraine

Ukraine put their hammering at the hands of Spain behind them by outclassing a poor Saudi Arabia side.

Ukraine were ahead inside four minutes when Mabrouk Zaid needlessly gave away a corner and Andriy Rusol bundled in.

Saudi keeper Zaid was also at fault when he slipped attempting to keep out Serhiy Rebrov's 35-yard piledriver.

Maxim Kalinichenko set up Andriy Shevchenko to head a third just after half-time and the roles were reversed for Kalinichenko to tap in a fourth.

Little went right for Ukraine on their World Cup finals debut against the Spanish.

But it was a vastly different story in Hamburg as they showed why they were the first European side to qualify for the finals.

The Saudis appeared nervous from the start, in particular Zaid, and Ukraine were not slow to take advantage.

The keeper made a hash of a goalkick to give Ukraine an early corner.

Kalinichenko curled the ball in and defender Rusol marched into the area unopposed to deflect it off his knee and through the unfortunate Zaid's legs.

Saudi Arabia seemed to struggle in the slippery conditions in Hamburg, while Ukraine found the surface to their liking with their swift, counter-attacking passing game.

Shevchenko was looking more like the striker Chelsea paid £30m for and was involved more in the opening quarter of an hour than in a statuesque 90 minutes against Spain.

Ahmed Dokhi cleared a Shevchenko effort off the line, while the former AC Milan star just failed to get on the end of a Kalinichenko pass after English referee Graham Poll had unintentionally played a part in the build-up.

The closest Saudi Arabia got to a goal was when Rusol's knee almost scored at the wrong end, but the defender will have been relieved to see his mis-hit clearance flash past the post.

Rebrov fired in a second goal shortly before the interval.

Anatoliy Tymoschuk rolled the ball into the feet of the former Spurs and West Ham forward and he was given space to turn.

He showed no hesitation in hitting a fine strike that flew into the corner, although there was more questionable goalkeeping from Zaid who slipped as he tried to get across to the shot.

Zaid's performance seemed all the more bizarre with Mohammed Al Daeyea - he of the world-record 181 caps - sitting on the bench.

Any hope of the Saudis launching another second half comeback lasted less than a minute of the second period.

Another pin-point centre from Kalinichenko saw Shevchenko open his World Cup finals account with a simple header.

Kalinichenko was denied a deserved goal when he hit the bar with a shot, but six minutes from time he put their goal difference back on level terms when he sidefooted home from a Shevchenko centre.

The win puts Ukraine's qualification hopes back on track and victory over Tunisia in their final game will ensure their progress to the knock-out stages.

Saudi Arabia will have to beat Spain to have any hope of going through, and on this performance they can now start preparing for their flight home.

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Saudi Arabia: Zaid, Dokhi (Khathran 55), Tukar, Al Montashari, Sulimani, Al Ghamdi, Ameen (Mouath 55), Noor (Al Jaber 77), Khariri, Aziz, Al Kahtani.
Subs Not Used: Al Anbar, Al Bahri, Al Daeyea, Al Harthi, Al Qadi, Al Temyat, Khojah, Massad.

Booked: Dokhi, Al Ghamdi, Khariri.

Ukraine: Shovkovskiy, Nesmachniy, Rusol, Sviderskiy, Tymoschuk, Shelayev, Gusev, Rebrov (Rotan 71), Kalinichenko, Shevchenko (Milevskiy 85), Voronin (Gusin 79).
Subs Not Used: Yatsenko, Yezerskiy, Byelik, Chigrynskiy, Nazarenko, Pyatov, Shust, Vorobey.

Booked: Nesmachniy, Kalinichenko, Sviderskiy.

Goals: Rusol 4, Rebrov 36, Shevchenko 46, Kalinichenko 84.

Att: 50,000.

Ref: Graham Poll (England).

Fifa man of the match: Maxim Kalinichenko.

TRIVIA
This 4-0 win over Saudi Arabia was the first ever victory for Ukraine at a World Cup. Andri Rusol became the first ever goalscorer for the nation in the competition. Maksim Kalinichenko had two assists in this game. Beckham (England), Figo (Portugal), Mendez (Ecuador), Riquelme (Argentina) and Schweinsteiger (Germany) are the other players with two assists at the 2006 World Cup.

Ukraine have won six of the seven matches they've played this year. Apart from the 4-0 defeat against Spain, they kept a clean sheet in every other game in 2006.

Saudi Arabia's winless World Cup sequence was extended to nine matches. The last time they won a game in the tournament finals was on 29 June 1994 when they beat Belgium 1-0.

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports

Posted by Publisher at 01:31 PM | Comments (0)

Togo 0-2 Switzerland

Switzerland stepped up their bid for a place in the knock-out stages and ended Togo's campaign thanks to goals from Alexander Frei and Tranquillo Barnetta.

Rennes striker Frei neatly stabbed home the unmarked Barnetta's cross from close-range after 17 minutes.

Togo were denied a decent penalty claim when Emmanuel Adebayor was chopped down and Mohammed Kader twice went close.

But despite a sustained spell of Togo pressure, Barnetta rifled in late on to send the World Cup debutants home.

After the 2-1 defeat to South Korea in their first match, the African side needed to avoid defeat in Dortmund to stand any chance of getting out of the group.

There was even a doubt before the match that the fixture would go ahead after a row over player bonuses in the Togo squad.

But despite all their off-field problems, Togo began brightly and had good chances to open the scoring.

Adebayor's headed flick fell to Kader whose neat turn failed to receive the finish it deserved and ended up in the hands of Pascal Zuberbuehler.

Kader and strike partner Adebayor continued to cause the Swiss back line problems and Adebayor felt he should have had a penalty when he appeared to be held back when heading towards goal.

But for all the Africans' endeavour in attack, their defensive frailties were soon exposed when poor marking led to Switzerland's opener.

Barnetta found himself with acres of space down the Switzerland right and he volleyed Ludovic Magnan's cross into the box for Frei to turn home from five yards.

Togo failed to wilt under the strain however and hit back with a chance of their own.

An horrific gaffe from the out-of-sorts Arsenal defender Phillipe Senderos handed Thomas Dossevi a free shot on goal, but he blazed his effort wide from close range.

As Togo searched for a way back into the match, they were denied what looked to be a certain penalty by referee Carlos Amarilla.

The Paraguayan official waved away appeals after Adebayor was scythed down by Patrick Muller and Togo would have felt hard done by going into the break a goal down.

The Swiss started the second half with more zest and Barnetta had a half volley acrobatically tipped over by Zuberbuehler while substitute Hakan Yakin sliced a long-range drive just over.

Yakin should have put the Swiss in a commanding position on 64 minutes, but his close-range shot when clean through was well palmed away by Kossi Agassi.

As Togo went in search of the vital equaliser the game became stretched, but they were kept out by a lack of quality in the final third and a resolute rearguard display.

And to compound Togo's misery, Barnetta completed Switzerland's victory with a sweet strike from just inside the penalty area on 88 minutes to send to them top of Group G.

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Togo: Agassa, Nibombe, Tchangai, Toure, Agboh (Salifou 24), Dossevi (Senaya 68), Cherif-Toure (Malm 86), Romao, Forson, Adebayor, Mohamed.
Subs Not Used: Akoto, Atsou, Aziawonou, Erassa, Obilale, Olufade, Tchagnirou, Assemoassa.

Booked: Salifou, Adebayor, Romao.

Switzerland: Zuberbuhler, Muller, Philipp Degen, Senderos, Magnin, Barnetta, Vogel, Wicky, Cabanas (Streller 77), Frei (Lustrinelli 87), Gygax (Yakin 45).
Subs Not Used: Benaglio, Coltorti, David Degen, Djourou, Dzemaili, Grichting, Margairaz, Spycher, Behrami.

Booked: Vogel.

Goals: Frei 17, Barnetta 88.

Att: 65,000

Ref: Carlos Amarilla (Paraguay).

Fifa man of the match: Alex Frei


TRIVIA
Alexander Frei's effort was Switzerland's first World Cup goal since Georges Bregy scored in their 4-1 win over Romania at the 1994 World Cup. By netting his 26th international goal, Frei equalled Adrian Knup as Switzerland's fifth all-time top scorer. At the age of 21 years and 28 days, Tranquillo Barnetta became the third youngest goalscorer for his country in World Cup finals.

After failing to keep a clean sheet in their first 22 World Cup matches, Switzerland have now kept two in a row.

Togo have only scored four goals in their nine matches in 2006.

Trivia Stats source: Infostrada Sports


Posted by Publisher at 01:29 PM | Comments (0)

Charles Taylor leaves for trial

Former Liberian leader Charles Taylor has left Sierra Leone on a plane ahead of his trial in The Hague.

The UN-backed tribunal in Sierra Leone said he was taken by helicopter to Freetown's airport from his prison cell where he has been since his capture.

Mr Taylor faces 11 war crimes charges after allegedly backing rebels in the decade-long Sierra Leone civil war.

Last week, the United Kingdom offered to host any jail term he may serve, paving the way for his transfer.

The Dutch government agreed to host Mr Taylor's trial, as long as he was imprisoned in another country if he was convicted.

The trial is due to take place in the facilities of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, but it will be legal officials assigned to the Sierra Leone tribunal who will be responsible.

The proceedings have been moved because of concerns that a trial in Sierra Leone itself could provoke instability there.

Conflict

The tribunal's chief prosecutor once described Mr Taylor as the third most wanted war crimes suspect in the world.

Both Sierra Leone and Liberia are recovering from years of conflict, in which Mr Taylor played a central role.

He is accused of funding Sierra Leone's former rebels, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) by selling diamonds on their behalf and buying weapons for them.

The RUF were notorious for mutilating civilians, by hacking off their arms or legs with machetes.

Britain, the former colonial power in Sierra Leone, sent troops to help oust rebels from the capital, Freetown in 2000.

Mr Taylor started Liberia's civil war as a warlord in 1989, before being elected president in 1997.

In August 2003, with rebels already in the Liberian capital, he agreed to go into exile in southern Nigeria to end the conflict.

He was captured after disappearing from his home following diplomatic efforts to send him to Sierra Leone for trial.

Tens of thousands of people died in the interlinked conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Posted by Publisher at 12:56 PM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2006

Troops deploy across Nigeria city

Troops have been deployed in the south-east Nigerian city of Onitsha after clashes with a banned separatist Biafran movement and police.
The Anambra state authorities announced a curfew and crackdown after several people were reported killed on Friday.

The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (Massob) campaigns for secession for the area.

Ethnic Igbos in the south-east fought to break away from the rest of Nigeria during a civil war from 1967-70.

Police denied there had been any deaths in the clashes, but a separatist Biafran group said eight of its members were killed.

Residents told the BBC two police stations were burned down and two armoured cars were set ablaze when crowds went on the rampage on Friday.

The Massob group said on Thursday seven of its members died in a police raid on one of its meetings outside Onitsha.

Massob's founder and leader Ralph Uwazuruike and some of his followers are in jail facing treason charges.

A dusk-to-dawn curfew has also been imposed with Anambra Governor Peter Obi asking President Olusegun Obasanjo to intervene, saying it was a potential threat to national security.


Posted by Publisher at 12:55 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2006

Nigerians told to accept transfer

Nigeria's president has gone on national television and radio to reassure residents of an oil-rich peninsula being handed to Cameroon.

President Olusegun Obasanjo told residents of the Bakassi peninsula their safety would be guaranteed even when Nigerian troops leave this year.

Mr Obasanjo agreed on Monday to implement a 2002 World Court ruling after talks at the United Nations.

A BBC correspondent said people in the area feel betrayed by the deal.

The territorial dispute sparked military clashes between Nigeria and Cameroon during the 1990s.

Most of those who live in Bakassi are Nigerians and are strongly opposed to coming under Cameroonian jurisdiction.

Respect

"We have ensured that Nigerians living now on the peninsula have a choice either to relocate or to remain in Bakassi," Mr Obasanjo said.

"Whichever choice they make, we have taken adequate measures for their protection, security, welfare and well-being. That was our concern and that we have achieved."

He also said that Cameroon had agreed to respect their culture, language, beliefs, property and fishing rights and not to impose "discriminatory" taxes.

Nigerian troops are to leave Bakassi within 60 days, with a possibility of extending this by a further 30 days, following the deal between Mr Obasanjo and Cameroon's President Paul Biya, brokered by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

A special transitional arrangement will be in place for five years, Mr Obasanjo said.

Following the deal, Mr Obasanjo said solving the dispute peacefully was far cheaper than war and said it could serve as a model for other African disputes.

Bakassi juts into the Gulf of Guinea - an area which may contain up to 10% of the world's oil and gas reserves.

It is also rich in fish.

Nigeria has always said it would abide by the 2002 ruling but in 2004 said that "technical difficulties" prevented it from handing over the peninsula.

The 2002 International Court of Justice ruling was based on a 1913 treaty between former colonial powers Britain and Germany.

The agreement also settles the border for 1,690km (1,056 miles) up to Lake Chad.

Some villages further north have already been exchanged.


Posted by Publisher at 12:55 PM | Comments (0)

Sweden 1-0 Paraguay

Freddie Ljungberg's 88th-minute winner for Sweden knocked Paraguay out of the World Cup.

England, already certain of a place in the second round, would have won the group had this game been a draw.

But Ljungberg popped up at the far post to head home after Marcus Allback had nodded a cross back across goal.

Earlier, Zlatan Ibrahimovic shot tamely at the keeper and Allback had an effort cleared off the line as it looked like Sweden would not break Paraguay down.

Sweden now know that victory over England on Tuesday will see them, and not Sven-Goran Eriksson's men, win Group B. But defeat could send the Swedes home and put Trinidad and Tobago into the second round.

Paraguay proved as stubborn to break down in this game as they had been when England played them last Saturday.

The Scandinavians started in determined fashion, but were frequently met by some rugged Paraguayan defending - an approach which led to Denis Caniza receiving the game's first yellow card inside three minutes, for tripping Henrik Larsson.

In the ninth minute Ibrahimovic touched a header back to Kim Kallstrom, whose excellent shot from outside the box was equalled only by the save from Aldo Bobadilla.

Three minutes later, it was Larsson's turn to cushion a header back for an onrushing midfielder - Christian Wilhelmsson driving a fierce shot was just wide of Bobadilla's upright.

It was an impressive start from the Swedes, but Paraguay weathered the storm and then began to come into the opposing half a little, as Roque Santa Cruz, Nelson Valdez and Jorge Nunez served notice that Sweden's defenders would need to be watchful all evening.

Larsson and Ibrahimovic, after their threatening first quarter of an hour, began to be seen less and less, as the toothlessness which has seen Sweden fail to win a game since last October began to re-appear.

Bobadilla rarely had a save to make, and on the one occasion Ibrahimovic did get through his shot was weak and straight at the goalkeeper.

In contrast to the first half, it was Paraguay who made the better start in the second period, Valdez getting down the left and checking back before shooting into the side-netting.

And when the ball did get down to the other end, Bobadilla proved a worthy deputy in goal for the injured Justo Villar, beating out a 54th-minute free-kick from Larsson.

Four minutes later Bobadilla needed the intervention of defender Caniza, who hacked off the line after substitute Allback had been put through and lobbed the goalkeeper.

Still the out-of-sorts Swedes desperately tried to find that elusive goal, Larsson heading over after good work on the right from the lively Allback.

Then with 10 minutes left, Allback seemed certain to score as he turned and shot from close-range, but the effort was tame enough for Bobadilla to hold.

Finally Ljungberg made the breakthrough - and ensured his team are favourites to follow England into round two.

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Sweden: Isaksson, Lucic, Mellberg, Linderoth, Edman, Ljungberg, Alexandersson, Kallstrom (Elmander 86), Wilhelmsson (Jonson 68), Ibrahimovic (Allback 45), Larsson.
Subs Not Used: Alvbage, Andersson, Hansson, Nilsson, Rosenberg, Shaaban, Stenman, Anders Svensson, Karl Svensson.

Booked: Linderoth, Lucic, Allback.

Goals: Ljungberg 89.

Paraguay: Bobadilla, Gamarra, Nunez, Caceres, Caniza, Bonet (Barreto 81), Acuna, Paredes, Riveros (Dos Santos 62), Santa Cruz (Lopez 63), Valdez.
Subs Not Used: Cabanas, Cuevas, Da Silva, Gavilan, Gomez, Manzur, Montiel, Toledo, Villar.

Booked: Caniza, Acuna, Paredes, Barreto.

Att: 72,000

Ref: Lubos Michel (Slovakia).

Fifa man of the match: Freddie Ljungberg

Sweden v Paraguay player ratings

TRIVIA
Sweden's victory was their first in 2006, after drawing five times and losing once this year. The Swedes now only need one point from their last match against England to be sure of progressing to the last 16.

Henrik Larsson played his 11th World Cup match, equalling the Swedish record shared by Bosse Larsson and Karl-Oskar Svensson.

Paraguay are out of contention after this defeat. They had qualified for the second round in their last three appearances at the World Cup. The last time they failed to successfully negotiate the group phase was in 1958.

Posted by Publisher at 12:53 PM | Comments (0)

England 2-0 Trinidad and Tobago

Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard spared England's blushes with late goals against Trinidad & Tobago to book their place in the last 16 of the World Cup.

Crouch, who had missed several chances, met David Beckham's right-wing cross to power a header past Shaka Hislop.

Gerrard wrapped it up in stoppage time with a stunning left-foot drive after England made hard work of the contest.

Wayne Rooney came on, but it was fellow subs Aaron Lennon and Stewart Downing who helped turn the game England's way.


It had looked like being a major embarrassment for England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, with his team short on ideas and confidence.

They created plenty of chances without ever being in total control of the match and can count themselves fortunate to have got out of jail.

Yet it all seemed so different in the opening stages, as England played with an ease that suggested they were playing in a training game rather than a crucial World Cup contest.

After Michael Owen miscued in front of goal, Crouch went close twice, first denied an attempt at a volley five yards out by Brent Sancho's timely intervention and then foiled by Hislop's claw away after Joe Cole's left-wing cross.

But as so often with Eriksson's England, early promise soon turned into increasing frustration as passes were misplaced with alarming regularity.

They were nearly made to pay for their laboured approach, as Paul Robinson uncharacteristically flapped at a corner only for Stern John to head wide at the far post.

As the clock ticked towards half-time the England fans began to chant for Rooney's introduction with real fervour, not helped by a moment of calamity from Crouch.

Spotted by Beckham standing in the penalty area eight yards out, with no-one anywhere near him, Crouch hoplessly caught the volley on his right shin and sent it several yards wide of Hislop's goal.

His miss could have proved even more costly. Carlos Edwards beat Robinson to a cross and as John bundled the ball towards goal, John Terry typically managed to get back in time to clear the ball off the line.

It was equally bad for the first 13 minutes of the second half, before the fans finally got their wish and Rooney was introduced, along with Lennon.

The double change galvanised the side, but England continued to be sloppy in front of goal.

Eriksson's stock 4-4-2 became 3-5-2 and Beckham and Lennon began to dovetail down the right - the captain crossing for the wasteful Crouch to head over, again unmarked.

Lampard then had three chances in two minutes but could not convert any, scooping one over, hitting the next at Hislop and dragging the last one wide.

But just when it seemed England's profligacy would cost them, Crouch popped up with the most important goal of his life.

Putting the misses firmly behind him, England's giant hitman powerfully headed Beckham's cross into the roof of the net past Hislop.

Having come so close Trinidad visibly wilted, and Gerrard took advantage with a brilliant left-foot screamer that flew in from the edge of the area.

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England: Robinson, Carragher (Lennon 58), Terry, Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard, Joe Cole (Downing 74), Owen (Rooney 58), Crouch.
Subs Not Used: Campbell, James, Bridge, Hargreaves, Jenas, Carrick, Carson, Walcott, Neville.

Booked: Lampard.

Goals: Crouch 83, Gerrard 90.

Trinidad and Tobago: Hislop, Edwards, Sancho, Lawrence, Gray, Birchall, Whitley, Yorke, Theobald (Wise 85), Stern John, Jones (Glen 70).
Subs Not Used: Cox, Latapy, Samuel, Charles, Scotland, Ince, Wolfe, Andrews, Jack.

Booked: Theobald, Whitley, Jones, Hislop, Gray.

Att: 41,000.

Ref: Toru Kamikawa (Japan).

Fifa man of the match: David Beckham

England v Trinidad and Tobago player ratings

TRIVIA
England scored in the second half of a World Cup match for the first time since 1998 when Michael Owen netted against Romania, a streak of eight matches.

Aaron Lennon's appearance in the second half made him England's second youngest player at a World Cup, exactly eight years after Michael Owen set the record. Wayne Rooney is the fifth youngest. Six of England's 10 youngest players at World Cups have been selected by current coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.

England have won their last eight matches since losing to Northern Ireland in September 2005. The winning streak equals the best under Eriksson and is two matches short of the all-time England record of 10 successive wins which was set nearly 100 years ago. They have won all nine matches they have played with Peter Crouch on the field.

The defeat for Trinidad & Tobago means that none of the debutants at World Cup 2006 have yet won.

Posted by Publisher at 12:52 PM | Comments (0)

Ecuador 3-0 Costa Rica

Ecuador booked a place in the knock-out stages for the first time ever with a comfortable win which also put Germany through to the second round.

Carlos Tenorio gave Ecuador an eighth-minute lead with a powerful header from Luis Valencia's cross.

The advantage was doubled when Agustin Delgado lashed home from a tight angle shortly after half-time.

Ecuador finished with a flourish when Ivan Kaviedes capped a flowing move by volleying home from six yards.

Knowing defeat would end their hopes of reaching the second round, Costa Rica could not have made a worse start as they fell behind after just eight minutes.

Delgado's shot was charged down, but the rebound fell kindly, allowing him to feed Valencia whose whipped cross was powerfully headed home by Carlos Tenorio.

Segundo Castillo then tested Costa Rica keeper Jose Porras from a free-kick which earned Luis Marin a yellow card for his foul on Carlos Tenorio.

Much of the football was pretty but with no real purpose as Ecuador formed around the imposing central pairing of Ivan Hurtado and Geovanny Espinoza and allowed Costa Rica to pass the ball square in front of them.

It took Costa Rica 39 minutes to muster their first on-target shot, with Mauricio Solis firing straight into Cristian Mora's midriff from 25 yards.

At the other end, Porras reacted brilliantly as Valencia's cross deflected goalwards off Marin.

Costa Rica opened Ecuador up for the first time but Douglas Sequeira's free header was disappointing after Leonardo Gonzalez's cross picked him out at the far post.

Costa Rica needed a sharper cutting edge to stay alive in the competition but former Premiership striker Paolo Wanchope was a disappointment.

Los Ticos were facing a mountain to climb when another former Premiership striker, Delgado, doubled Ecuador's lead.

Kaviedes flicked the ball inside where Delgado, once of Southampton, chested it down to lash a ferocious shot inside Porras's near post.

Ecuador keeper Mora was at last called into action, palming away a stinging effort from Solis.

Costa Rica were denied a goal which might sparked a late rally when Alvaro Saborio curled a shot against the bar.

Ecuador scored a third when former Crystal Palace striker Kaviedes rounded off a flowing move by volleying home Edison Mendez's cross.

For a team that took 35 years to win an international outside their high-altitude capital Quito, Ecuador showed they will be no pushovers.

With a superior goal difference, a draw in their final game against hosts Germany will see Ecuador top their group.

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Ecuador: Mora, De la Cruz, Reasco, Espinoza (Guagua 68), Hurtado, Castillo, Valencia (Urrutia 73), Edwin Tenorio, Mendez, Carlos Tenorio (Kaviedes 45), Delgado.
Subs Not Used: Villafuerte, Perlaza, Lara, Borja, Ambrossi, Ayovi, Saritama, Lanza, Benitez.

Booked: Castillo, De la Cruz, Mora.

Goals: Carlos Tenorio 8, Delgado 54, Kaviedes 90.

Costa Rica: Porras, Gonzalez (Hernandez 56), Umana, Wallace, Marin, Fonseca (Saborio 28), Centeno (Bernard 84), Solis, Sequeira, Wanchope, Gomez.
Subs Not Used: Drummond, Bolanos, Azofeifa, Badilla, Nunez, Rodriguez, Alfaro, Mesen.

Booked: Marin, Solis.

Att: 50,000

Referee: Coffi Codjia (Benin).

Fifa man of the match: Agustin Delgado

Ecuador v Costa Rica player ratings

TRIVIA
Ecuador have reached the last 16 of the World Cup for the first time and will win Group A if they draw with Germany or beat them. On their debut in 2002, Ecuador finished fourth in a group with Mexico, Italy and Croatia. Germany are also through to the next round, because of Ecuador's result.

This 3-0 win over Costa Rica is Ecuador's biggest World Cup victory. Agustin Delgado remained sole top scorer for his country after netting his third World Cup goal. Ivan Kaviedes became only the fourth Ecuador player to score in the World Cup finals, joining Delgado, Edison Mendez and Carlos Tenorio.

Costa Rica fielded their oldest ever starting line-up at the World Cup. Their average age was 29 years and 351 days. By playing against Ecuador, Harold Wallace joined Luis Marin, Gilberto Martinez, Mauricio Solis, Walter Centeno, Paulo Wanchope, Ronald Gomez (2002, 2006) and Hernan Medford (1990, 2002) as the eighth Costa Rican with two World Cup participations.

Posted by Publisher at 12:45 PM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2006

Brazil 1-0 Croatia

Brazil beat Croatia to become the first team to win eight successive matches in the World Cup finals.

Croatia's tactics frustrated Brazil for much of the match, but just before the interval Kaka's wonderful curling left-footed shot beat Stipe Pletikosa.

Pletikosa's opposite number Dida frequently came to Brazil's rescue, notably with second-half saves from Dado Prso and Ivan Klasnic.

Brazil finished strongly, with Kaka again going close with a rasping shot.

The Brazilians might be favourites to claim the "Hexa" - a sixth World Cup - but the way Croatia made Carlos Alberto Parreira's side work for this win suggests the world champions are not without their weaknesses.

Strikers Ronaldo and Adriano looked subdued throughout and it took 55 minutes for the much criticised Real Madrid striker to have a shot at goal.

The unhappy Ronaldo was eventually replaced by Robinho, whose introduction served to bring greater attacking fluidity to the Brazilian side.

But the fact that Dida was one of Brazil's best performers gives an indication of just how well Croatia played.

Prso's strong running troubled the Brazilian defence and early in the second half the Rangers striker powerfully shrugged off Lucio before testing Dida with a low shot.

Soon after making that save Dida's positioning allowed him to safely gather a Marko Babic shot.

While Prso provided an attacking outlet for Croatia, the Balkan side's defence managed to stymie Brazil for long periods.

Pletikosa, who was making his 50th appearance for Croatia, had a quiet introduction to the game, but on 15 minutes the Croatian goalkeeper came under intense pressure.

He athletically tipped a Roberto Carlos shot over the bar and then pushed away a Ronaldinho effort that came to Pletikosa through a packed penalty area.

Just after the hour Pletikosa made the best save of the game when he kept out a poweful Ronaldinho header.

Not that Croatia were ever content to solely soak up Brazil's attacks.

Prso frequently drifted out to the left and looked impressive with some strong running, while Ivan Klasnic and Niko Kranjcar had speculative shots.

Those two efforts did not trouble Dida, but seven minutes before the break the Brazilian keeper had a real scare when Igor Tudor came desperately close to reaching Darijo Srna's dangerous inswinging free-kick from the left.

Having subdued Brazil for 44 minutes, Croatia fell behind to a wonderfully constructed and taken goal.

Midfielder Emerson started the move, surging into the Croatia half before feeding the ball to Cafu.

The Brazilian right-back slipped the ball inside to Kaka, who after switching the ball quickly to his left foot, beat Pletikosa with an unstoppable shot.

It was a superb goal which hinted at the power and skill of the Brazilians.

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Brazil: Dida, Cafu, Lucio, Juan, Carlos, Ze Roberto, Emerson, Ronaldinho, Kaka, Adriano, Ronaldo (Robinho 69).
Subs Not Used: Cicinho, Cris, Fred, Gilberto, Julio Cesar, Juninho, Luisao, Mineiro, Ricardinho, Rogerio, Silva.

Booked: Emerson.

Goals: Kaka 44.

Croatia: Pletikosa, Simunic, Robert Kovac, Tudor, Simic, Srna, Babic, Nico Kovac (Jerko Leko 40), Kranjcar, Prso, Klasnic (Olic 57).
Subs Not Used: Balaban, Bosnjak, Butina, Didulica, Ivan Leko, Modric, Seric, Tokic, Tomas, Vranjes.

Booked: Nico Kovac, Robert Kovac, Tudor.

Att: 72,000.

Ref: Benito Archundia Tellez (Mexico).

Fifa man of the match: Kaka.


TRIVIA
Brazil have won their last eight World Cup matches which is a new record, breaking Italy's seven successive victories between 1934 and 1950. Brazil's last defeat dates back to 1998 when they lost the final against France (3-0). They've kept a clean sheet in their last three World Cup matches.

Brazil have remained unbeaten in their World Cup opener for the 16th consecutive time, winning the last seven. Croatia suffered their first defeat since a 2-4 loss to England on 21 June 2004, during Euro 2004, a streak of 10 matches.

Six of Croatia's 11 World Cup matches have ended with a 1-0 scoreline (two wins, four defeats).

Posted by Publisher at 11:41 AM | Comments (0)

France 0-0 Switzerland

France got their World Cup campaign off to a disappointing start with an uninspiring draw against Switzerland.

Both teams found it hard in stifling conditions and lacked any real creative spark until the closing stages.

Switzerland came closest to scoring, with Alexander Frei fluffing an easy chance and Fabien Barthez brilliantly denying substitute Daniel Gygax.

Thierry Henry was denied a penalty when his shot was handled by Patrick Mueller but the referee waved his claims away.

France had the better of the early exchanges and Henry came close to giving them the lead with a header on five minutes, but Sylvain Wiltord put too much on the cross and it soared over the bar.

Neither team seemed keen to extend themselves in the disagreeable heat and it was no surprise the sides only managed a goal apiece in their two World Cup qualifying meetings.

Henry was isolated up front at times and this was highlighted midway through the first half when the Arsenal striker worked his way to the byline and stuck a probing cross into the box, only to find none of his colleagues had made the journey with him.

Switzerland had a glorious chance to open the scoring in the 23rd minute when Tranquillo Barnetta fired in a free kick and Phillippe Senderos got the faintest of touches to nod it on to the post.

In the resultant scramble Frei had the goal at his mercy, but Eric Abidal just did enough to put him off and the ball ballooned over the bar.

Debutant Franck Ribery should have given France the lead when he was put clean through on 37 minutes but he nervously squared to Henry instead. The striker's shot hit the hand of of Mueller, but the Russian referee decided it was accidental.

France came out of the traps quickest in the second half and Patrick Vieira wasted another opportunity two minutes in, scuffing his shot after being teed up by Ribery.

Vieira looked a shadow of the player who made those surging box-to-box runs, while Zinedine Zidane's box of tricks was ransacked some time ago, although he was still head and shoulders above his team-mates.

Just before the hour mark, Henry slid Wiltord in and a goal seemed certain until a perfectly-timed tackle by Senderos whipped the ball off the Frenchman's foot as he was preparing to pull the trigger.

Switzerland responded with a rare attack of their own when Barnetta burst into the area, but he delayed his pass too long and the French cleared their lines.

Substitute Vikash Dhorasoo was a whisker away from giving France a last-gasp winner and Frei's attempt to punch in a Swiss free kick was punished with a yellow card.

When the final whistle came, the French section of the crowd made their feelings clear, realising perhaps that age has finally caught up with Les Bleus.

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France: Barthez, Abidal, Gallas, Thuram, Sagnol, Zidane, Makelele, Vieira, Ribery (Saha 69), Wiltord (Dhorasoo 84), Henry.
Subs Not Used: Boumsong, Chimbonda, Coupet, Diarra, Givet, Govou, Landreau, Malouda, Silvestre, Trezeguet.

Booked: Abidal, Zidane, Sagnol.

Switzerland: Zuberbuhler, Magnin, Senderos, Muller (Djourou 74), Philipp Degen, Cabanas, Vogel, Wicky (Margairaz 81), Barnetta, Frei, Streller (Gygax 57).
Subs Not Used: Behrami, Benaglio, Coltorti, David Degen, Dzemaili, Grichting, Lustrinelli, Spycher, Yakin.

Booked: Magnin, Barnetta, Philipp Degen, Cabanas, Frei.

Att: 52,000.

Ref: Valentin Ivanov (Russia).

Fifa man of the match: Claude Makelele.


TRIVIA
France have not scored a single goal in their last four World Cup matches, and join four other countries not to have scored in four consecutive World Cup games. Between 1930 and 1994, Bolivia set the World Cup record by not scoring a goal in five consecutive World Cup encounters.

Switzerland have recorded their first ever block-out at a World Cup. They failed to keep a clean sheet in all of their previous 22 World Cup matches. This already marked an all-time World Cup record. The Swiss have not lost in five matches in 2006. They beat Scotland and China and drew with Ivory Coast, Italy and now France.

Fabien Barthez (34 years and 350 days) and Lilian Thuram (34 years and 163 days) became the two oldest French players ever at a World Cup. The started eleven was also the oldest line-up ever for France with an average age of 30 years and 191 days.

Posted by Publisher at 11:41 AM | Comments (0)

South Korea 2-1 Togo

South Korea took their time to get going before finally overcoming the resistance of 10-man Togo.

The one moment of real quality in the first half came when Togo's Mohamed Kader controlled the ball on his thigh and lashed home a fine shot.

Kader nearly made it two after the break before Jean-Paul Abalo's second booking saw him sent off.

Lee Chun-Soo curled in the resulting free-kick and Ahn Jung-Hwan's deflected strike won the game for South Korea.

Sweltering temperatures beneath a closed roof ensured the game got off to a sluggish start, with little real incident at either end in the early stages.

The deadlock was broken just past the half hour with the first moment of real quality from either side.

Kader sprinted forward, controlled the ball beautifully with his thigh and shot low into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.

Cho Jae-Jin and Lee Eul-Yong tried long-range efforts as South Korea tried to get back into the game, but they still seemed dazed at having gone behind.

Junior Senaya's free-kick almost doubled Togo's lead just before half-time, drawing a fine save from Lee Woon-Jae.

Kader showed neat footwork as he nearly added a second early in the second half, before Jean-Paul Abalo was sent off for a foul on Park Ji-Sung, and Lee Chun-Soo's perfectly judged free-kick from just outside the box drew South Korea level.

Cho Jae-Jin narrowly missed connecting with a diving header as the pace of the game picked up following the second goal, with Moustapha Salifou having a couple of chances for Togo.

But it was Korean substitute Ahn Jung-Hwan who was next to find the net, turning on the edge of the box to fire a deflected shot high into the roof of the net.

Emmanuel Adebayor wasted a great chance for Togo when he fouled his marker when in a scoring position, as Korea took a tight grip on the game.

Togo battled valiantly, but ultimately South Korea's one-man advantage proved decisive.

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South Korea: Woon-Jae Lee, Young-Chul Kim, Choi, Jin-Kyu Kim (Ahn 45), Young-Pyo Lee, Song, Ji-Sung Park, Eul-Yong Lee (Nam-Il Kim 68), Ho Lee, Chun-Soo Lee, Jae-Jin Cho (Sang-Sik Kim 83).
Subs Not Used: Baek, Won-hee Cho, Chung, Do-Heon Kim, Dong-Jin Kim, Yong-Dae Kim, Young-Kwang Kim, Chu-Young Park, Seol.

Booked: Young-Chul Kim, Chun-Soo Lee.

Goals: Chun-Soo Lee 54, Ahn 72.

Togo: Agassa, Nibombe, Tchangai, Assemoassa (Forson 62), Abalo, Salifou (Aziawonou 86), Cherif-Toure, Romao, Senaya (Toure 56), Mohamed, Adebayor.
Subs Not Used: Agboh, Akoto, Dossevi, Erassa, Malm, Obilale, Olufade, Tchagnirou, Atsou.

Sent Off: Abalo (53)

Booked: Abalo, Romao, Tchangai.

Goals: Mohamed 31.

Att: 48,000

Ref: Graham Poll (England).

Fifa man of the match: Ahn Jung-hwan

TRIVIA
South Korea have won their World Cup opening match for the second consecutive time. In 2002 they beat Poland 2-0. Before 2002 they had never won their initial fixture, losing four and drawing one. Togo's defeat leaves debutant teams winless at the 2006 World Cup. Leo Beenhakker's Trinidad & Tobago is the only debutant to clinch a point so far. Angola, Ghana and the Ivory Coast all lost their opening match. Ukraine are yet to play Spain.

South Korea have conceded the first goal in 17 of their 22 World Cup matches. Before today they had won just once after going behind from the opening whistle. South Korea became the second team at this tournament to win after going behind 1-0, following Australia's example.

Abalo Dosseh (Togo) became the second player to be sent off at this World Cup, following Avery John (Trinidad & Tobago).

Posted by Publisher at 11:40 AM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2006

Nigeria agrees Bakassi handover

Nigeria has agreed to hand over the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon in a deal brokered by the United Nations to resolve a tense dispute.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan hosted the talks in New York, which follow a 2002 World Court ruling.

Thousands of Nigerians and a sizeable military force remain in Bakassi. The troops are to leave within 60 days.

The territorial dispute sparked military clashes between the two neighbours during the 1990s.

The deal was reached by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and his Cameroonian counterpart, Paul Biya.

African model

"Our agreement today is a great achievement in conflict prevention, which practically reflects its cost effectiveness when compared to the alternative of conflict resolution," Mr Obasanjo said.


"It should represent a model for the resolution of similar conflicts in Africa and... in the world at large."

Mr Annan said that under the terms of the deal, the Nigerian troops could be given an extra 30 days to withdraw.

Bakassi juts into the Gulf of Guinea - an area which may contain up to 10% of the world's oil and gas reserves.

It is also rich in fish.

Nigeria has always said it would abide by the ruling but in 2004 said that "technical difficulties" prevented it from handing over the peninsula.

Most of those who live in Bakassi are Nigerians and are strongly opposed to coming under Cameroonian jurisdiction.

Special regime

The United Nations special envoy for the Bakassi peninsula, Ahmadou Ould Abdullah, said he was optimistic that the agreement would be respected by Nigeria.

Mr Abdullah told the BBC's Network Africa programme that he believed the presence of the UN Secretary General and witnesses from Germany, France, Britain and the United States would help guarantee the agreement was met.

He said there would be a two-year transition period for the Nigerian administration to leave.

Nigerians living on the peninsula would be able to live there under a special regime for four years after Cameroon took control and could stay on after that if they wished.

The 2002 International Court of Justice ruling was based on a 1913 treaty between former colonial powers Britain and Germany.

The agreement also settles the border for 1,690km (1,056 miles) up to Lake Chad.

Some villages further north have already been exchanged.

Posted by Publisher at 12:35 PM | Comments (0)

Italy 2-0 Ghana

Italy got their World Cup campaign off to a winning start with a deserved victory over Ghana in Hanover.

Andrea Pirlo opened the scoring with a rasping long-range drive in the first half and substitute Vincenzo Iaquinta extended the advantage near the end.

World Cup debutants Ghana played their part in an entertaining match and defender Emmanuel Pappoe wasted their best chance before the interval.

But Italy, prompted by the superb Pirlo, were more clinical throughout.

Luca Toni, the winner of last season's Golden Boot after scoring 31 goals for Fiorentina, led the line well for them and could potentially be a star of the tournament.

After 27 minutes he almost scored with a superb piece of individual skill.

The 29-year-old controlled an Alberto Gilardino flick-on before unleashing a venomous volley that thumped the crossbar and bounced down in front of the line.

Ghana, prompted by their confident captain Stephen Appiah, also threatened.

Pappoe wasted a great chance when he blazed over from 14 yards after finding himself unmarked inside the area.

Pirlo punished this profligacy by giving Italy the lead after 40 minutes.

The AC Milan midfielder, who pulls the strings for Italy with his clever movement and perceptive passing, scored from 35 yards out after being picked out by Francesco Totti from a left-sided corner.

Ghana were the better side after the interval as they pushed forward in search of an equaliser.

But the Italians, marshalled by captain Fabio Cannavaro in central defence, held firm and threatened on the counter-attack.

Simone Perotta was played in by Daniele Di Rossi after 67 minutes but shot too close to Richard Kingston.

Substitute Iaquinta put the result beyond doubt when he scored seven minutes from the end.

Pirlo was again the instigator, intercepting a pass deep inside his own half before playing the ball forward.

Samuel Kuffour underhit a backpass and Udinese's Iaquinta capitalised to round the keeper before sliding the ball into an empty net.

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Italy: Buffon, Zaccardo, Nesta, Cannavaro, Grosso, Totti (Camoranesi 56), Perrotta, Pirlo, De Rossi, Toni (Del Piero 82), Gilardino (Iaquinta 64).
Subs Not Used: Amelia, Barone, Barzagli, Gattuso, Inzaghi, Materazzi, Oddo, Peruzzi, Zambrotta.

Booked: De Rossi, Camoranesi, Iaquinta.

Goals: Pirlo 40, Iaquinta 83.

Ghana: Kingston, Pantsil, Kuffour, Mensah, Pappoe (Shilla 45), Muntari, Essien, Appiah, Eric Addo, Gyan (Tachie-Mensah 89), Amoah (Pimpong 68).
Subs Not Used: Otto Addo, Adjei, Ahmed, Boateng, Dramani, Mohamed, Owu, Quaye, Sarpei.

Booked: Muntari, Gyan.

Att: 43,000.

Ref: Carlos Eugenio Simon (Brazil).

Fifa man of the match: Andrea Pirlo.


TRIVIA
This victory ended a three match winless run for Italy in World Cup finals. Their longest ever such streak was five matches (two in 1978, three in 1982), and that was followed by four wins culminating in their World Cup triumph of 1982. Italy are now unbeaten in 19 international matches. This marks the longest undefeated sequence for the Italians since 1939. Their last loss came on 9 October 2004, in the World Cup qualifier in Slovenia.

No debutant in this World Cup has so far won their debut match. Angola, Ghana and Ivory Coast all lost, while Trinidad & Tobago drew. With an average age of 25 years and 37 days, Ghana fielded the youngest line-up in the tournament so far.

Defender Fabio Cannavaro won his 94th cap for Italy in this match. Paolo Maldini (126 caps) and Dino Zoff (112) are the only two who have played more international matches for Italy.

Posted by Publisher at 11:44 AM | Comments (0)

USA 0-3 Czech Republic

Czech Republic got off to a flying start with a fabulous victory over USA.

Giant striker Jan Koller headed home a Zdenek Grygera cross after five minutes before Tomas Rosicky's 30-yard screamer doubled their half-time advantage.

After Koller went off injured Tomas Ujfalusi headed wide and Rosicky hit the bar, before racing through and chipping over Kasey Keller to seal it.

USA captain Claudio Reyna saw a 25-yard shot cannon back off a post in the first half, but they were well beaten.

It was the first meeting between the two sides since the 1990 World Cup, when the Czechs won 5-1, though they were Czechoslovakia then.

They were always in charge in Gelsenkirchen, too, with Juventus playmaker Pavel Nevded dictating the game as he pushed further forward in the absence of injured striker Milan Baros.

With five minutes on the clock Nedved fed in Grygera and the full-back's inch-perfect right-wing cross was clinically headed home by 6ft 7in Koller.

USA enjoyed plenty of possession, but the Czechs - and the brilliant Nedved in particular - always had another gear to move into.

His outrageous outside-of-the-foot cross landed on Grygera's head, but he could only nod over.

The Americans so nearly made them pay moments later, Reyna drilling a 25-yard daisy-cutter that crashed back into play off Petr Cech's right-hand post with the Chelsea stopper beaten.

Nine minutes before half-time it was game over, Rosicky taking aim 30 yards from goal and rifling a right-foot rocket past Keller.

Czech Republic were denied their perfect half when Koller clutched his hamstring in agony and was stretchered off - an injury that could end his tournament.

But with Vratislav Lokvenc on in his place it was business as usual after half-time and it was nearly 3-0 when Ujfalusi glanced a header wide from a free-kick.

The Czechs were rampant and they had several chances to further underline their superiority.

Nedved exquisitely played in Lokvenc, who could only shoot tamely at Keller, before Jaroslav Plasil crossed for Karel Poborsky to volley over from a tight angle.

Rosicky nearly did it again from distance, this time the Arsenal midfielder letting fly from 25 yards only to see the ball smack against the crossbar.

He eventually wrapped it with up with 14 minutes left, surging on to another majestic Nedved pass and sublimely toe-poking past Keller into the roof of the net.

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USA: Keller, Onyewu, Mastroeni (Johnson 45), Pope, Cherundolo (O'Brien 45), Reyna, Beasley, Convey, Lewis, McBride (Wolff 77), Donovan.
Subs Not Used: Albright, Berhalter, Bocanegra, Ching, Conrad, Dempsey, Hahnemann, Howard, Olsen.

Booked: Onyewu, Reyna.

Czech Republic: Cech, Grygera, Rozehnal, Ujfalusi, Jankulovski, Poborsky (Polak 82), Galasek, Rosicky (Stajner 86), Plasil, Nedved, Koller (Lokvenc 45).
Subs Not Used: Baros, Blazek, Heinz, Jarolim, Jiranek, Kinsky, Kovac, Mares, Sionko.

Booked: Rozehnal, Lokvenc, Rosicky, Grygera.

Goals: Koller 5, Rosicky 36, 76.

Att: 52,000.

Ref: Carlos Amarilla (Paraguay).

Fifa man of the match: Tomas Rosicky.


TRIVIA
With an average age of 29 years and 49 days, the US fielded their oldest ever line-up in a World Cup match. The Czech starting line-up was also the oldest ever (including Czechoslovakia) with an average age of 28 years and 335 days. Jan Koller became the second oldest World Cup scorer for the Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia at 33 years and 74 days. The record holder is Antonin Panenka (33 years and 204 days in 1982).

The USA continued to struggle against European opposition at the World Cup. Their record against teams from Europe is now three wins, one draw and 11 defeats.

Tomas Rosicky became the fifth player to score twice at this tournament. The others are Miroslav Klose (Germany), Omar Bravo (Mexico), Paulo Wanchope (Costa Rica) and Tim Cahill (Australia).

Posted by Publisher at 11:43 AM | Comments (0)

Australia 3-1 Japan

Substitute Tim Cahill's late double inspired Australia to an historic victory over Japan in Kaiserslautern.

Japan took the lead when Socceroos keeper Mark Schwarzer appeared to be impeded as Shunsuke Nakamura's intended cross sailed over his head.

But Cahill drilled in a loose ball from close range on 84 minutes and lashed home from 18 yards soon after.

John Aloisi then sealed a first World Cup finals victory for Australia with a well-placed shot in injury time.

Japan's Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi was the first goalkeeper called into action, forced into a double save from Mark Viduka.

The Middlesbrough striker broke clear to first fire in a right-foot shot from a narrow angle, and then a left-foot follow-up effort which was parried for a corner.

Australia fell behind in circumstances which were at best soft, and at worst controversial.

Nakamura drifted in a hopeful ball and Schwarzer seemed to be impeded by Atsushi Yanagisawa, but Egyptian referee Essam Abdel Fatah waved away Australian protests.

Kewell almost found a quick response with a curling shot which grazed the top of the bar.

Viduka was proving a handful for the Japanese defence and a foul on the Middlesbrough striker set up a chance for Marco Bresciano, who almost embarrassed Kawaguchi as he went for goal with the keeper expecting a cross.

Australia coach Guus Hiddink threw on Cahill and Josh Kennedy, and the big striker's height gave the Japanese defence a different set of problems as the Socceroos took a more direct route.

Kennedy was fouled on the edge of the box by Teruyuki Moniwa to give Viduka the chance to power in a free-kick, drawing a great save from Kawaguchi.

But the keeper was at fault as Cahill grabbed a lifeline for Australia.

Kawaguchi failed to claim Lucas Neill's long throw and Cahill ended a scramble in emphatic fashion, firing home Australia's first World Cup finals goal from close range.

The Everton midfielder was at the heart of the action and escaped conceding a penalty when he clearly clipped Yuichi Komano as he headed for goal.

But five minutes after levelling, Cahill found space on the edge of the box to put his side ahead with a thumping shot off the inside of the post.

Australia were fired up and they iced the cake when another substitute, Aloisi, finished coolly after bursting through the middle of the Japanese defence.

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Australia: Schwarzer, Neill, Moore (Kennedy 61), Culina, Wilkshire (Aloisi 75), Emerton, Grella, Bresciano (Cahill 52), Chipperfield, Kewell, Viduka. Subs Not Used: Beauchamp, Covic, Kalac, Lazaridis, Milligan, Popovic, Skoko, Sterjovski, Thompson.

Booked: Grella, Moore, Cahill, Aloisi.

Goals: Cahill 84, 89, Aloisi 90.

Japan: Kawaguchi, Komano, Miyamoto, Santos, Tsuboi (Moniwa 56), Nakazawa, Fukunishi, Hidetoshi Nakata, Nakamura, Takahara, Yanagisawa (Ono 79), Moniwa (Oguro 90). Subs Not Used: Doi, Endo, Inamoto, Kaji, Maki, Koji Nakata, Narazaki, Ogasawara, Tamada.

Booked: Miyamoto, Takahara, Moniwa.

Goals: Nakamura 26.

Att: 46,000

Ref: Essam Abdel Fatah (Egypt).

Fifa man of the match: Tim Cahill.


TRIVIA
Tim Cahill's equaliser was Australia's first ever World Cup goal. Cahill is the fourth player next to Miroslav Klose (Germany), Omar Bravo (Mexico) and Paulo Wanchope (Costa Rica) to score twice at the 2006 World Cup.

Australia is the first team at this tournament, to come back after being 1-0 down, and Cahill (twice) and John Aloisi became the second and third substitute to score at the 2006 World Cup. No other team has scored three goals in the last seven minutes in World Cup history.

Japan, who put out their oldest ever starting line-up at a World Cup, are yet to win their opening match of the tournament. In 1998 they were beaten (1-0) by Argentina. Four years later they were held to a 2-2 draw by Belgium.

Posted by Publisher at 11:42 AM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2006

Serbia & Montenegro 0-1 Holland

Holland opened their World Cup campaign with a hard-fought Group C victory over Serbia & Montenegro in Leipzig.

Chelsea striker Arjen Robben scored the only goal after 18 minutes, sliding the ball under Dragoslav Jevric following a flick-on from Robin van Persie.

With Robben always probing and Wesley Sneijder running the show in midfield, the Dutch were coasting at half-time.

And despite a more upbeat display from Serbia & Montenegro after the break, Holland were good value for their win.

After a cagey opening in a sun-drenched Zentralstadion, Serbia & Montenegro had the first decent chance on 12 minutes.

Predrag Djordjevic found space on the left flank, cut inside and slid the ball into the Dutch area, but Mateja Kezman and Savo Milosevic got in each others' way.

Shortly afterwards, former Aston Villa striker Milosevic shot tamely at Edwin van der Sar when through on goal.

But it was the Dutch who took the lead, Arsenal's Van Persie flicking the ball through for Chelsea's Robben to tuck it beneath the advancing Jevric.

Moments later, a pumped-up Robben stung Jevric's hands with a swirling left-shoot shot as the Dutch began to enjoy themselves.

However, Serbia & Montenegro continued to threaten, Predrag Djordvejic whipping in a cross only for Kezman to head wide on 28 minutes.

And two minutes later, Milosevic found space on the edge of the Holland box but volleyed straight at Van der Sar.

With Serbia & Montenegro pressing for an equaliser, the Dutch, and Robben in particular, were revelling in acres of space at the other end.

Robben just missed the target with a low, curling shot on 35 minutes before bursting into the area and having a shot charged down.

Ognjen Koroman replaced Nenad Djordjevic just before half-time and made an immediate impact, capping a surging run from midfield with a vicious shot that curled past the upright.

But it was the Dutch, with Sneijder pulling the strings in the middle of the park and Robben always a threat, who led at the break.

Serbia & Montenegro replaced Milosevic with the 6ft 8in Nikola Zigic at half-time and attempted to ambush Holland immediately after the restart.

But Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, who had a quiet first period, had the first clear-cut chance, just failing to back-heel a Sneijder shot past a diving Jevric.

However, Serbia & Montenegro continued to get among the men in orange, and the dangerous Koroman tested Van der Sar with a dipping left-foot shot on 70 minutes.

Shortly afterwards, Zigic very nearly latched on to a Predrag Djordjevic free-kick before the irrepressible Robben dragged a shot just wide at the other end.

Van Persie then almost scored with a low, swerving free-kick that just grazed Jevric's right-hand post and Robben just missed with a similar effort two minutes from time.

The win was essential for Holland, who now face the dangerous Ivory Coast on Friday and Argentina next Wednesday.

Serbia & Montenegro, meanwhile, will have to perform some death-defying feats to advance to the second round.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Serbia & Montenegro: Jevric, Dragutinovic, Gavrancic, Nenad Djordjevic (Koroman 43), Krstajic, Duljaj, Stankovic, Predrag Djordjevic, Nadj, Kezman (Ljuboja 66), Milosevic (Zigic 45).
Subs Not Used: Basta, Dudic, Ergic, Ilic, Kovacevic, Stojkovic, Vukic.

Booked: Stankovic, Koroman, Dragutinovic, Gavrancic.

Holland: Van der Sar, Heitinga, Mathijsen (Boulahrouz 86), Ooijer, Van Bronckhorst, Sneijder, Van Bommel (Landzaat 60), Cocu, Van Persie, van Nistelrooy (Kuyt 69), Robben.
Subs Not Used: Babel, De Cler, Jaliens, Kromkamp, Maduro, Stekelenburg, Timmer, Van der Vaart, Vennegoor of Hesselink.

Booked: Van Bronckhorst, Heitinga.

Goals: Robben 18.

Att: 37,216.

Ref: Markus Merk (Germany).


TRIVIA
Serbia & Montenegro's starting line-up was older than any of Yugoslavia's starting 11's at a World Cup.

Serbian striker Savo Milosevic won his 99th international cap and will become the first player ever to win 100 caps for Serbia & Montenegro/Yugoslavia if he plays against Argentina on Friday, 16 June.

The clean sheet kept by the Dutch was the 15th in Marco van Basten's 22 matches as coach. It was also the 10th successive clean sheet in competitive matches, extending the European record already held by the Netherlands. Holland's unbeaten streak in competitive matches was extended to 13, one match short of their record set between October 1971 and July 1974. The Dutch also brought an end to Serbia & Montenegro's 13 game undefeated sequence in competitive contests.

Posted by Publisher at 01:39 PM | Comments (0)

Mexico 3-1 Iran

Late goals from Omar Bravo and Antonio Zinha handed Mexico a comfortable victory in Nuremberg.

Mexico took the lead from a free-kick which was flicked on by Guillermo Franco leaving Bravo a simple tap-in.

Iran drew level when Yahya Golmohammadi pounced on a loose ball after a flap by goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez.

But Rahman Rezaei's dithering on the ball allowed Zinha to play in Bravo, who tucked away Mexico's second before Zinha turned scorer with a free header.

The result means Iran fail to improve on their record of only one victory in the World Cup.

But seasoned tournament competitors Mexico extended their record of no defeats in their last nine group-stage matches.

Both sides looked at ease in the searing heat and Iran's quick passing in midfield suggested they were not overawed by the occasion.

And it was the Iranians who had the first chance to open the scoring when Vahid Hashemian headed on target forcing Sanchez into a fine save low down.

Marquez and Franco both threatened with headers from corners as Mexico began to get a foothold in the match.

And it was the Mexicans' aerial superiority from set-pieces that was Iran's undoing on 28 minutes.

Pavel Pardo's free-kick was flicked goalwards by Franco, leaving Bravo to tap-in from five yards.

But Iran were quick to respond with a set-piece goal of their own.

Rahman Rezaei's header was blocked by Sanchez after Mehdi Mahdavikia's corner, but Golmohammadi reacted quickest among a group of players to poke home.

Iran deserved to go into the break level and it was Mexico coach Ricardo Lavolpe who decided to alter his line-up at half-time.

And after Jared Borgetti's injury on 50 minutes, Lavolpe had used all three substitutes.

Mexico has a strong shout for a penalty turned down when Marquez was clattered by Golmohammadi after a flowing move down the Mexico right.

And it was the Mexicans who bossed possession in the second half with Iran unable to find the intensity that served them well in the first period.

The tired Iranians eventually faltered and Mexico killed off the game in three minutes.

Rezaei's error on the ball allowed Zinha to slip a perfect pass to the feet of Bravo, who coolly slotted home on 76 minutes.

Zinha then netted one for himself by powering home Mario Mendez's right-wing cross with a bullet header.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mexico: Sanchez, Salcido, Mendez, Osorio, Pineda, Marquez, Torrado (Perez 45), Pardo, Franco (Zinha 45), Borgetti (Fonseca 52), Bravo.
Subs Not Used: Arellano, Castro, Corona, Garcia, Guardado, Morales, Ochoa, Rodriguez, Suarez.

Booked: Torrado, Salcido.

Goals: Bravo 28, 76, Zinha 79.

Iran: Mirzapour, Golmohammadi, Rezaei, Kaabi, Nosrati (Borhani 81), Mahdavikia, Nekounam, Karimi (Madanchi 62), Teymourian, Hashemian, Daei.
Subs Not Used: Bakhtiarizadeh, Enayati, Kazemeian, Khatibi, Roudbarian, Sadeqi, Shojaei, Talebloo, Zandi.

Booked: Nekounam.

Goals: Golmohammadi 36.

Att: 41,000

Ref: Roberto Rosetti (Italy).


TRIVIA
Mexico have won four of their last five opening matches at a World Cup. Iran scored for the first time ever in an opening fixture at the World Cup finals.

Mexico are unbeaten in their last 13 group phase matches at World Cups. The last team to defeat them in a group stages was Norway in 1994.

Brazilian born Mexico midfielder Zinha became the second player this World Cup to score for a country in which he was not born. German striker Miroslav Klose, born in Poland, was the first. Yahya Golmohammadi became the ninth oldest player to score at the World Cup at an age of 35 years and 84 days. Ali Daei became the oldest ever Iran player to participate in the World Cup at an age of 37 years and 82 days. Indeed Iran fielded their oldest ever starting line-up. The average age in their seventh ever World Cup match was 28 days and 133 days.

Posted by Publisher at 01:35 PM | Comments (0)

Angola 0-1 Portugal

Portugal got the better of former colony Angola to move level on points with Mexico at the top of Group D.

Pedro Pauleta, who almost scored after just 12 seconds, gave Portugal the lead on five minutes with a neat shot after Luis Figo's run and cross.

Cristiano Ronaldo hit the bar with a thumping header for Portugal, though Angola finished the half strongly.

The second half never quite lived up to the first half's promise though Pauleta and Maniche went close for Portugal.

Figo has spent most of international career patrolling the right flank for country, but at the age of 33 he is now deployed in a more central role, with Simao Sabrosa and Ronaldo doing the running for him.

Angola never quite got to grips with the freedom Portugal allowed Figo, who also provided a threat from set-pieces.

It was from a Figo corner that Ronaldo hit the bar with a powerful header on 35 minutes.

Just before the interval Ronaldo drew a fine save from Angola goalkeeper Joao Ricardo with a powerful shot.

On the hour Ronaldo was taken off by coach Luis Felipe Scolari, a decision that clearly angered the Manchester United forward.

Pauleta, who is Portugal's record goalscorer, might have given the European side the lead with the game barely 12 seconds old.

Sabrosa's pass released the Paris St Germain striker whose shot beat Joao Ricardo only to go the wrong side of the post.

Figo might be in the twilight of his career, but Portugal's captain still possesses an impressive burst of speed as he showed in creating the opening goal.

He sprinted past the leaden-footed Jamba before crossing for Pauleta, who sent a left-footed shot past Ricardo.

Making their World Cup debut, Angola must have feared the worst after that Pauleta goal, particularly as they had lost 6-0 and 5-1 in their two previous meetings with Portugal.

But to their immense credit Angola refused to be overawed and went on the offensive.

Fabrice Akwa tried a couple of ambitious bicycle kicks, while Antonio Mendonca and Andre Mateus had long-range shots.

Three minutes before the interval another Angola shot, this time from Andre Macanga, drew a fine save from Portugal goalkeeper Ricardo.

The second half had a subdued opening, though Pauleta tried to reinvigorate Portugal with an ambitious curling shot and then a clever pass that set up a Tiago effort.

Scolari replaced Ronaldo with the more defensive Costinha as Portugal's coach attempted to close down the midfield, testament to the way Angola had rattled their European opponents.

While Portugal sought to protect their lead, Angola replaced Akwa with Pedro Mantorras, but the Benfica forward was unable to change the course of the game.

Substitute Maniche almost snatched a second Portugal goal late on with a rising drive.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Angola: Joao Ricardo, Jamba, Kali, Loco, Delgado, Figueiredo (Miloy 80), Macanga, Mateus, Mendonca, Ze Kalanga (Edson 70), Akwa (Mantorras 59).
Subs Not Used: Lama, Airosa, Lebo-Lebo, Rui Marques, Flavio, Love, Buengo, Mario, Marco.

Booked: Jamba, Loco, Macanga.

Portugal: Ricardo, Meira, Miguel, Nuno Valente, Ricardo Carvalho, Petit (Maniche 72), Tiago (Viana 82), Figo, Ronaldo (Costinha 59), Pauleta, Simao.
Subs Not Used: Quim, Paulo Ferreira, Caneira, Ricardo Costa, Boa Morte, Nuno Gomes, Paulo Santos, Postiga, Deco.

Booked: Ronaldo, Nuno Valente.

Goals: Pauleta 4.

Att: 45,000.

Ref: Jorge Larrionda (Uruguay).


TRIVIA
Portugal's victory extended their unbeaten run in all matches to 15, the third longest current unbeaten streak in world football. It is already Portugal's longest ever undefeated sequence.

Petit, Luis Figo and Pauleta became the first Portuguese players ever to play at two World Cups. Nuno Gomes can join them if he plays during this World Cup. Portugal goalkeeper Ricardo won his 50th cap, five years after making his debut against the Republic of Ireland. He is the 18th Portuguese player to reach this milestone.

Angola played their first ever match at a World Cup but could not repeat Senegal's feat four years ago of beating a European team on their debut.

Posted by Publisher at 01:31 PM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2006

Spanish police rescue hostage boy

Two Nigerian women have been arrested in Spain accused of stealing a child and forcing his mother into prostitution to pay their ransom.

The mother, also Nigerian, claims her son was snatched from her shortly after he was born four years ago.

She said the women demanded 45,000 euros (£31,000) for his return and threatened her with "voodoo".

The boy was kept hidden from neighbours in a Madrid flat until police tracked him down and rescued him this week.

The kidnap and blackmail came to light when the mother, who has since given up prostitution, went to the police. She said the women had got her into Spain from Nigeria illegally - which was why she owed them money.

After they took her son, she said she worked as a prostitute in different clubs around Spain to pay off the debt.

Officers investigating the case confirmed that the woman had had a baby in 2002 and finally tracked down the suspects - identified only as Becky F, aged 27, and Faith N, aged 24.

The women were known to live in a flat with an 18-month-old girl and another young Nigerian woman. Officers could not confirm the presence of a young boy until a neighbour reported hearing cries from the flat that differed from the little girl's.

On Tuesday, the surveillance teams got the breakthrough they needed when a boy appeared on the balcony.

Police raided the flat and found the boy, his mother's passport and other items used in voodoo rituals which the suspects used "to terrorise the mother".

Trafficking networks

Police said the boy was healthy, although he showed signs of delayed development and had barely learned to talk. He has not been to school and has not been registered at any official institutions, such as health centres.

"Despite being the only black child in the block of flats, hardly any of his neighbours had seen him there or in the local children's playgrounds," the police said.

They said his captors had probably kept him hidden, alone, in the flat all day. He has now been taken into the care of social services.

In the past few years, Spanish police have broken up a number of illegal immigration networks involving Nigerian women being brought to Spain to work as prostitutes.

In March, six people were arrested in Valencia, accused of running such an enterprise.

Voodoo has often been found to be a way of threatening the women, but reports say kidnapping their children is less frequent.


Posted by Publisher at 01:05 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria militants 'free' hostages

Five South Koreans kidnapped during a raid on a Nigeria oil field in which five soldiers were killed have been freed, a group of oil militants says.

The claim by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) has not been independently confirmed.

Mend has staged several attacks in Nigeria's main oil producing region to demand more oil wealth for locals.

Attacks on oil facilities have become increasingly common in Nigeria's lawless, impoverished Delta region.

They have led to a 25% cut in oil production by Africa's biggest exporter.

Armed groups have long complained that oil wealth has not been distributed equitably among the local population.

The BBC's Alex Last in Nigeria says there are fears that the violence will only get worse as next year's elections approach.

Prisoner exchange?

Mend said the attack, in which they sunk an army boat near Port Harcourt, was a response to a court decision to deny bail to militant leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari.

Mr Dokubo-Asari was arrested on treason charges last year. Mend has long demanded his release.

One of the other groups that took part in the kidnappings, the Joint Revolutionary Council, says Mr Dokubo-Asari had called for the release of the hostages, according to Reuters news agency.

When it announced responsibility for the kidnappings, Mend suggested that the hostages could be exchanged for Mr Dokubo-Asari.

Three of the kidnapped workers are from South Korean engineering firm Daewoo. The others work for the Korea Gas Corp.

Our correspondent says that many armed groups in the Niger Delta have links to competing local politicians and have been used to help win elections in the past.

So the fear is that violence in the Delta will rise as armed groups, political or otherwise, strive to exert their power, as campaigning starts for elections due next year.


Posted by Publisher at 01:04 PM | Comments (0)

June 07, 2006

'Five killed' in Nigeria oil raid

Five Nigerian soldiers have been killed in a raid on an oil field in which five South Koreans were kidnapped, a group of oil militants says.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) said it might swap the hostages for a local leader charged with treason.

Mend has staged several attacks in Nigeria's main oil producing region to demand more oil wealth for locals.

Eight oil workers were freed on Sunday, two days after they were seized.

Attacks on oil facilities have become increasingly common in Nigeria's lawless, impoverished Delta region, leading to a 25% cut in oil production by Africa's biggest exporter.

Armed groups have long complained that oil wealth has not been distributed equitably among the local population.

Hostages 'safe'

Mend said they had sunk an army boat, killing at least five soldiers, after they came under attack as they retreated into the creeks of the Niger Delta.

One militants was also killed, the group said.

There is no independent confirmation of the casualties, but Nigerian military sources say some soldiers have been reported missing.

The South Koreans were safe and would not be harmed unless they were attacked, Mend said.

Mend said the attack was a response to a court decision to deny bail to militant leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari.

Mr Dokubo-Asari was arrested on treason charges last year. Mend has long demanded his release.

"We are of the opinion that the government of Nigeria may be interested more in a prisoner exchange rather than releasing the persons whose release we have demanded," Mend said.

Three of the kidnapped workers are from South Korean engineering firm Daewoo. The others work for the Korea Gas Corp.

"The Daewoo company is advised to close down its operations with immediate effect as a second attack will bring only death," Mend said.

The latest abduction took place just after midnight in Port Harcourt, Nigeria's oil hub, South Korea's foreign ministry said.

The ministry said a Nigerian had also been abducted.


Posted by Publisher at 12:30 PM | Comments (0)

June 06, 2006

Namibia flies animals to Nigeria

Wild animals from Namibia have been transported to Nigeria for a zoo to boost its tourist industry.

By Frauke Jensen
BBC News, Windhoek

The 250 animals - including deer, giraffes and zebra - are a present to Nigeria from Namibia, from the time of ex-President Sam Nujoma.

Worth some $295,000, they left Namibia on a special charter cargo plane.

After acclimatising for a week in Kano, in northern Nigeria, the animals will be moved to the Sumu Wildlife Park in Bauchi state.

"Most of the animals are younger animals to allow for proper adaptation to the Nigerian climate and vegetation," Neels de Jong, who organised the capture of the animals, told the BBC.

The impala, springbok, oryx, kudu, blue wildebeest, eland, zebra and giraffe were taken to Windhoek International Airport, where it took six hours to load them onto huge wooden crates.

Each crate held three to six animals and were properly weighed before being taken on board the Boeing 747.

Mr de Jong and veterinarian Dr Hans Otto Reuter flew out with the animals late on Monday night.

They will stay in Kano with the animals for a week until they have settled in.

"The animals are a gift from the Namibian government, and are intended to support Nigeria's efforts in building their tourist industry," Mr de Jong said.

Posted by Publisher at 11:38 AM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2006

Abducted oil workers on way home

Eight hostages - six of them Britons - who were abducted while working on an oil rig in Nigeria are on their way home after being freed.

The eight men, including an American and a Canadian, were seized on Friday from an offshore oil rig in the south of the country.

After arriving in Lagos, Nigeria, the men will return to their own countries.

The incident is the latest in a series of militant actions aimed at oil businesses based in Nigeria.

President Olusegun Obasanjo had joined in the mediation efforts to free the eight men.

National police spokesman Haz Iwendi said the men were freed as a result of negotiations brokered by authorities in Bayelsa state.

The militants want oil companies to negotiate on a range of issues affecting local people, who see little benefit from the oil industry.

Issues they want addressing include employment for local people and the environmental impact of drilling, industry sources said.

The workers had been on board the drilling rig Bulford Dolphin, which operates for the Nigerian oil company Peak Petroleum.

The rig is operated by Aberdeen-based Dolphin Drilling, which employs six of the men who were taken hostage.

A spokeswoman for the firm said: "We're trying to get them home as quickly as possible".

She said two of the men were from north-east Scotland and two were from England. The other two Britons now live in Spain and Malaysia.

'Extremely relieved'

Dolphin Drilling's senior vice president Iain Mitchell said: "We are extremely relieved that the men have been returned safely and thank our client and the Nigerian authorities for their support in resolving the situation quickly."

He also thanked the UK authorities for their support.

The Niger Delta is home to Nigeria's oil industry, but there is widespread poverty.

It is not clear who was behind the action, but the Movement for the Emancipation for the Niger Delta (Mend), the major militant group, has said it was not responsible for the kidnappings.

The rig had sent out a distress call on Friday, saying it was under attack from between 20 and 30 men in speedboats.

The attackers in four boats fired shots into the air before boarding the rig, security sources said.

There were 84 oil workers on the rig when it was attacked.

An upsurge of attacks on foreign oil interests has cut Nigeria's oil production by 25% - a key factor in the high world price of crude oil.


Posted by Publisher at 01:07 PM | Comments (0)

June 03, 2006

Nigeria head joins kidnap efforts

Nigeria's president has joined mediation efforts to try to secure the release of eight foreign workers abducted from an oil rig on Friday.
A spokeswoman for Olusegun Obasanjo said he was optimistic the men would be freed quickly and unharmed.

Six Britons, a Canadian and a US national were seized by armed men from an offshore rig in southern Nigeria.

There has been a spate of recent attacks in the region by militants, who want more local control of oil wealth.

'Local dispute'

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says it is not clear who is holding the men but the company that owns the rig says it has made contact with the hostages and they are believed to be in good health.

The rig, 20km (12miles) out to sea, had sent out a distress call on Friday, saying it was under attack from between 20 and 30 men in speedboats.

The attackers in four boats fired shots into the air before boarding the rig, security sources said.

There were 84 oil workers on the rig when it was attacked, said a spokeswoman for Aberdeen-based Dolphin Drilling, which operates the rig.

The Nigerian government said the kidnapping appeared to be the result of a local dispute.

In the Niger Delta that usually means a community feels it has not been sufficiently compensated by oil companies and in those cases often a cash payment resolves the issue, our correspondent says.

An upsurge of attacks on foreign oil interests has cut Nigeria's oil production by 25% - a key factor in the high world price of crude oil.

The Niger Delta is home to Nigeria's oil industry, but there is widespread poverty and numerous armed militia groups operate in the area.

One group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), says it is fighting for greater local control of the oil revenues and compensation from oil companies for pollution in the Delta.

In recent months, Mend has twice taken foreigners hostage in a series of raids. In both cases the men were eventually released unharmed.

However, the group has sent an email to media organisations saying it was not involved in Friday's kidnappings.

In April, Mend rejected President Obasanjo's offer of thousands more jobs and a new motorway for the area, saying it did not address its demands for more local control of oil wealth and demilitarisation.


Posted by Publisher at 10:08 AM | Comments (0)

May 31, 2006

Nigeria sacks top security chiefs

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has announced a major shake-up of his country's military.

The chiefs of the defence staff and air-force have been dismissed, along with the national security adviser.

The army chief has been promoted to chief of defence staff. No reasons have been given for the decisions.

Since independence in 1960, Nigeria has had many years of military rule. Political tension is rising ahead of elections due next year.

Mr Obasanjo, a former military ruler who won multiparty elections in 1999, recently said he would not seek re-election, after attempts to change the constitution to let him seek a third term in office were defeated.

Political observers suggest the removal of national security advisor Gen Aliyu Mohammed Gusau may be the most significant change, since he had recently been mentioned as a possible successor to the Nigerian president.


*Gen Gusau is replaced by Maj Gen Sarki Muktar.

*The chief of defence staff, Gen Alexander Ogomudia, is replaced by army chief Lt Martin Luther Agwai

*Air Marshal Jonah Domfa Wuyep is replaced by Air Vice Marshal Paul Dike as Chief of Air Staff

*Maj Gen Owoye Andrew Azazi replaces Lt Agwai as chief of Army Staff.

Posted by Publisher at 10:43 AM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2006

Pitt and Jolie have baby daughter

Hollywood couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are celebrating the birth of their daughter in Namibia, Africa.

The actors named their daughter Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, spokeswoman Cindy Guagenti said in a statement.

Pitt and Jolie moved to Namibia in April amid intense media interest in the impending birth.

Jolie, 30, has two adopted children, from Ethiopia and Cambodia. She and Pitt were linked romantically soon after filming Mr and Mrs Smith in 2005.

"The night of May 27, 2006 in Namibia, Africa, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt welcomed their daughter Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt. No further information is being given," Ms Guagenti said.

Namibia's deputy enviroment and tourism minister, Leon Jooste, said the baby was born at 0140 local time (0040 GMT) on Sunday.

Samuel Nuuyoma, governor of the Erongo region, said the baby was born at the Welwitschia Clinic in Walvis Bay.

A doctor at the hospital told the Associated Press news agency: "She is a healthy baby."

Media crackdown

It has been reported that the first picture of the baby would be sold for up to $3 million (£1.6m), with the proceeds being given to Unicef, who Jolie works for as an ambassador, and other projects in Africa.

However, Ms Guagenti has said no photographs would be released.

The government of Namibia helped Pitt and Jolie in their quest for privacy by refusing entry to reporters wanting to cover the baby's birth without the couple's written permission.

A South African photographer was arrested on Wednesday for a second time after he tried to take pictures of the couple at a local restaurant, according to reports. Others have been asked to leave the country.

The beach by the hotel where the couple have been staying - in the village of Langstrand - has been surrounded with large green barriers, while bodyguards and undercover police officers are patrolling the area.

'Heavy-handed'

The BBC's Frauke Jensen in the country's capital, Windhoek, said the security operation was unprecedented.

A local human rights group has accused bodyguards and police of using "heavy-handed tactics" to keep the paparazzi at bay.

Sawkopmund municipality spokesman Freddi Kaukunga said: "We are proud that such a world-famous actress like Angelina Jolie chose to give birth to her first child in our area.

"We wish mother and daughter good health and a continued further stay here."

He added the child would now be considered a Namibian citizen.

Erongo governor Mr Nuuyoma said the couple planned to stay in the country for the time being.

Pitt, 42, divorced actress Jennifer Aniston last October, while Jolie - star of the Tomb Raider movies - was previously married to actors Billy-Bob Thornton and Jonny Lee Miller.

Last year Pitt announced his intention to become Jolie's children's adoptive father.


Posted by Publisher at 11:01 AM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2006

Shell contests huge Nigeria fine

Oil giant Shell says it has appealed against a Nigerian court ruling that it pay $1.5bn to residents of the country's oil-producing region.

The high court had given Shell until 1200 local time (1100 GMT) on Monday to pay the fine but Shell says it will not comply until the appeal is heard.

The ruling against a Shell subsidiary was to compensate the Ijaw community for environmental damage in the region.

Meanwhile, Ijaw militants say they will step up attacks on oil installations.

Oil concession

The groups want more of Nigeria's oil wealth to benefit local communities.

Four groups - the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force, the Coalition for Militant Action in the Niger Delta, the Martyrs Brigade, and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta - said they were forming a coalition to step up their opposition to the government.


Nigeria's oil output has been cut by about 25% after a series of attacks on oil installations and kidnappings of foreign oil workers.

During a visit to the region on Saturday, President Olusegun Obasanjo warned that the government would no longer tolerate militia attacks.

On Friday, the government announced that it had awarded an oil exploration concession to a local company with links to militant groups.

The fine was first ordered in February. On Friday, the court rejected a request to postpone the payment.

A Shell spokesman said he was disappointed by Friday's judgement, but would not comment further until the Appeal Court had heard the case.

The Ijaw have been campaigning since 2000 for compensation for environmental degradation in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.

They took the case to court after Shell - the biggest oil producer in Nigeria - refused to make the payment ordered by Nigeria's parliament.

Warning

Lawyers for the Shell Petroleum Development Company had argued in the federal court in Port Harcourt that the joint committee of the National Assembly that made the order in 2000 did not have the power to compel the oil company to make the payment.

In February, Ijaw community leader Ngo Nac-Eteli said that if Shell wanted to buy time by taking the case to the appeal court, the company would not be allowed to operate on Ijaw land until the case was settled.

He did not elaborate on how the community would stop Shell's operations.

The BBC's Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar in Port Harcourt says the case has the support both of community elders and the militant groups that have been attacking oil installations in the Delta region.

But our correspondent warns that even if the money is paid, the region would not necessarily be pacified unless the various groups were happy with how it was distributed.


Posted by Publisher at 11:55 AM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2006

Nigerian president will step down

Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo says his party accepts the Senate's rejection of a bill that would have allowed him to seek a third term.

He said the People's Democratic Party needed to put the acrimony behind it and prepare for next year's election as the constitution currently stands.

Confirmation that Mr Obasanjo will not stand again leaves Vice-President Atiku Abubakar as a strong candidate.

The two fell out over the issue that also deeply divided the country.

Two former military rulers, Ibrahim Babangida and Muhammadu Buhari, have also emerged as likely candidates.

Bribes

"As a political party, we should accept the verdict of the National Assembly even though the two chambers initially concluded differently," the president told PDP delegates.

The dramatic announcement that the bill had been defeated was greeted with shouts of joy in the Senate on Tuesday.

"The constitution must be held hallowed and sacred. And, on the basis of the constitution in hand, we must start to plan for the next elections," he said.

Mr Obasanjo has never publicly said he wanted to stand for re-election saying he would make his decision if the constitution was amended.

In his speech he hit out at the media for unfounded speculation on the subject.

"Many derogatory statements and unfounded allegations have been made about me and my position concerning the so-called third term... I was maligned, insulted and wrongly accused but I remained where I am and what I am and I remained focused," he said.

President Obasanjo said it was now time to heal the wounds caused by weeks of angry debate on the issue and he criticised both sides for using blackmail, intimidation and violence in their campaigns.

Absentee

Those opposed to changing the constitution had claimed that they had been offered bribes and threatened to change their minds.

Nigeria had many years of military rule until Mr Obasanjo was elected in 1999.

Mr Obasanjo is a Christian from the south-west and people in other parts of the country believe the country's top job should rotate between the regions.

Mr Abubakar is a northern Muslim, like another man seen as a strong candidate, former military ruler Gen Babangida.

Many prominent members of the PDP have already formed a new political party, the Advanced Congress of Democrats, rumoured to be sponsored by Mr Abubakar, and he was a notable absentee at the PDP meeting.

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says many in the oil-producing south and the south-east - regions which have never produced a Nigerian president - feel it should be their turn.

But our correspondent says winning elections in Nigeria is largely about who has got the most power and money behind them.


Posted by Publisher at 08:42 AM | Comments (0)

Illegals arrested at Home Office

Five illegal immigrants have been arrested after turning up for work to clean a Home Office building.

They were working for a firm contracted by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate's Becket House in London.

Earlier this week a director at the IND caused a row after saying he did not have the "faintest idea" how many illegal immigrants were in the UK.

A Home Office spokesman said the Nigerian cleaners were arrested on their first day after standard checks.

Home Secretary John Reid, who has come under fire after also admitting he had no idea of how many illegal immigrants were in the UK, said the Home Office would not use the firm until it had better vetting procedures in place.

'Woeful'

He said the additional vigilance of a security guard helped identify them.

Firms 'profit from illegals'

The Home Office said: "These individuals were the employees of a firm contracted to provide cleaning services.

"It is policy that all employees and contracted employees working in Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) buildings have security and employment checks carried out, which include checks on their immigration status.

"Of course we will investigate further and appropriate action will be taken as necessary."

Shadow Minister for Immigration, Damian Green MP, said the news sparked "more questions than it answers".

"How long have they been using this firm? Do other Government departments use the firm? How confident is the Home Office that previous cleaners supplied by the firm were not also illegal?" he said.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Nick Clegg MP said the Home Office appeared "woefully under prepared" in dealing with illegal immigrants.

"If even the Home Office is having trouble identifying illegal immigrants in its own buildings, it is no wonder other businesses are struggling," he said.

Fine system

Earlier this week the IND's director of enforcement and removals, Dave Roberts, caused a row after conceding he did not have the "faintest idea" how many illegal immigrants were in Britain.

He told the Commons home affairs committee those who overstayed their visas were not pursued individually. The strategy was to target larger groups of failed asylum seekers working for the same employer.

Later this year new laws will come into force making companies liable for fines of up £2,000 per employee given work when the employer knew it was against the law.

Mr Roberts told MPs: "We are making huge efforts to remove them but not at the basis of tracing individuals."

Immigration minister Tony McNulty said on Wednesday the best estimate for the number of illegal immigrants was between 310,000 and 570,000. Removals ran to about 25,000 a year.


Posted by Publisher at 08:34 AM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2006

Democracy 'triumphs' in Nigeria

Nigeria's vice-president has said that the Senate decision to throw out a bill which would have let the president seek re-election will strengthen democracy.

"The decision is one of the best things to happen to Nigeria," said Atiku Abubakar, who wants to contest next year's elections himself.

The question of allowing President Olusegun Obasanjo a third term has divided Nigeria and the ruling party.

Nigeria had many years of military rule until Mr Obasanjo was elected in 1999.

Mr Obasanjo has not publicly said whether he wanted to remain in office but the BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says it now appears that Nigeria will have a new president next year.

Our correspondent says there is "shock and disbelief" around the presidential camp.

Mr Obasanjo's special advisor on the National Assembly Senator Florence Ita-Giwa told the BBC's Network Africa programme that the president had been consulting with party leaders.

"He had no intention of staying if he is not wanted," she said, adding that it was a shame that the third term issue had overshadowed many other constitutional amendments in the bill.

'Harassment'

Those opposed to changing the constitution had claimed that they had been offered bribes and threatened to change their minds.

"It confirms that democracy has a teeming army of believers and converts, who will defend it even in the face of inducement, blackmail, harassment, threat and intimidation," Mr Abubakar said following the Senate's decision.

Human rights lawyer Gani Fawehinmi, who contested the 2003 elections, said he was "delighted" by the news.

"Obasanjo's dream has been killed. It is the end of a sit-tight rule in Nigeria, political robbery and gangsterism," he told the AFP news agency.

"Democracy has triumphed over dictatorship."

Our correspondent says some people say the government may try again to change the constitution but all the politicians and analysts he has spoken to say there is no way back.

The announcement that the bill had been defeated was greeted with shouts of joy in the Senate.

Nigeria will now have several months of an exciting and interesting power-struggle ahead of next year's elections, our correspondent says.

Mr Obasanjo is a Christian from the south-west and people in other parts of the country believe the country's top job should rotate between the regions.

Mr Abubakar is a northern Muslim, like another man seen as a strong candidate, former military ruler General Ibrahim Babangida.

He also welcomed the vote, saying he knew the moves would not succeed because there had not been "adequate consultation".

But Alex Last says that many in the oil-producing south and the south-east - regions which have never produced a Nigerian president - feel it should be their turn.

Posted by Publisher at 03:38 PM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2006

No third term for Nigerian leader

Nigeria's Senate has thrown out a move to allow President Olusegun Obasanjo to seek a third term of office next year - an issue which has divided the country.

Opponents shouted for joy as the bill to amend the constitution was rejected.

Supporters of the third term issue spent days in talks trying to acquire a two-thirds majority in both houses.

Meanwhile, a new bill has been proposed in the lower house of parliament which would allow one term of six years to be served for presidents and governors.

After a vote, the senate president said the body would discontinue further proceedings on the bill.

"The bill is dead. It cannot be brought again until the lifespan of this Senate terminates," Senator Abu Ibrahim told Reuters news agency after the Senate vote.

President Olusegun Obasanjo has not said whether he would like to remain in office after his current term expires next year.

But the BBC's Alex Last says that after this devastating blow in the Senate, it appears that at election time next year, Nigeria will be choosing a new president.

New move

In the House of Representatives, loud applause from both sides of the third term debate greeted the plan announced by deputy speaker Austin Opara that presidents and governors serve one six-year term instead of two four-year terms currently allowed.

Mr Opara, told MPs that those already in place "should not benefit" from the move which could come into effect next year.

The proposal has now gone to a sub-committee for further discussion, says the BBC's Yusuf Sarki Mohamed in Abuja.

On Monday, Nigeria's anti-corruption agency announced it was investigating claims that MPs have been offered bribes to back moves to let the president seek re-election.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it was following up claims that MPs had been offered up to 50m naira ($390,000; £206,000).

Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who also wants the top job, had declared himself against the constituional amendment.

He has helped Mr Obasanjo win two elections and has held the position of vice-president since 1999.

Some opponents of the constitutional change argue that the presidency needs to rotate among people from different regions and ethnic groups.

Posted by Publisher at 01:18 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria probes third-term 'graft'

Nigeria's anti-corruption agency says it is investigating claims that MPs have been offered bribes to back moves to let the president seek re-election.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it was following up claims that MPs had been offered up to 50m naira ($390,000; £206,000).

The National Assembly is discussing a bill to change the constitution to let presidents serve third terms in office.

Many MPs oppose the bill and it may not get the necessary two-thirds support.

President Olusegun Obasanjo has not said whether he would like to remain in office after his current term expires next year.

Selective

Last week, MP Uche Onyeagucha told the BBC that he had been offered a plot of land in the capital, Abuja, if he would support the bill.

The EFCC has urged those with evidence of wrong-doing to produce it.

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says allegations of bribery are not new in Nigeria - it is ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

The EFCC was set up by the government as part of its much-vaunted anti-corruption drive, but critics say it has been too selective in its targets, particularly going after known opponents of President Obasanjo.

Given the immense importance of the bill to change the constitution, failure to launch an investigation would further damage the organisation's credibility, our correspondent says.

Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who also wants the top job, has declared himself against the amendment.

He has helped Mr Obasanjo win two elections and has held the position of vice-president since 1999.

Some opponents of the constitutional change argue that the presidency needs to rotate among people from different regions and ethnic groups.

For the amendment to pass, it requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of the assembly and it needs the backing of two-thirds of the states.


Posted by Publisher at 12:09 PM | Comments (0)

Blatter fires warning at Nigeria

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has told BBC Sport that Nigeria could be suspended from international football before the start of the World Cup finals on 9 June.

By Osasu Obayiuwana

"We are going to discuss the suspension of Nigeria during our next executive committee meeting," Blatter told BBC Sport.

The meeting in the German city of Munich, scheduled to take place on 4 and 5 June, is expected to take a firm stand on the conflict between the board of the Nigeria FA (NFA) and Seidu Sambawa, the country's sports minister.

Ibrahim Galadima, re-elected to a four-year term as NFA chairman at the 29 December elections in Kano, has been unable to function from its Abuja headquarters after the police, on the orders of government officials, sealed off the premises.

Sambawa questioned the validity of the elections and claimed the financial integrity of Galadima has been questioned by a parliamentary report that examined the NFA's finances.

But Galadima, whose re-election as NFA chairman was subsequently given a Fifa seal of approval, has denied the charges of impropriety laid against him and is prepared to defend his reputation in court.

The conflict between Galadima and Sambawa led to the former's inability to travel to the African Cup of Nations finals, after he was denied a visa to travel with the national team to Egypt.

Officials of the world governing body, who regard the actions of the sports minister as direct interference in the affairs of the NFA - a violation of Fifa's statutes - have described the Nigerian situation as "rotten."

In addition, the West African nation is yet to complete reforms to its football statutes, guaranteeing the NFA's independence, after Fifa gave it a reprieve from a ban at the end of 2004.

Posted by Publisher at 12:08 PM | Comments (0)

DR Congo and Nigeria win through

Nigeria and the DR Congo will be Africa's representatives at the Under-20 Women's World Championship in Russia later this year.

In Abuja the Nigerians thrashed Liberia 9-1 in the second leg of their final qualifying game.

That result gave the Super Falconets a 10-2 win on aggregate, after the two sides drew 1-1 in Monrovia two weeks ago.

The DR Congo booked their place thanks to a 1-0 win in Kinshasa to make it 2-2 on aggregate and advance to Russia on the away goals rule.

The draw for August's World Championship has already been held, with spaces for the African sides in Group B alongside China, Finland and Canada and in Group D with USA, France and Argentina.


Posted by Publisher at 12:08 PM | Comments (0)

Caf names 2010 shortlist

The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has named Libya, Angola, Nigeria and a joint bid from Gabon and Equatorial Guinea on its shortlist to host the 2010 Nations Cup.

Caf heard a total of eight bids at its headquarters in Egypt on Sunday and eventually rejected those from Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Senegal.

Both Libya and Nigeria have hosted the African Cup of Nations in the past, while it would be a first for Angola as well as Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

Inspectors from Caf will now visit all four of the shortlisted nations in between July and August this year.

The inspecors will provide a detailed report on each country on such things as stadiums, security, transport and communications.

The eventual hosts for the 2010 Nations Cup will made by the Caf executive committee at its meeting in September 2006

Meanwhile Caf has also announced that Nigeria will be hosting this year's African Women's Championship after the earlier withdrawal of Gabon.


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May 15, 2006

Nigeria police killed in oil city

Six policemen have been killed in Nigeria's oil capital, Port Harcourt.

Their bodies, which had bullet wounds in them, were found floating in a river in the city. Two other members of the marine police patrol survived.

The police have not said who they suspect is behind the killings and no group has claimed responsibility.

Militants have staged a series of attacks in the region recently to push their demands that local people should benefit more from the oil wealth.

Last week, three foreign oil workers were briefly kidnapped in the city and a US man was shot dead.

An upsurge in attacks on foreign oil interests has cut the country's oil production by 20%.

Last month, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) renewed its threat to continue oil installation attacks, but have denied responsibility for the last week's.

It said the offer of thousands more jobs and a new motorway from President Olusegun Obasanjo did not address its demands for more local control of oil wealth and demilitarisation.

The Mend group has claimed responsibility for two car bomb attacks in recent weeks, one of which was a warning against Chinese expansion in the region, it said.


Posted by Publisher at 02:20 PM | Comments (0)

Cleared Zuma resumes ANC duties

South Africa's governing African National Congress (ANC) has reinstated Jacob Zuma in his duties as deputy leader after being acquitted of rape.

Mr Zuma asked to be relieved of his duties in November last year when a rape charge was laid against him.

But last Monday he was found not guilty and he has made it clear that he now wants to resume his political career.

Mr Zuma is still seen by his supporters as a possible future president, but faces a corruption trial in July.

'No conspiracy'

"The NEC [National Executive Committee] agreed that, as a consequence of the conclusion of the trial, Cde [comrade] Zuma should resume his duties as ANC Deputy President and his participation in the leading structures of the movement without delay," the ANC said in a statement on Monday.

The NEC made its decision on Sunday night, during a meeting at which Mr Zuma was not present.

The ANC statement also underlined the party's commitment to opposing sexual violence and promoting safer sexual practices: an apparent attempt to deflect some of the criticism that women's rights and Aids activists directed at Mr Zuma during the course of the trial.

The statement sought to quash accusations by Mr Zuma's supporters that the rape charge was the result of a conspiracy against Mr Zuma within the party.

"The ANC finds that there is no basis to suggestions that any member of the ANC encouraged the complainant in the rape case to lay a charge against the ANC deputy president."

Mr Zuma was sacked as the country's deputy president when prosecutors began to investigate corruption charges against him in June last year.

He retained his office as ANC deputy president, but was later relieved of his duties in party structures as a result of the rape charge brought against him in November.

Succession

Mr Zuma was cleared of rape at the end of his trial in the Johannesburg High Court a week ago.

The following day he made a public apology for having had unprotected sex with an HIV positive woman.

An opinion poll conducted by the Sunday Times in Johannesburg has found that nearly half of those questioned last week did not accept Mr Zuma's apology for his behaviour and 64% of the respondents were against him becoming the next president of the country.

Party leaders deny that the ANC is divided over the Zuma saga but the public perception is of a fierce battle now under way to decide who will succeed President Mbeki, who is due to step down in 2009.

Mr Mbeki recently suggested that the next South African president should be a woman: his clearest indication yet that he did not favour Mr Zuma as a successor.

Mr Zuma's acquittal on the rape charge has strengthened his chances of mounting a challenge for the leadership of the party and the country, but his suitability has been called into question.

He also faces another trial on corruption charges, due to begin in July.


Posted by Publisher at 02:17 PM | Comments (0)

Probe ordered after Nigeria blast

Nigeria's president has told security services to uncover the cause of a deadly blast at a pipeline near Lagos.

More than 150 people died on Friday, many burnt beyond recognition, when petrol exploded while gushing from a suspected tapped pipeline.

A spokesman for President Olusegun Obasanjo said he had ordered a thorough police investigation and increased protection for other pipelines.

Some 2,000 people have died in similar incidents in Nigeria in recent years.

"President Obasanjo has received with great sadness and concern the news of the death of Nigerians in the explosion in Lagos," spokesman Oluremi Oyo told the AFP news agency.

"It is a grave reminder of similar incidents in the past. [Mr] Obasanjo said that people should never trifle for whatever reason with elements that can cause such catastrophe," she added.

Mass burial

Clean-up efforts continued on Saturday at the site of the explosion, on Atlas Creek Island on the outskirts of Lagos.

Many of the dead have been given a mass burial near the site of the blast, officials said.

The heat and severity of the blast left many victims unrecognisable.

But officially identifying the dead will be a difficult task, says the BBC's Alex Last in Lagos.

Many local people do not want to be connected to this incident, as relatives of those killed in similar accidents in the past have been prosecuted over the petrol theft.

So no relatives have come forward to claim the dead, and none of the injured have been found.

The Nigerian Red Cross says its workers are trawling the sea near the scene of the blast for any remaining corpses.

Sensing a potential contamination risk if the charred bodies are left untreated, health officials have decreed that victims should be buried at the earliest opportunity.

Visiting the scene of the blast on Saturday, Lagos health commissioner Tola Kasali blamed personal greed for the country's regular pipeline explosions.

"Because this thing has happened many times before, we thought it would be a deterrent, but apparently it wasn't enough deterrent for these people who died," he told the Associated Press.

"Anywhere you have a pipeline in this country, you have this problem because people are greedy and they want quick money."

Jerrycans

Correspondents say the Friday morning blast incinerated all those within a 20m radius, but the exact number of casualties may not be known for some time.

The country's Red Cross said local people arrived on the scene after thieves had initially ruptured the pipeline.

"We found that vandals have drilled holes on [into] the pipeline, from where they have been stealing fuel," said Nigerian Red Cross Secretary General Abiodun Orebiyi.

Local people were apparently gathered around the site of the leak when the fuel ignited. Five hundred jerrycans were found at the scene.

Atlas Creek is a small fishing community but some people have moved there because rent is cheaper than Lagos, where they commute by speedboat.

The pipeline serves the Atlas Cove petrol depot, which supplies south-western Nigeria.

Despite being the eighth-largest oil exporter in the world, Nigeria has to re-import refined oil products, such as petrol, because of decades of neglect of its own refineries. The pipelines often pass through poor communities, who break them to steal the precious fuel.

Militants have frequently targeted the centre of Nigeria's oil industry in the Niger Delta, further to the east.


Posted by Publisher at 01:39 PM | Comments (0)

May 11, 2006

Kidnappings in Nigerian oil city

Three foreign oil workers have been kidnapped in the southern Nigerian city of Port Harcourt, a day after a US expatriate was shot dead, police say.

The group, who work for Italian firm Agip, were seized in a car, put on a boat and taken into creeks, police say.

A Nigerian militant group campaigning against the oil industry said it had no hand in the kidnappings or the killing.

It has kidnapped foreign oil workers before in its quest for more local control of the region's oil wealth.

Nigerian police spokesman Haz Iwendi said it appeared the kidnapping was the result of a dispute over money between a local community and Agip.

The BBC's Alex Last in Nigeria says that in the past such community disputes have been resolved relatively quickly, usually after a financial settlement.

Private dispute

On Wednesday, attackers on a motorbike shot the oil worker as he was driving his car early on Wednesday.

The man's name has been withheld. He worked for oil servicing company Baker Hughes Inc.

Police also believe this was a private dispute, rather than a militant operation, sources say.

The upsurge of attacks on foreign oil interests has cut the country's oil production by 20%.

Last month, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) renewed its threat to continue oil installation attacks.

It said the offer of thousands more jobs and a new motorway from President Olusegun Obasanjo did not address their demands for more local control of oil wealth and demilitarisation.

The shooting follows two car bomb attacks in recent weeks.

The Mend militant group claimed responsibility for them, saying the last one was a warning against Chinese expansion in the region.

Earlier that week, Chinese President Hu Jintao had secured four oil drilling licenses for China in return for $4bn (£2.25bn) of investment in Nigeria.

Most of its previous operations have been in the rivers and creeks of the Delta, rather than urban areas.


Posted by Publisher at 06:30 PM | Comments (0)

US oil worker killed in Nigeria

A US oil worker has been shot dead in the troubled southern Nigerian city of Port Harcourt.

Rivers State Police Commissioner Samuel Agbetuyi told the BBC attackers on a motorbike shot the man as he was driving his car early on Wednesday.

The BBC's Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar says it is first time a foreigner has been a drive-by shooting victim in the region.

A Nigerian militant group waging a campaign against the oil industry said it had no hand in the killing.

The man's name has been withheld. He worked for oil servicing company Baker Hughes Inc.

In recent months, militants in the southern Niger Delta region have kidnapped foreign oil workers and warned them to leave the Delta. They want more local control of the region's oil wealth.

The upsurge of attacks on foreign oil interests has cut the country's oil production by 20%.

Last month, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) renewed its threat to continue oil installation attacks.

It said the offer of thousands more jobs and a new motorway from President Olusegun Obasanjo did not address their demands for more local control of oil wealth and demilitarisation.

The shooting follows two car bomb attacks in recent weeks.

The Mend militant group claimed responsibility for them, saying the last one was a warning against Chinese expansion in the region.

Earlier that week, Chinese President Hu Jintao had secured four oil drilling licenses for China in return for $4bn (£2.25bn) of investment in Nigeria.

Most of its previous operations have been in the rivers and creeks of the Delta, rather than urban areas.

Posted by Publisher at 06:06 PM | Comments (0)

May 09, 2006

Nigeria MP in land-for-vote claim

A Nigerian MP has told the BBC that he was offered a plot of land if he agreed to back moves to let President Olusegun Obasanjo seek a third term in office.

Uche Onyeagucha said he refused the offer of land in the capital, Abuja.

The president's supporters are trying to get the constitution changed in the face of strong opposition in the country and the ruling party.

One of the president's supporters, MP Bako Sarai, denied that money or land were being offered for votes.

President Obasanjo has so far not said whether he will seek a third term but his supporters say he should run in elections due next year.

The bill proposing the constitutional changes is being debated by the National Assembly.

'Evidence'

"Somebody highly placed in government has asked me to sign an endorsement of the third term project and I would be adequately remunerated," Mr Onyeagucha told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

He said the term limits were the best way of protecting Nigeria's democratic system after years of military rule.

But Mr Sarai said such allegations were a "lie".

"If somebody says they were offered money, let them give evidence," he said.

Last week, the US warned Nigeria against changing the constitution.

Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who also wants the top job, has declared himself against the amendment.

He has helped Mr Obasanjo win two elections and has held the position of vice-president since 1999.

Some opponents of the constitutional change argue that the presidency needs to rotate among people from different regions and ethnic groups.

For the amendment to pass, it requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of the assembly and it needs the backing of two-thirds of the states.

Posted by Publisher at 02:47 PM | Comments (0)

May 08, 2006

S Africa's Zuma cleared of rape

Former South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma has been acquitted of raping a 31-year-old family friend.

There were jubilant scenes in central Johannesburg as Mr Zuma addressed the crowd, and accused the media of finding him guilty before the trial started.

Mr Zuma was once seen as a future president and remains popular, but analysts say evidence aired in the rape trial has badly damaged his reputation.

He still faces a separate charge of corruption, to be heard in July.

Delivering judgement, Judge Willem van der Merwe said the state had not proven the case beyond reasonable doubt.

He also referred to evidence given by the defence, suggesting that the complainant had a history of making false accusations of rape.

"The complainant was inclined to accuse men of raping her or attempting to rape her," the judge concluded.

Probabilities

Mr Zuma, who played a key role in the fight against apartheid, admitted having had sex with the woman, but insisted it was consensual.

Referring to their contradictory versions of the events of the night of 2 November 2005, the judge declared "the probabilities favour the accused's version".

He said Mr Zuma would not have risked forcing himself on the woman when his own daughter was in the house and police were on guard outside, who would have heard the accused if she had cried out.

Because of public interest in the case, Judge van der Merwe allowed his four-hour ruling to be broadcast live on radio and television.

The judge began his ruling by expressing his regret that "some pressure groups and individuals found the accused guilty and some found him not guilty" while the trial was under way.

'Bad dreams'

A significant police presence, along with rolls of razor wire and police trucks, had moved in to cordon off the court house overnight.

A crowd of several hundred supporters was present as proceedings began, but had grown to more than 1,000 by midday.

Women demonstrating against rape outside the court wore "kangas", or wrap-around cloths, in protest at the defence's argument that the complainant had provoked the sexual encounter by wearing such a cloth while a guest at Mr Zuma's house.

The woman demonstrators left quietly as the judge approached his verdict, and the much larger crowd of Mr Zuma's supporters became rowdy.

Mr Zuma addressed the crowd in nearby Beyers Naude Square, with angry words for the media and political analysts who have criticised him.

"A person who is charged remains innocent until proven otherwise - this is one of the golden rules of our constitution but the press broke this rule," he said.

"Today the bad dreams have evaporated."

'Unacceptable'

While deputy president, Mr Zuma was also head of South Africa's National Aids Council and the Moral Regeneration Movement.

His views on HIV prevention, which were aired in court, have shocked Aids activists.

Mr Zuma said he had had a shower after sex to prevent HIV transmission and believed that a healthy man was unlikely to catch HIV from a woman.

Judge van der Merwe said such behaviour was "totally unacceptable", reports the AFP news agency.

"This trial has really damaged his reputation, his credibility," political analyst William Mervin Gumede told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

In July, he faces another trial on the corruption charges that led to his dismissal as deputy president last year. He denies the charges.

Posted by Administrator at 03:03 PM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2006

Mandela 'murder plotters' escape

Two men accused of plotting to kill Nelson Mandela have escaped from a court in South Africa. Mandela 'murder plotters' escape

Herman van Rooyen and Rudi Gouws are charged with involvement in a white supremacist plot to topple South Africa's post-apartheid government.

The pair fled the Pretoria court during a break for lunch, officials said.

The trial began with 22 suspects, but many charges have been dropped and some have questioned whether the alleged plotters ever posed a real threat.

"I can confirm that during the lunch recess two of the accused went missing," court official Sally de Beer said.

"We have launched a massive search and obviously have already started an investigation into the circumstances surrounding their escape."

Slow progress

White supremacists opposed to the enfranchisement of South Africa's black majority were seen as the biggest threat to the state in the years after the collapse of the apartheid regime.

Mr van Rooyen, 33, and Mr Gouws, 28, are among those charged with the murder of Claude Mokone in the Johannesburg township of Soweto in October 2002.

They are also alleged to have been involved in a plot to blow up the car carrying Nelson Mandela during his time as South African president.

However, the plot failed when Mr Mandela travelled by helicopter instead.

The trial has been repeatedly delayed and has crawled along in court as defence lawyers challenge the validity of the court and South Africa's post-apartheid constitution.


Posted by Publisher at 09:58 AM | Comments (0)

Niger Delta unrest dampens Shell

Royal Dutch Shell saw first quarter profits climb by 12%, boosted by higher oil and gas prices.

But profits were tempered by lower oil production in Nigeria due to unrest in the Delta region, and in the Gulf of Mexico, following Hurricane Katrina.

The firm's current cost of supply net income - a figure that discounts fluctuations in the market - hit $6.08bn (£3.30bn; £4.8bn euros).

China is set to be one of Shell's most important areas of expansion.

Shell and China's CNOOC have launched a $4.3bn joint venture at the Nanhai petrochemicals complex in Guandong, which Shell says is the largest single foreign investment in China.

External factors

Meanwhile, despite oil prices rising recently to around $75 a barrel, external factors reduced the firm's crude oil production.

Production in Nigeria has been reduced by 455,000 barrels a day, while the Mars platform in the Gulf of Mexico is still not producing oil following damage during Hurricane Katrina.

It is expected to come back in production in May 2006, and reach the same levels that were seen before Hurricane Katrina.

Ignoring oil price fluctuations, profits at Shell rose to $6.9bn.

Analysts generally commented positively on the latest figures.

Richard Hunter, with Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers said: "There can be little doubt that these are a robust set of numbers, even though Shell has had to face ongoing disruption from the aftermath of last year's hurricanes and, latterly, the Nigerian situation."

Shell's chief executive, Jeroen van de Veer, announced an updated strategy for the firm.

"We are committed to increase our production to 3.8 million to 4 million barrels of oil equivalent [which includes gas] by 2009," he said.

He added that Shell was committed to developing unconventional hydrocarbon sources such as oil sands and gas-to-liquid.


Posted by Publisher at 09:34 AM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2006

Car blast near Nigeria oil port

There has been a car bomb attack near an oil refinery in Nigeria's Delta region, reports say.

State officials told the AFP news agency there were no casualties when the car blew up near the port town of Warri, but several cars were damaged.

The car was parked at a truck stop used by oil tankers which service the town's refinery, a military official said.

The Mend militant group said it carried out the blast, as a warning against Chinese expansion in the region.

Earlier this week, Chinese President Hu Jintao secured four oil drilling licenses for China in return for $4bn (£2.25bn) of investment in Nigeria during a two-day visit.

'Steer clear'

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) group had also e-mailed journalists before the explosion announcing the attack was going to take place.

Mend said the blast was "the last warning to oil industry workers" and warned China against further involvement in the region.

"We wish to warn the Chinese government and its oil companies to steer well clear of the Niger Delta," the statement said.

"The Chinese government by investing in stolen crude places its citizens in our line of fire," it said.

The militants, who carried out a car bomb attack on 20 April in the nearby city of Port Harcourt which killed two people, are demanding more local control of the region's oil wealth.

In recent months, the group has kidnapped foreign oil workers and warned them to leave the Delta.

The upsurge of attacks on foreign oil interests has cut the country's oil production by 20%.

This has cost Nigeria millions of dollars of lost revenue and helped to drive up world oil prices.

Posted by Publisher at 12:07 PM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2006

China's Hu cements Nigeria ties

Chinese President Hu Jintao is due to meet his Nigerian counterpart, Olusegun Obasanjo, and to address the Nigerian National Assembly on Thursday.

On Wednesday, China secured four oil drilling licences from Nigeria in a deal involving $4bn in investment.

Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa's top oil exporter, has long been viewed by China as a partner.

President Hu is on a week-long tour of Africa, his second in three years. He is due in Kenya later on Thursday.

The deal signed on Wednesday is one of seven co-operation agreements signed by Nigeria and China during the president's visit.

China will buy a controlling stake in Nigeria's 110,000 barrel-a-day Kaduna oil refinery and build a railway system and power stations.

Exploration blocks

The African nation will offer first right of refusal to China National Petroleum for a quartet of exploration blocks during a licensing round due to be held in Nigeria on 19 May.

The blocks comprise two areas in the oil-producing Niger Delta - one onshore and one in shallow water - and two areas in the higher-risk inland Chad basin, where no oil is produced at present.

Last week Chinese state oil firm CNOOC said it had completed a $2.3bn deal to buy a stake in a Nigerian oil field.

Importance

The visit indicates the importance China is attaching to securing energy and trade deals in the region.

Nigeria has the oil and gas that China wants, but also provides a potential market for Chinese goods.

Several Chinese companies have already constructed factories in Nigeria and more are planned for a free trade zone in the south-east of the country.

President Hu, who previously visited Nigeria in 2004, started his African trip in Morocco where he signed a number of trade deals with King Mohammed VI.

The visit comes in the wake of a series of others to Africa by Chinese ministers and officials.

Posted by Administrator at 12:20 AM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2006

Nigeria discrimination condemned

Millions of Nigerians are being treated like second-class citizens because they cannot prove their roots lie in the area where they live, a report says.

By Alex Last
BBC News, Lagos

Lobby group Human Rights Watch says state governments regularly deny access to jobs and basic services to people seen as non-indigenous.

This official discrimination helps fuel ethnic and religious conflict, it says.

There are more than 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria. Thousands have been killed in communal clashes since 1999.

Politicians blamed

As Nigerians have migrated around the country, their origins have become a major social and economic issue.

If a person cannot prove they are descended from the original settlers of the area where they live, they're categorised as "non-indigenes".

It does not matter if their family has lived in the area for more than a century.

HRW says state and local governments regularly deny non-indigenes access to government jobs, academic scholarships, even access to basic services.

An elderly Hausa resident of Zangon-Kataf in southern Kaduna said his family had lived there for 200 years but he still faced harassment and violence.

Their homes were burnt to the ground in 1992.

"Our parents were born here and we ourselves were born here. We know no other place other than here and so we have nowhere else to go," he said.

Sand clashes

The author of the report, Chris Albin-Lackey, says the discrimination is often driven by local leaders, seeking to divert blame for their own failings.

"By denying non-indigenes access to certain economic and educational opportunities, they're seeking to curry favour with their indigene constituents," he says.

"At the end of the day it's really a failure of leadership on the part of the federal government that has allowed all of this to happen."

Human Rights Watch says this discrimination helps fuel ethnic and religious violence, as poor communities struggle over control of resources.

Just two weeks ago in central Nigeria, there was a dispute over whether a non-indigene had the right to take sand from a river bed to build a house.

It sparked clashes which left more than 20 people dead.

Human Rights Watch says the federal government must legislate to end the discrimination.

Changing ingrained attitudes on the ground, though, could prove more difficult.


Posted by Publisher at 11:06 AM | Comments (0)

April 21, 2006

Nigeria's shadowy oil rebels

Little is known about the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta but it has shown that it is capable of destablising Nigeria's oil industry.

A wave of attacks on oil installations and kidnapping of foreign oil workers has reduced ouptut by 25% and now it has expanded its theatre of operations by placing a car bomb in a miltary barracks in the regional capital, Port Harcourt.

Most of its previous operations have been in the rivers and creeks of the Delta, rather than urban areas.

Analysts say the group has shown that it has some political support from the communities of Nigeria's oil producing region, who have long complained that they were not benefitting from the riches under their feet.

It appears to be a more effective organisation than the armed groups which have been extorting money from companies working in the region and stealing oil for many years.

The explosions out in the swamps which have closed down significant parts of the oil industry were carefully placed by people who understood the geography of the pipeline network.

Meeting rebels

The BBC's Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar managed to meet one of the group's leaders, who used the alias Major-General Godswill Tamuno.

But he refused to be interviewed on tape or for his location to be disclosed.

Our correspondent says the "general" was not visibly armed and you could easily walk past him in the streets without noticing him.

Mend's leaders like to be faceless, our reporter says, and they usually send statements to the media via e-mail.

Mr Tamuno told our reporter that Mend was fighting for "total control" of the Niger Delta's oil wealth, saying local people had not gained from the riches under the ground and the region's creeks and swamps.

He said the Delta had been exploited for the benefit of other parts of Nigeria and foreign companies and ordered all oil companies and Nigerians whose roots lie elsewhere to leave the region.


This argument has been made by several other militant groups who have staged attacks in the Niger Delta in recent years.

Nigeria is one of the world's biggest oil exporters and yet most Delta residents live in poverty.

There are few major roads in the area and even fewer decent hospitals.

The group enjoys considerable local support and it is difficult to pinpoint exactly who is a member, our reporter says.

But unlike at least one other group, Mend has not specifically called for the Niger Delta to secede from Nigeria.

Oil thieves

This was one of the demands of Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, the leader of another militant group which said it was standing up for the rights of the Niger Delta's biggest community, the Ijaws.

Last year, his threats of open warfare against foreign oil companies caused turbulence on the world markets.

He was invited to the capital, Abuja for a meeting with President Olusegun Obasanjo.

He operated quite openly and after talking about independence once too often, he was arrested and is in custody, awaiting charges of treason.

Another Mend demand has been for the release of Mr Asari but they insist they are a separate organisation.

However, Mr Asari's Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force has gone quiet recently and it is quite likely that at least some of his supporters are behind the new group.

While Mend and the other militant groups claim to be standing up for Delta residents, some locals say they are just oil thieves.

The region is home to a huge industry of stealing oil and selling it on the black market.

This trade is believed to fund the purchase of weapons.

Posted by Publisher at 02:16 PM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2006

Nigerian militant car bomb attack

Nigerian militants have claimed responsibility for exploding a car bomb at an army barracks in the southern oil city of Port Harcourt.

Two people died in the attack a day after the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta renewed its threat to target oil installations.

On Wednesday, Mend rejected plans announced by President Olusegun Obasanjo to develop the Niger Delta.

The militants are demanding more local control of the region's oil wealth.

In recent months there has been an upsurge of attacks on foreign oil interests which have cut the country's oil production by 20%.

This has cost Nigeria millions of dollars of lost revenue and helped to drive up world oil prices.

Warning

In a statement, Mend said the attack which killed two people and critically injured six more on Wednesday night "was symbolic rather than strategic".

The group said the attack was a warning to the Nigerian military and the oil companies in the area and proved that the Nigerian military was incapable of protecting itself, let alone protecting the oil industry.

"We suddenly heard one heavy bang and saw fire shoot up and everybody fled," nearby witness Tekena Lawson told AP news agency.

Military spokesman Maj Sagir Musa said explosives were placed in a Mercedes car parked inside the barracks and were detonated by remote control.

He said a number of civilians on the base were caught in the blast but he said no military personnel were hurt.

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says the use of a car bomb by militants is new.

Most previous militant attacks have been carried out among the creeks of the Niger Delta, not inside a major city like Port Harcourt.

It is also the first time Mend has claimed responsibility for an operation in the eastern Niger Delta. So far, their attacks have been confined to the west, our correspondent says.

Recently the militants announced it would stop taking hostages and use different tactics in its campaign to gain greater local control of the area's oil wealth.

'Injustice'

Mend says the government's development plan announced this week was trying to remedy 50 years of injustice with the promise of menial jobs.

At the first meeting of a council set up to speed up development in the Niger Delta, President Obasanjo promised thousands more jobs and a $1.8bn (£1bn) motorway project for the oil-rich region.

Despite being home to Nigeria's oil industry for more than 50 years, there is acute poverty in the Delta.

Our reporter says the militants' grievances were not addressed at the meeting.

Although there have been promises of development in the past, few have become reality, he says.

In recent months, Mend have kidnapped foreign oil workers and warned them to leave the Delta.

Nigeria is the world's eighth largest oil exporter.


Posted by Publisher at 02:11 PM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2006

Nigeria VP rubbishes suspension

Nigeria's vice-president has dismissed reports that the ruling party in his home state has suspended him.

"He laughed it off because it is ridiculous," Atiku Abubakar's spokesman told the BBC Network Africa programme.

This is the latest in a deepening row within the People's Democratic Party over proposals for a constitutional amendment to allow third terms.

Mr Abubakar opposes moves to allow President Olusegun Obasanjo to seek another term in office.

The issue has divided the ruling PDP and Nigerian public opinion.

Mr Obasanjo has not publicly said whether he wants to remain in office but both men are believed to want to contest elections due next year.

Mr Abubakar's spokesman said the decision to suspend the vice-president in Adamawa State was taken by a group in the party calling themselves stakeholders who had no impact politically.

"Anybody can call themselves stakeholders and start sacking people left, right and centre. So it is absolutely of no legal or political consequence," Garba Shehu told the BBC.

Mr Obasanjo and Mr Abubakar have been president and vice-president since the end of military rule in 1999.

The National Assembly is due to consider more than 100 proposed constitutional amendments, including whether to extend the limit on a president's term in office from two to three terms.

Opponents of the constitutional change argue that the presidency needs to rotate among people from different regions and ethnic groups.

Mr Obasanjo is a Christian from the south-west while Mr Abubakar is a Muslim from the north.

Posted by Publisher at 04:29 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria head offers Delta boost

Nigeria's president has promised thousands more jobs and a new motorway for the oil-rich Niger Delta region.

Olusegun Obasanjo told officials from the troubled states that new jobs would be created in the military, police and the state oil company.

There has been an upsurge of violence in recent months in the Delta, which remains poor despite its oil wealth.

Attacks by militants on foreign oil interests there have cut the country's oil production by a quarter.

They have cost Nigeria millions of dollars of lost revenue and helped to drive up world oil prices.

Grievances

Announcing the new jobs and a $1.8bn (£1bn) motorway project, President Obasanjo told state representatives that the meeting was "a wonderful opportunity for a new beginning".

OBASANJO'S PROMISES

*Jobs in oil, navy, police
*Widening of main highway
*Health care
*Environmental repair
*Better schools
*Electrification

He was addressing the first meeting of a council designed to speed development in the region.

An opposition politician, Gani Fawehinmi, told the BBC the measures were not enough, as 75% of young people in the Niger Delta were without jobs.

He suggested the timing of Mr Obasanjo's initiative was because he wanted a third term in office.

And a spokesman for one of the militant groups said the president's announcement was "not exciting enough to compel a positive response".

Oronto Douglas, an activist mediating for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), told Reuters news agency that the struggle had gone "beyond just development".

In February, Mend kidnapped nine foreign workers in the region, but later released them all. The group has threatened further attacks on oil industry targets.

The militants, who say they are angered by poverty in the region, are seeking greater local control of the area's oil wealth.

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says the militants' grievances were not addressed at the meeting.

Although there have been promises of development in the past, few have become reality, he says.

The real test will be to see if this time the development will reach the communities who are in need, our correspondent says.


Posted by Publisher at 01:09 PM | Comments (0)

April 08, 2006

Obasanjo should resign, VP says

The row between Nigeria's leaders has intensified, with the vice-president urging President Olusegun Obasanjo to resign "for breaking the constitution".

Vice-President Atiku Abubakar opposes moves to let Mr Obasanjo seek a third term in office.

His comments come after he was told to step down by Mr Obasanjo's spokesman.

Mr Obasanjo has not publicly said whether he wants to remain in office but both men are believed to want to contest elections due next year.

They have been president and vice-president since the end of military rule in 1999.

'Subversive'

Mr Obasanjo's supporters have been campaigning for the constitution to be changed, in the face of vigorous opposition from various groups.

Hostility between Mr Obasanjo and his deputy has been brewing beneath the surface for some time, fuelled by political ambition, but has now come into the open, the BBC's Alex Last reports from Abuja.

"The call for resignation should be directed at the president... for pursuing an agenda that is subversive of the constitution, and the will of the majority of Nigerians," said the statement signed by Mr Abubakar's spokesman.

"For the avoidance of doubt, the vice president believes tenure elongation is morally wrong and a breach of the constitution, which he took the oath to defend," it said.

Presidential spokesman Femi Fani-Kayode replied that Mr Obasanjo had not said he wanted to seek a third term and so had not broken the constitution.

Mr Fani-Kayode had earlier said that if Mr Abubakar was unhappy in government, he should do the right thing and step down.

Security agents

Mr Abubakar on Wednesday night publicly declared his position for the first time, attending a meeting of senior figures opposed to changing the constitution.

He said he was prepared to take this stand because anything the government did to him could not be worse than his last three years in office.

Former military leader Muhammadu Buhari, who lost the 2003 elections to Mr Obasanjo, attended the meeting, along with MPs and both serving and former state governors.

State security agents said the group could not hold the talks at the Abuja Sheraton hotel because they had not sought police permission.

Instead, they moved to a government office.

Disloyalty

The issue has divided the ruling People's Democratic Party and Nigerian public opinion.

Relations between the president and his vice-president have been strained since last August, when President Obasanjo publicly accused his deputy of disloyalty.

On Wednesday Mr Obasanjo's spokesman told the BBC that the president would consider whether or not to stand if the constitution was changed.

The National Assembly is due to consider more than 100 proposed constitutional amendments, including whether to extend the limit on a president's term in office from two to three terms.

Opponents of the constitutional change argue that the presidency needs to rotate among people from different regions and ethnic groups.

Mr Obasanjo is a Christian from the south-west while Mr Abubakar is a Muslim from the north.

Recently, a majority of Nigeria's state governors agreed that a constitutional review was necessary within the life of the current administration.

Posted by Publisher at 05:36 PM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2006

Obasanjo willing for third term

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo will consider standing for a third term, his spokesman has confirmed.

Femi Fani Kayode was responding to a US newspaper report in which Mr Obasanjo said God would decide whether to extend his time as president after 2007.

Mr Kayode told the BBC this decision would not be decided by God alone and that there were other considerations, like amending the constitution.

The current constitution only allows presidents to stand for two terms.

Mr Obasanjo has not previously said in public that he wishes to stand for a third term.

The issue has divided the ruling People's Democratic Party and Nigerian public opinion.

God's role

The National Assembly is due to consider more than 100 proposed constitutional amendments, including whether to extend the president's term in office from two to three terms.

Asked about a report in the Washington Post that quoted Mr Obasanjo as saying that God would play a part in helping him decide whether to stand again, Mr Kayode confirmed the president had referred to God in this way.

But he said it was "not accurate to put it in the context in which it was put that it would be decided by God, as if to say there were no other considerations".

"We are not ashamed of that fact that we are a nation of believers... we believe that God rules in the affairs of men," Mr Kayode told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

"What he said is that God is not a God of abandoned projects. What he was referring to are the economic policies of this nation. What he's referring to are the economic reform programmes that this administration has set in place," the spokesman explained.

"It does not necessarily mean that that means that God is going to use him in the future."

Rotation

Mr Obasanjo has not publicly said he wants to stand for another term, but there has been speculation that behind the scenes he is trying to secure a third term.

Supporters of Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who is thought to be eyeing the presidency, oppose moves to change the constitution.

Opponents of the constitutional change argue that the presidency needs to rotate among people from different regions and ethnic groups.

Recently, a majority of Nigeria's state governors agreed that a constitutional review was necessary within the life of the current administration.

Posted by Publisher at 12:37 PM | Comments (2)

April 03, 2006

Taylor to face war crimes court

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor is set to appear at the UN-backed special war crimes court in Sierra Leone for the first time.

He faces charges for allegedly backing Revolutionary United Front rebels in Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war.

The rebels committed widespread atrocities - such as chopping off civilians' limbs - as they fought to overthrow the country's government.

Mr Taylor was transferred to Sierra Leone after being arrested in Nigeria.

Nigeria had given him asylum under an agreement to end Liberia's own civil war in 2003.

Detailed charge sheet

During his appearance at the court in Freetown, Mr Taylor is expected to enter a plea to 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The chief prosecutor at the court describes 58-year-old Mr Taylor as one of the three worst war criminals in the world, alongside the Serbian fugitives Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic.

The indictment he faces has been shortened and simplified, but is still a lengthy document.

The charges against him include murder, rape, sexual slavery, physical violence and cruel treatment, recruiting child soldiers and terrorising the civilian population.

In every case the charge sheet gives specific dates and places where these crimes were committed in Sierra Leone.

The BBC's Africa analyst Elizabeth Blunt says in this respect this is similar to other trials already going on at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, but what sets this apart from other trials is that Mr Taylor was in neighbouring Liberia when the events were taking place.

No-one is suggesting he personally burned villages or raped women, our correspondent says.

However there is a second part of the indictment which attempts to link Mr Taylor to the rebellion in Sierra Leone.

Diamond deal

The prosecution claims that Mr Taylor provided the RUF leader Foday Sankoh with training, money, arms and ammunition to start his rebellion in Sierra Leone, and even lent him fighters to take part in the initial attack.

It is alleged that he shared a common plan with the rebel commanders to gain power and control over Sierra Leone, so he could gain access to its diamonds and have a government in Freetown which would support his aims, our correspondent says.

Lawyers acting for Mr Taylor have said they are to ask for war crimes charges against him to be dismissed.

They argue that the UN-backed court in Sierra Leone,has no right try him and that it has no jurisdiction over Liberia or its former president.

The Special Court was set up to try to bring to justice those responsible for crimes during the country's decade-long civil war which officially ended in 2002.

The tribunal operates under both Sierra Leone domestic law and international humanitarian law.

The UN Security Council is considering a resolution to move Mr Taylor's trial to The Hague in the Netherlands because of fears his presence in Freetown could reignite conflict in Sierra Leone and Liberia.


Posted by Publisher at 02:07 PM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2006

Taylor trial 'may move to Hague'

Sierra Leone's war crimes tribunal has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to host the trial of ex-Liberian leader Charles Taylor.

The ICC said Sierra Leone's request to use The Hague as a venue was being considered, but stressed the African tribunal would still control the case.

The request has been backed by Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Mr Taylor, who was captured on Wednesday in Nigeria, faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The 11 counts, including responsibility for murder, rape and mutilation, relate to his alleged role fomenting war in Sierra Leone.

The former president's spiritual adviser, Kilari Anand Paul, has said Mr Taylor would be happy to face a trial in The Hague.

Instability fear

ICC spokesman Ernest Sagaga told the BBC News website that the ICC was examining the request from the Sierra Leone war crimes tribunal to hold proceedings on its premises.

"It would be still under the jurisdiction of the Special Court for Sierra Leone," he said.

Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Dirk-Jan Vermeij said the Sierra Leone tribunal was concerned that if Mr Taylor's trial was held in the capital, Freetown, it could lead to instability in the region.

The Netherlands was willing to co-operate with a trial at The Hague provided certain conditions were met, Mr Vermeij said.

US President George Bush said on Wednesday that he was keen for the trial to be moved, but to do so would require a UN Security Council resolution.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice believed it could be passed "relatively quickly", he added.

Guerrilla support

In a radio address to the nation, President Johnson-Sirleaf supported the moves to hold Mr Taylor's trial outside neighbouring Sierra Leone.

"We still expect a resolution from the Security Council that will allow a change in venue to a more conducive environment, such as the international court at The Hague," she said.

Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf said she had stressed that the UN had to ensure Mr Taylor was allowed "the right of a vigorous self-defence".

Others alleged to have committed war crimes in Sierra Leone are already on trial in Freetown.

However, observers fear Mr Taylor may still be able to mobilise a guerrilla army, capable of attacking the court in Freetown from the surrounding hills.

His supporters argue that a trial in Freetown could not be fair, even if the judges were international, because of the hatred felt by many Sierra Leoneans towards the man accused of starting their country's decade-long civil war.

Posted by Publisher at 03:10 PM | Comments (1)

March 29, 2006

Nigeria returns ex-Liberia leader

Exiled former Liberian president and war crimes suspect Charles Taylor is being removed from Nigeria after being caught trying to escape custody.

A jet has taken off from Nigeria and is flying him to Liberia - ending his exile of nearly three years.

He is, however, primarily wanted by the war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone and could arrive there later on Wednesday.

The UN-backed tribunal's top prosecutor Desmond da Silva told the BBC he was delighted he had been arrested.

The BBC's Mark Doyle reports that it is likely UN peacekeepers in Liberia will arrest Mr Taylor immediately after his arrival, then send him on to the tribunal.

If and when he arrives in the Sierra Leone capital, Freetown, a cell is waiting for him, our correspondent adds.

He faces 17 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity over his alleged role in the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone where he is accused of backing rebels notorious for mutilating civilians.

Border check

Mr Taylor, in exile in Nigeria since 2003 after a deal ending Liberia's civil war, went missing on Monday from his southern villa after the country announced Liberia was free to detain him.

The departure of the jet from Nigeria was confirmed by a police source and officials, as well as eyewitnesses.

Mr Taylor was detained earlier by security forces in the town of Gamboru-Ngala, close to the Cameroon border in the north-eastern Nigerian state of Borno.

The former Liberian leader had arrived at the frontier in a Range Rover jeep with diplomatic corps number plates, a trader working at the Gamboru-Ngala border post told AFP news agency.

"He was wearing a white flowing robe," said Babagana Alhaji Kata.

"He passed through immigration but when he reached customs they were suspicious and they insisted on searching the jeep, where they found a large amount of US dollars.

"After a further search they discovered he was Charles Taylor."

Nigeria has arrested Mr Taylor's Nigerian guards and has launched an investigation.

'Vindicated'

News of Mr Taylor's capture came just before Mr Obasanjo left for a visit to the US for talks with President George W Bush.

American indignation at the disappearance of the war crimes suspect had been threatening to overshadow the meeting.

Speaking in Washington before meeting Mr Bush, Mr Obasanjo said he felt "vindicated" by the capture.

Those who had suggested Nigeria may have been complicit in Mr Taylor's initial escape were wrong and owed him an apology, he added.


Posted by Publisher at 02:44 PM | Comments (0)

Charles Taylor caught in Nigeria

Exiled former Liberian president and war crimes suspect Charles Taylor is being removed from Nigeria after being caught trying to escape custody.

A jet has taken off from Nigeria and is flying him to Liberia following an order from Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to repatriate him.

He is then due to be transferred to the war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone.

He went missing on Monday from his southern Nigerian villa after Nigeria said Liberia was free to detain him.

Mr Taylor went into exile in 2003 in a deal ending Liberia's civil war.

He faces 17 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity over his alleged role in the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone where he is accused of backing rebels.

Mr Taylor is accused of selling diamonds and buying weapons for the Revolutionary United Front rebels

The rebels were notorious for hacking off the hands and legs of civilians during their decade-long war.

Tens of thousands of people died in the interlinked conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The BBC's Mark Doyle reports that it is likely United Nations peacekeepers in Liberia will arrest Mr Taylor immediately and then send him to the tribunal in Sierra Leone.

If and when he arrives, a cell is waiting for him, our correspondent adds.

Border check

The departure of the jet from Nigeria was confirmed by a police source and officials, as well as eyewitnesses.

Mr Taylor was detained earlier by security forces in the town of Gamboru-Ngala, close to the Cameroon border in the north-eastern Nigerian state of Borno.

The former Liberian leader had arrived at the frontier in a Range Rover jeep with diplomatic corps number plates, a trader working at the Gamboru-Ngala border post told AFP news agency.

"He was wearing a white flowing robe," said Babagana Alhaji Kata.

"He passed through immigration but when he reached customs they were suspicious and they insisted on searching the jeep, where they found a large amount of US dollars.

"After a further search they discovered he was Charles Taylor."

Nigeria has arrested Mr Taylor's Nigerian guards and has launched an investigation.

Escape scare

President Obasanjo ordered Mr Taylor to be sent back to Liberia immediately to be placed in custody there, Information Minister Frank Nweke told reporters.

TAYLOR TIMELINE
1997: Elected Liberian president after leading rebellion
1991-2002: Alleged role in Sierra Leone's civil war
June 2003: Arrest warrant issued by Sierra Leone tribunal
August 2003: Begins exile in Nigeria after civil war at home
March 2006: Detained by Nigeria while fleeing

News of his detention came an hour before Mr Obasanjo was due to leave for a visit to the US where he is to meet President George W Bush.

Mr Bush had been facing calls to cancel the meeting in protest at Nigeria's failure to place Mr Taylor in custody after approving his surrender to Liberia at the weekend.

The Nigerian president had been "very shocked" by Mr Taylor's disappearance from his villa in Calabar, Mr Nweke told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

Desmond de Silva, chief prosecutor of the war crimes court in Sierra Leone, had warned Mr Taylor could use his vast wealth and contacts to organise his escape.

He described Mr Taylor as one of the three most important wanted war crimes suspects in the world.


Posted by Publisher at 02:42 PM | Comments (0)

March 27, 2006

Dispute over Taylor extradition

Nigeria and Liberia are in disagreement over the extradition of the exiled former president Charles Taylor.

Liberia's new leader says she wants her predecessor sent directly to the UN-backed war crimes court in Sierra Leone and does not want him in Liberia.

But Nigeria says that it had agreed to hand him over to Liberia, who should now come and get him.

Nigeria says Mr Taylor is free to leave his exiled home and has not received an arrest warrant from Sierra Leone.

Mr Taylor left the presidency in Liberia for exile in Nigeria in 2003 in a deal to end the civil war, but there is uncertainty over whether he still remains in his luxury residency in Calabar.

Job done

President Olusegun Obasanjo's spokesperson Remi Oyo told Reuters news agency that Liberia's President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf had been told she "is free to come and take President Taylor into her custody".

"Our job is done, and it is done - Taylor is not a prisoner here," she was quoted as saying.

But Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf said she wanted her predecessor to be sent directly to Sierra Leone from Nigeria.

"Taylor should rather go to Sierra Leone rather than coming to Liberia," she told religious leaders at her official residence in Monrovia, according to AFP news agency.

"Mr Taylor was not indicted by a Liberian court and therefore he is not needed by a Liberian court."

Desmond de Silva, chief prosecutor of the war crimes court in Sierra Leone, has called for Mr Taylor's arrest in Nigeria, saying he was worried that the former Liberian leader may flee.

He also described Mr Taylor as one of the three most important wanted war crimes suspects in the world.

'Reneging on deal'

A number of Mr Taylor's supporters have been detained in Liberia amid fears they may stage an armed uprising.

A warrant was issued for Mr Taylor's arrest three years ago on 17 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the civil war in Sierra Leone.

The 15,000 United Nations peacekeepers in Liberia are under instructions to arrest and transfer him to the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone if he ever sets foot on Liberian soil.

A spokesman for Mr Taylor said Nigeria's move was in breach of the 2003 peace deal, which ended 14 years of civil war in Liberia, of which Mr Taylor's exile was a crucial part.

Human rights activists accuse Mr Taylor of breaking the terms of the agreement by continuing to meddle in Liberian politics.

Tens of thousands of people died in the interlinked conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Mr Taylor is accused of selling diamonds and buying weapons for Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front rebels, who were notorious for hacking off the hands and legs of civilians during a 10-year war.

He also started the Liberian civil war in 1989, before being elected president in 1997.

Posted by Publisher at 04:17 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria militants release workers

Nigerian militants have released three kidnapped Western oil workers held hostage for more than a month.

The two Americans and a Briton were handed over to government officials in Warri, 340km (210 miles) south-east of the commercial capital Lagos.

The men - all unharmed - were among a group of nine foreign workers kidnapped on 18 February. The other six were released after a week.

Their kidnappers want Nigeria's oil wealth to be shared more fairly.

The kidnapping was part of a wider recent campaign of attacks on Western targets in the main Niger Delta oil producing region.

The three released men, Americans Cody Oswald and Russell Spell and Briton John Hudspith, work for US engineering firm Willbros under contract to the Anglo-Dutch energy giant Shell.

Said to be in good health, they are expected to be flown out of the country shortly.

'Intense mediation'

The militants, from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), said they would now stop taking hostages, in order to concentrate on attacking oil installations, reports the Reuters news agency.

Mend snatched the nine hostages in a gun battle on an oil company barge.

The final three captives were released five weeks later under cover of darkness, brought in by boat from the creeks of the Niger Delta to Warri, says the BBC's Alex Last in Lagos.

He says the kidnappers held on for longer to what they called the "high-value" hostages because they wanted guarantees that there would be no military retaliation after the men were freed.

They have not given a reason for the timing of the release but there has been intense mediation by leaders of the local Ijaw people, including former militants, to secure their freedom, our correspondent says.

A member of the mediation team told the BBC that the militant group had understood that talks with the government could only proceed once the hostages were freed.

Delta state governor James Ibori denied that any ransom had been paid.

"Now that they have been released, the pertinent issues raised by the youths on the Niger Delta condition will have to be addressed," he said.

Mend is demanding an end to military operations in the Niger Delta, greater local control of the area's oil wealth and the release of two prominent local leaders.

The militants also want $1.5bn (£860m) compensation from Shell for pollution in the Niger Delta.

Mend has threatened to carry out more attacks on oil industry targets if its demands are not met.

The group has already managed to cut Nigerian oil production by 25%, our correspondent says.


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March 24, 2006

Nigeria fears keep oil price high

Oil hit a high of $64 in early trading, before slightly falling, after hitting its highest level in seven weeks amid renewed concerns of supply in Nigeria.

Exports from Nigeria, Africa's largest producer, have been stalled by attacks on the pipelines there.

The increase was also prompted by the fact that US supplies will drop during scheduled maintenance.

By early afternoon US light crude fell to $63.55 a barrel, 36 cents down on £63.80 earlier in the day.

Brent crude stood at $62.85, falling 32 cents on the earlier price of $63.17.

Italian company Eni said it could not honour crude oil export commodities from its Nigerian Brass Rover terminal, which loads about 200,000 barrels a day, following last week's pipeline attack.

This follows an earlier decision by Royal Dutch Shell among others to shut down 630,000 barrels a day of production in Nigeria.

Even while US inventories remained at seven-year highs, traders were concerned about pending maintenance and prolonged unplanned outages at US plants.

The market is sensitive about any disruption to supply, especially before demand peaks in the summer.

Exxon Mobil will close a Texas-based petrol producing unit in May for maintenance.

US gasoline stocks declined by 2.3 million barrels in the week ending 17 March, more than twice as much as expected, because of lower imports and strong demand, the US Department of Energy said.

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Nigeria census officials attacked

Nigerian census officials have been attacked in the south-east, where Biafran separatists want people to boycott the first census for 15 years.

A female enumerator in Enugu city was beaten up and her car burnt and another in Onitsha had acid poured over her.

Earlier, four census officials in rural Enugu State were hacked with machetes.

The banned Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (Massob) say they do not want to be party to a national project.

The Igbos in the south-east fought to break away from the rest of Nigeria during a three-year civil war that ended in 1970.

The headcount is sensitive across the country, as funding and political representation depend on the results but questions of religion and ethnicity have been left out.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous country but estimates of its population range from 120 to 150 million.

'Terrible experience'

"They beat me and kicked me all over. When I shouted for help they brought a pistol and threatened to shoot me," census official Florence Ogbuehi told reporters in Enugu about the incident that took place at a primary school on Wednesday.

Massob had warned people not to participate in the census, her attackers said.

They later asked her to open her car, removed some jewellery and then burnt it with the census material inside.

"It was terrible experience," she said.

On Tuesday, in neighbouring Anambra State, enumerator Felicia Nwachukwu told the BBC that she and her colleagues were attacked as they were going house-to-house in Onitsha.

Three young men rode up on motorbikes and then set upon them with machetes.

Ms Nwachukwu said she ran away and was pursued into a compound, from where she was dragged out by her assailant who poured acid on her back.

She has received medical treatment for burns.

On the same day, four male enumerators were attacked in Ubahu Owo village in Enugu State with men carrying machetes.

The BBC's Chukwujama Eze in Enugu says two of the victims, who are being treated at a hospital in the city, have cuts and wounds to their heads, chests and bodies.

The area's divisional police officer confirmed the incident, but said no arrests had been made as the incident was being investigated.

Although the controversial questions about ethnicity and religion have been removed, other key questions include:

-Education background
-Occupation
-Income
-Size of house
-Type of water supply
-Toilet facilities
-Type of fuel used
-Access to radio, television, telephone

Nigeria's Civil Liberties Organisation has deployed some 42,000 people to monitor the enumerators and ensure everything is above board.

Only the last two days of the census have been declared national public holidays, even though people have been urged to stay at home until they are counted.

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March 21, 2006

Nigeria shuts down for key census

The streets of Nigeria's main cities are quiet, as people have been told to stay at home and wait to be counted in the first census for 15 years.

The headcount is sensitive, as funding and political representation depend on the results but questions of religion and ethnicity have been left out.

There is frustration in many places that the process has started slowly.

Nigeria's president has stressed that the five-day census is not political and urged people to remain calm.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous country but estimates of its population range from 120 to 150 million.

The BBC's Alex Last in the commercial capital, Lagos, says the normally congested streets are eerily quiet, as enumerators go house-to-house counting residents.

BBC correspondents in other cities report a similar story, however some people are getting impatient, as they have not yet been visited by the census officials.

Some areas have also reported a lack of materials, while in the south-eastern city, Enugu, some officials refused to carry out the census because they had not been paid.

There is also some confusion as the first three days of the census have not been declared national public holidays, even though people have been urged to stay at home until they are counted.

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says the results will be scrutinised to see whether the majority of people live in the predominantly Muslim north or the Christian and animist south.

Although the controversial questions about ethnicity and religion have been removed, other key questions include:

-Education background
-Occupation
-Income
-Size of house
-Type of water supply
-Toilet facilities
-Type of fuel used
-Access to radio, television, telephone

Our correspondent says the logistical challenge of counting the population will be huge, but the results could prove even more problematic.

Nigeria's Civil Liberties Organisation has deployed some 42,000 people to monitor the enumerators and ensure everything is above board.

In Lagos, they began by going out in the early hours with police, counting the number of homeless.

'Lack of confidence'

The police have been instructed to prevent large-scale movements of people to stop individuals being counted in different areas.

"I wish to stress once again that census-taking is not politics and should therefore not be a contest for political supremacy," President Olusegun Obasanjo said in a national address.

FACTS AND FIGURES

-Almost 1m enumerators
-42,000 monitors
-1991 census: 88.9m people
-People must stay at home to be counted
-Questions on ethnicity and religion taken out

He said the exercise would benefit all Nigerians, by letting the government know how many people live in each area and plan services accordingly.

"In the past, there had been lack of public confidence in the census process to the extent that census taking had become a contest for inter-group supremacy," the president said.

He said that the latest technology, such as Geographical Positioning System (GPS) and satellite images, were being used to ensure the headcount was accurate.

Local media report that donkeys and camels are also being used to reach some of the more remote parts of the vast country.

Several people were killed in clashes related to the census over the weekend.

With previous counts mired in controversy and charges of fraud, there are only rough estimates for Nigeria's population - ranging from 120 million to 150 million.


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Clashes prior to Nigeria census

Several people have been killed in Nigeria in clashes ahead of this week's controversial census, police say.

The deaths occurred in fighting between rival groups in south-west Ondo state.

The five-day census, the first in 15 years, starts on Tuesday. It is highly sensitive, as funding and political representation depend on the results.

Questions of religion and ethnicity have deliberately been left out following concern that the results could spark violence.

Hundreds of thousands of people are to be involved in collecting the census information.

Police did not put a number on those killed in the latest clash, but local newspapers said six died.

The violence flared in the village of Taribo in Ondo state. The people from the village are mainly ethnic Ijaws, although the surrounding area is largely populated by the Irele people.

Counting controversy

The dispute was apparently sparked by a row over whether Taribo village should be merged with its Irele neighbours for the purposes of the census.

Similar clashes erupted during the census demarcation process last year.

"Youths from Taribo-Ijaw rejected the merger and there was violence which resulted in several deaths," said an unnamed senior Nigerian police officer, quoted by the AFP news agency.

Other violent incidents were recorded in the northern city of Kano and neighbouring Katsina state.

It is thought at least some of the unrest was due to census workers being unhappy with their salaries.

Funds and jobs

The census, the first since 1991, has been ordered by President Olusegun Obasanjo.

"I wish to stress once again that census taking is not politics and should therefore not be a contest for political supremacy," he said on Monday.

With previous counts mired in controversy, there are only rough estimates for Nigeria's population - ranging from 120 million to 150 million.

The census is controversial because its conclusions will shape future politics and economics.

Because of the high tensions, questions on ethnicity and religion have been taken out of the questionnaire.

However, funding for the different regions is partly decided by their population size.

And the relative strengths of every ethnic and religious group must be taken into consideration in determining appointments in the civil service, the armed forces and political institutions.

Previous censuses have descended into national rows about alleged fraud.


Posted by Publisher at 08:14 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria's counting controversy

No-one knows how many Nigerians there are - and until now the authorities have been too afraid to find out.

By Sola Odunfa
BBC Focus on Africa magazine

Legend has it that one out of every five black people on Earth is a Nigerian. But that can only be an assumption, for every headcount held in Nigeria in the past 30 years has ended in national controversy and with strong allegations of population inflation.

The last census was carried out in 1991. Its figures - which are regarded only as being marginally less manipulated than the others - put the total population at 88.9 million, almost equally divided between the two sexes.

Since then the population has been projected on an annual growth rate of about 2.9%. The official projected figure for 2003 was 126 million.

Headcount

A new census was to have been held between November and December last year. Preparations for it by the National Population Commission (NPC) started in 2003.

But last July, President Olusegun Obasanjo delayed the exercise until this coming March.

The official reason given for the postponement was that vital material would not arrive from abroad in time for the headcount to be held as scheduled.

What was not openly acknowledged was the gathering political storm over the type of data to be collected.

The controversy relates to ethnicity and religion. How many Nigerians are Muslims and how many are Christians? What is the strength of each ethnic group in the country?

Traditional and political leaders in the largely Muslim northern states announced last year their strong opposition to the inclusion of questions on religious persuasion and ethnicity in the census questionnaire.

They warned that they would mobilise people in the states against taking part in the census if the questions were included. But governors of states in the south-east responded with a counter warning - they would mobilise against the headcount in their states if the data to be collected did not include the numerical strengths of every religious and ethnic group.

Amidst the growing furore, came the announcement from the NPC that it was abandoning the inclusion of the sensitive subjects - although it is not known whether it had made its decision before or after the heated arguments began.

Professor JG Ottong, a social scientist at the University of Calabar, explained that population has been a sensitive and controversial issue "because of its implications for shaping regional, state and ethnic relations and balance of power".

In the past, census figures were believed to have been manipulated for political advantage.

When Nigeria had three regions, the combined population of the two in the south was said to be less than that of the north. Therefore the north was - and still is - assured of absolute control of the federal government.

Funds

Southern leaders claimed at the time that election rigging began at the census level.

Their argument was that it ran against all known demographic principles for the largely semi-arid north to be more populated than the coastal south. And such deep-seated suspicion continues.

The mutual hostilities it engenders are thinly veiled. Each side is struggling for population and, therefore, political advantage.

The distribution of funds which accrue to the nation among the 36 component states is also based largely on population.

If a state is assigned a bloated populace, its draw from the national purse is more than that of those with smaller populations.

This accounts for the sharp interest shown by state governors in how the census is conducted.

In addition to the regional balancing of power on a population basis, there are also the ethnic and religious equations.

The Nigerian constitution stipulates that the "federal character" must be reflected in every government appointment.

This means that the relative strengths of every ethnic and religious group must be taken into consideration in determining appointments in the civil service, the armed forces and political institutions.

The "federal character" principle is a very touchy issue in Nigeria. Political and community leaders study the personnel composition of every institution of government with a microscope to find a breach of the principle where they are not favoured.

Christians across Nigeria refuse to accept past census conclusions that they are in a minority to Muslims.

On the other hand, Muslim leaders always point to the fact of their acknowledged numerical superiority to claim dominance in public institutions.


Posted by Publisher at 08:11 PM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2006

Nigerian opposition 'harassed'

Nigerian state security agents have arrested prominent opposition politician Lawal Kaita at his home.

A spokesman for his party accused the government of harassing opponents of President Olusegun Obasanjo's unstated plans for a third term in office.

The party said that three days ago the police had broken up an opposition rally, tear-gassing its supporters and arresting party activists.

Spokesman Lai Mohammed said Mr Kaita had been driven to the capital, Abuja.

"Lawal Kaita's arrest, coming barely 72 hours after police savagely disrupted the ACD [Advanced Congress of Democrats] rally in Dutse, is further proof of the return of the climate of political repression and muzzling of dissenting voices," ACD spokesman Lai Mohammed told Reuters news agency.

Police told Reuters they had stopped the rally as the organisers had not obtained permission for the event.

Confiscation

Earlier, the police had arrested a printer and confiscated thousands of copies of a booklet opposing plans for a third term.

The ACD was formed earlier this year by politicians who left the governing People's Democratic Party.

ACD members are mostly sympathisers of Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who is believed to have ambitions to succeed President Obasanjo and who opposes moves to allow the president a third term in office once his current term ends in 2007.

A majority of Nigeria's 36 state governors have expressed support for proposed constitutional changes that would allow the president a third term.

The issue has divided the PDP and Nigerian public opinion.


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Oil price up on Nigerian attack

Oil prices rose in early trading on Monday following reports of the latest attack on a pipeline in Nigeria.

Italian oil firm Eni confirmed that one of its Nigerian pipelines had been hit by an "act of sabotage", losing an unspecified amount of production.

Militants are attacking facilities in Nigeria's main Niger Delta oil region to demand that a greater share of the wealth stays in the local area.

US light crude was up seven cents to $62.84 in early Far Eastern trading.

"I think prices are reacting again to the situation in Nigeria, with Eni reporting attacks on its pipeline," said Andrew Harrington, resources analyst at ANZ Bank in Sydney.

Nigeria, Africa's biggest producer of crude, has seen a 20% cut in output since militants launched attacks on foreign oil companies at the start of this year.

The other two main factors keeping oil prices high are the ongoing security situation in Iraq and the nuclear stand-off with Iran that could ultimately result in trade sanctions against Tehran.


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March 19, 2006

Liberia seeks end to Taylor exile

Liberia has formally asked Nigeria to extradite former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

A spokeswoman for Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said he would put the request to other African leaders.

A UN-backed war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone wants to put Mr Taylor on trial for backing Sierra Leone rebels.

He stood down as Liberian leader and went into exile in Nigeria in 2003 under an international deal to end Liberia's 14-year civil war.

Liberian Information Minister Johnny McClain told the BBC that if the request was granted, Mr Taylor would be sent straight to Sierra Leone.

The 15,000 United Nations peacekeepers in Liberia are under instructions to arrest Mr Taylor and transfer him to the Special Court for Sierra Leone if he sets foot on Liberian soil.

'Empty cell'

A spokeswoman for the court's chief prosecutor Desmond de Silva told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that he welcomed the news that Mr Taylor may soon end his exile in Nigeria.

"His cell is empty and awaiting his arrival," the spokeswoman said.

An official from Mr Taylor's National Patriotic Party said the news was "shocking".

Mr Obasanjo has always refused to send Mr Taylor to Sierra Leone, saying he would only extradite him following a request from an elected Liberian leader.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf took power in Liberia in January after winning last year's elections and visited Nigeria earlier this month.

Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf has previously said her priority is rebuilding Liberia, rather than putting Mr Taylor on trial.

But before she briefed the UN Security Council in New York on the situation in Liberia, she confirmed the request, reports the AFP news agency.

"I asked the African (Union) leadership to bring the Taylor issue to closure," she said.

Immunity

Mr Taylor is accused of selling diamonds and buying weapons for Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front rebels, who were notorious for hacking off the hands and legs of civilians during a 10-year war.

He also started the Liberian civil war in 1989, before being elected president in 1997.

Mr Taylor's supporters have said that he enjoys immunity from prosecution under the peace deal which saw him step down.

But human rights activists have accused him of breaking the terms of that deal by trying to influence Liberian politics.

Just before Mr Taylor stepped on a plane to take him to the south-eastern Nigerian city of Calabar in August 2003, he told Liberians: "God willing, I will be back."

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March 13, 2006

Nigeria lawyers strike for rights

Lawyers in Nigeria have begun a two-day boycott of court proceedings.
The Nigerian Bar Association says the protest is over the "failure of the government to comply with court orders and the violation of human rights".

Association President Lanke Odogiyon said there was a disregard for the rule of law, reminiscent of when Nigeria was under military dictatorship.

The government had urged the lawyers not to observe the boycott, but failed to get a court order to stop them.

The Bar Association said it wanted to demonstrate what would happen if the justice system in Nigeria ceased to function.

Political battles

The lawyers say national and state governments routinely ignore court orders they do not like.

"The problem of disobedience towards court orders by members of the executive arm at all tiers of government... which was prevalent during the military dictatorship, has reared its ugly head under the present democratic dispensation," Mr Odogiyon said.

He said the problem was not just limited to disobeying court orders.

Every day, he said, defenceless citizens were shot dead by members of the security services and law enforcement agencies.

The government disputes all this and has called on Nigerian lawyers to ignore the boycott.

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says the protest is a public display of dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in Nigeria.

He says a further concern is that political battles in Nigeria are often fought in court, and with general elections due in 2007, lawyers want to know that judgements will be obeyed.

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March 10, 2006

Nigerian MPs back third term move

An influential group of Nigerian MPs has voted in favour of changing the constitution to allow presidents to run for a third term in office.

The recommendation by a committee of both houses of parliament is a major step towards allowing President Olusegun Obasanjo to stand again.

Parliamentarians are expected to decide on the issue by the end of March.

But the BBC's Alex Last says there is fierce opposition on the issue, which has divided opinion in the country.

The president has not said himself if he intends to stand again but there is intense speculation he will.

Oil demands

Its supporters say the vote was based on the outcome of recent public hearings held for two days in six towns around the country.

Opponents say that with a population of around 120 million people, the official public hearings were restrictive and hardly representative.

Another key issue endorsed by the committee was that the share of oil revenues going to oil-producing areas of Nigeria should be increased.

But our correspondent in Lagos says the proposed increase is short of what both politicians and militant groups in the Niger Delta had been demanding.

Two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly would need to agree to each of the more than 100 proposed constitutional changes for them to become law.

Thereafter the changes need the approval of 24 of Nigeria's 36 states.


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Nigeria militants fight military

The Nigerian military says it has fought a fierce gun battle with heavily armed militants in the Niger Delta.

Thirty speed boats each carrying 15 militants attacked a petrol tanker demanding fuel, an army source says.

The group, which is demanding a greater share of the region's oil wealth, says the military initiated the attack.

Wednesday's incident took place in an area known as a militant stronghold and near where it is suspected three foreign hostages are being held.

Distress call

In a statement, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) said their forces were out patrolling the rivers and creeks when they were attacked in the broad mangrove-lined Escravos River by a total of seven navy patrol boats near the village of Okerenkoko in the western Niger Delta.

The militants, who were armed with rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, said the gun battle lasted for 45 minutes.

However, military sources and an Ijaw leader says the militants attacked a petrol tanker because they needed fuel.

The vessel, which had a military escort, then sent out a distress signal and military reinforcements were despatched.

Both sides agree that the ensuing fire fight was fierce and it was deadly

The militants say they killed 13 government soldiers; the military says its forces killed many militants.

Concern

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says there have been no reports of further clashes on Thursday, but the increased tension in the area will be of concern to the negotiators trying to secure the release of the three foreign hostages.

They were among a group of nine oil workers seized during militant raids last month.

Six hostages were released last week, but two US citizens and one Briton are still being held and have now spent more than two weeks in captivity.

The militants have issued a long list of demands.

In particular, they want a pledge from the government that it will not retaliate once the hostages are released and a greater local control of revenue produced from the oil industry.

The recent unrest in the Delta region has led to a 20% drop in Nigeria's oil exports.


Posted by Publisher at 02:30 PM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2006

Nigeria Delta general moved out

The general leading Nigeria's fight against rebels in the oil producing Niger Delta has been replaced.

Removing Brigadier General Elias Zamani had been one of the demands of the militant group still holding three foreign oil workers hostage.

However, an army spokesman said the general's redeployment was "routine".

The militants want a greater share of the region's oil wealth for local Ijaw people. Their attacks have led to a 20% drop in Nigeria's oil exports.

Six hostages were released last week but two US citizens and one Briton remain in captivity.

They are employees of US oil services company Willbros, seized while laying a pipeline for oil giant Shell.

But the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) said that the remaining captives would be held until the group's demands were met.

They have also vowed to increase attacks on oil installations such as pipelines.

The militants said they wanted a pledge from the government that it would not launch reprisal attacks and said it should release two prominent local leaders, the BBC's Alex Last in Warri reports.

The militants also demanded that the Shell comply with a recent Nigerian court order and pay $1.5bn (£858m) in compensation for pollution in the Niger Delta, our correspondent says.


Posted by Publisher at 09:27 AM | Comments (2)

March 04, 2006

Nigeria warns on political riots

The Nigeria government says it will take tough action against politicians stirring up violence, after more than 100 deaths in religious riots.

Information Minister Frank Nweke said the authorities had heard of plans to provoke student demonstrations during the forthcoming census.

Nigeria's political temperature is rising ahead of next year's elections.

President Olusegun Obasanjo, a southern Christian, has fallen out with Muslim Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.

There are moves to change the constitution to enable Mr Obasanjo to contest a third term.

These are being strongly resisted by Mr Abubakar's supporters, especially in the mainly Muslim north.

'Mayhem'

Mr Nweke said the government would not hesitate to crack down on "selfish, unpatriotic, unprogressive and criminally minded persons", who he said were planning unrest.

"The identities of those who hide under the guise of religion to foment trouble and cause mayhem are also known.

"They will be unmasked and punished according to the laws of the land," he added.

He warned that high position would not protect troublemakers against arrest or prosecution.

The clashes started with Muslim protests against the cartoons satirising the prophet Muhammad in the north.

These overlapped with anti-third term protests and dozens of Christians were killed, sparking revenge attacks in the south.

Secret campaigning

Elections are not due to take place in Nigeria until next year, but the ruling party will soon have to choose its presidential candidate.

The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt in Abuja says this has unleashed a round of furious - if secretive - political campaigning.

Proposals to change the constitution and allow the president to seek re-election went to public consultation last week.

If Mr Obasanjo were to stay on, our correspondent says it would dash the hopes of his Mr Abubakar, as well as a number of ambitious state governors - all of whom are keen to stand.

It would mean that the same region - the Yoruba south-west - could hold on to the presidency for another four years, when other regions and religions think it is their turn.

There is no love lost between the president and his deputy, and a number of Mr Abubakar's associates have already found themselves in trouble with the law or being investigated for financial malpractice.

Meanwhile, a national census is also stirring up strong feelings.

So keen is every regional and religious group to prove its numerical strength that what should be a simple administrative exercise has become another fiercely contentious issue which - in the words of the information minister - is now "heating up the polity".


Posted by Publisher at 11:27 AM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2006

Nigeria rebels free six hostages

Militants in southern Nigeria have released six members of a group of nine foreign oil workers they have been holding hostage since 18 February.

Five of them - two Egyptians, two Thais and a Filipino - were taken to the office of the state governor. A US man was handed to journalists earlier.

Another two Americans and one Briton are still being held.

The militants have been demanding a greater share of the region's oil wealth for local Ijaw people.

Their attacks have led to a 20% drop in Nigeria's oil exports.

The group of nine are all employees of US oil services company Willbros. They were seized on a boat while laying a pipeline for Shell.

'Further attacks'

The six hostages were brought in to the town of Warri in two batches, following their release earlier on Wednesday.

Delta State governor James Ibori said he was "very pleased" that the six had been freed, but appealed to the group for the release of the remaining three.

"I want to tell them that there is no political gain for holding on to the remaining three... any longer," French news agency AFP quoted him as saying.

But the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) said that the remaining captives would be held until the group's demands were met and threatened to step up attacks against the country's oil industry.

"We will commence with attacks in another area of the Niger Delta with an aim to ensuring the total discontinuation of export of onshore crude oil," the group said in a statement after releasing the US hostage.

The militants said they wanted a pledge from the government that it would not launch reprisal attacks and said it should release two prominent local leaders, the BBC's Alex Last in Warri reports.

The militants also demanded that the Shell comply with a recent Nigerian court order and pay $1.5bn (£858m) in compensation for pollution in the Niger Delta, our correspondent says.

US hostage

The first hostage to be released, Macon Hawkins of Texas, said it felt great to be free.

His captors, armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, appeared out of the mangrove creeks to hand him over to journalists, including the BBC's Alex Last.

The militants said they released Mr Hawkins, 69, for humanitarian reasons.

"He was released on account of his age and poor health, with a stern warning not to return to the Niger Delta unless as a visitor," the group said.

"No ransom for him or any other hostage has been demanded or received," the statement said.


Posted by Publisher at 03:30 PM | Comments (0)

February 28, 2006

Army hopeful of Nigeria releases

The head of the Nigerian military unit seeking the release of nine kidnapped foreign oil workers says there is no military solution to the crisis.

By Alex Last
BBC News, Niger Delta

Brigadier Gen Elias Zamani told the BBC that the government hoped mediation efforts would see their release soon.

They were seized in the Niger Delta in one of a series of attacks by militants on the oil industry last week.

The militants have been demanding a greater share of the region's oil wealth for local Ijaw people.

Their attacks have led to a 20% drop in Nigeria's oil exports.

'Round the clock'

For now the Nigerian military in the Niger Delta has its hands tied, warned off by the government from taking any offensive action that would antagonise the militants holding the nine foreign hostages.

Brigadier Gen Zamani, the head of the Nigerian military task force in the Niger Delta, said negotiation efforts were going well.

"The civil authorities are working hard. They're not relenting in their efforts," he told the BBC.

"Since this has happened the government has been working round the clock to ensure they are released. There is hope they'll be released."

But one of the main concerns of both local leaders and the militants is that a military option will be considered once the hostages are free, and that, it seems, is delaying their release.

Brigadier Gen Zamani refused to rule out a military response saying specific situations on the ground would dictate if any actions were taken.

The problem is that usually it is not the militants who end up paying the price for the conflict in the Delta but rather it is the civilians caught in the middle.

Posted by Publisher at 10:22 AM | Comments (0)

Niger shuns 'bird flu' chickens

A day after the deadly strain of bird flu was confirmed in Niger, there are hardly any chickens on sale in the capital's markets.

A BBC correspondent says consumers have been wary of buying poultry since the H5N1 strain was confirmed in neighbouring Nigeria.

Despite public concern, the government is making no official comment until after Tuesday's cabinet meeting.

There has been no culling of poultry in the areas where bird flu was confirmed.

The BBC's Souleymane Issa Maiga in Niamey says the bodies of some 1,100 dead chickens and ducks have been incinerated in the two areas where the H5N1 strain was found.

These are both near the border with Nigeria.

In other developments:


Nigeria is due to start paying compensation to poultry farmers affected by bird flu;
The results of bird flu tests are due in Kenya;
Ethiopia is carrying out tests after the suspicious deaths of some 6,000 birds.
Nigerian officials have also urged people to carry on eating chickens and eggs, as long as they are cooked properly, to reduce the economic impact, reports the AFP news agency;
A farm affected by bird flu in northern Nigeria has been raided by villagers, who stole thousands of birds;
No human cases of the H5N1 strain have yet been found in Africa but the UN has warned of a possible regional disaster if the disease continues to spread.

'No transparency'

Our correspondent says that with a 1,200km border between Niger and Nigeria and many families divided between the two countries, it comes as no surprise that bird flu has crossed over.

This was echoed by Bernard Vallat, director of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

"The measures of confinement were not taken and transparency was not applied from the beginning [in Nigeria]," he said.

"Now we know that all of the neighbouring countries of Nigeria are under a very big threat."

Niger, like most West African countries, had banned poultry imports from Nigeria, where some 300,000 chickens have reportedly died.

Bird flu has also been found in Egypt.

But Nigerian officials stress that well cooked chicken and eggs are safe to eat.

"The panic is actually causing more problems and if we continue this way, in the next week, our economy would be badly affected," said the head of the state-run food and drug administration and control, Dora Akunyili.

Some hungry villagers in northern Bauchi state appear to be unconcerned and have stole thousands of birds suspected to have been infected with bird flu. Police have made several arrests.

The Nigerian government is to start paying affected poultry farmers in order to encourage them to report suspicious deaths and stop the spread of the disease.

But the farmers say the amount on offer - 250 naira ($2) per chicken - is less than half of the market value, leading to fears they might not tell the authorities if their birds fall ill.

More than 90 people have died of H5N1 bird flu since the disease's resurgence in December 2003 - most of them in South-East Asia.

Experts say that cross-infection to humans is still relatively rare and usually occurs where people have been in close contact with infected birds.

But they say if the H5N1 strain mutates so it can be passed between humans, it could become a global pandemic, killing millions.


Posted by Publisher at 09:59 AM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2006

Shell told to pay Nigeria $1.5bn

A Nigerian court has ordered oil giant Shell's local operation to pay $1.5bn to the Ijaw people of the Delta region.

The Ijaw have been fighting since 2000 for compensation for environmental degradation in the oil-rich region.

They took the case to court after Shell refused to make the payment ordered by Nigeria's parliament.

Ijaw militants have staged a spate of attacks against Shell facilities recently and are holding seven foreign oil workers hostage.

Following the violence, Shell - the biggest oil producer in Nigeria - has halved its output from the country.

Shell says it believes there is no evidence to support the claim, and will appeal against the ruling.

A statement said: "We remain committed to dialogue with the Ijaw people."

Warning

Lawyers for the Shell Petroleum Development Company argued in the federal court in Port Harcourt that the joint committee of the National Assembly that made the order in 2000 did not have the power to compel the oil company to make the payment.

But Judge Okechukwu Okeke ruled that since both sides had agreed to go before the National Assembly, the order was binding on both sides.


Ijaw community leader Ngo Nac-Eteli said that if Shell wanted to buy time by taking the case to the appeal court, the company would not be allowed to operate on Ijaw land until the case was settled.

He did not elaborate on how the community would stop Shell's operations.

The BBC's Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar in Port Harcourt says the case has the support both of community elders and the militant groups that have been attacking oil installations in the Delta region.

But our correspondent warns that even if the money is paid, the region would not necessarily be pacified unless the various groups were happy with how it was distributed.

Nigeria is one of the world's biggest oil exporters but despite its oil wealth, many Nigerians live in abject poverty.


Posted by Publisher at 03:27 PM | Comments (1)

Nigeria 'hostage pictures' shown

A Nigerian rebel group has released photographs that appear to show seven of the nine foreign oil workers recently kidnapped in the Niger Delta.

The pictures show men, believed to be the hostages, sitting on a bench with masked gunmen behind them.

The militants - who are campaigning for the rights of the local Ijaw people - have demanded more local control over the region's oil revenues.

Their attacks have led to a 20% drop in Nigeria's oil exports.

The foreign workers - three Americans, two Thais, two Egyptians, a Briton and a Filipino - were seized last Saturday while laying a Shell pipeline.

Earlier this week Nigeria's government said it had assembled a team to negotiate their release.

The nine hostages were working for Willbros, a US engineering firm which is a Shell sub-contractor, in the Forcados river, 50km (30 miles) west of the oil port city of Warri, when they were abducted.

The rebel Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said it launched Saturday's attacks to avenge a series of helicopter strikes on local Ijaw villages.

The Nigerian military said it targeted barges being used by militants to smuggle stolen oil.

Nigeria is Africa's leading oil exporter and the fifth-biggest source of US oil imports.


Posted by Publisher at 03:22 PM | Comments (0)

February 23, 2006

Riots in Nigeria leave many dead

At least 20 people are believed to have died in a second day of violence in the southern Nigerian city of Onitsha.

Groups of armed youths rampaged through the city attacking Muslims, in apparent retaliation for the deaths of Christians in riots in the north.

Eyewitnesses spoke of streets "littered with bodies" as thousands of Muslims were said to be fleeing the city.

Danish cartoon protests in the north led to sectarian clashes which have seen dozens of deaths in four cities.

On Wednesday, groups of Christian Ibo men wielding clubs and machetes rampaged through Onitsha for a second day attacking any members of the Muslim Hausa community they could find, according to witnesses.

Dragged out

One eyewitness said cars driving into the town had been stopped by angry crowds demanding to know if there were any Hausa on board.

Those who were identified were dragged out and taken away.

Onitsha resident Isotonu Achor said he had seen more than 20 people killed.

"Major streets are littered with bodies of people killed today, most of them northerners," he told the Associated Press.

A photographer for Reuters news agency said some the victims had been burnt and some had had their stomachs cut open.

The BBC's Sola Odunfa said when he tried to enter the city, he was confronted by a 200 armed men demanding proof that he was not Hausa.

But he said the violence was "not a question of Christian or Muslim".

"They are just targeting people from the north in anger," he told the BBC's Newshour programme.

The authorities say many Hausas still in the city have sought shelter inside police and army facilities.

Thousands have fled the town, reports said.

Police say they have sent reinforcements into Onitsha, which has been sealed off, and the Anambra state authorities have imposed a curfew on the town.

It is not clear how many people died when the riots began on Tuesday, but reports suggested at least a dozen fatalities, possible more.

There are also reports that the violence has spread to neighbouring towns.

Ethnic tensions

Earlier on Tuesday, the authorities in Bauchi in northern Nigerian imposed a curfew after at least 13 people were killed in a sectarian riot.

The Bauchi riot followed violence over the weekend in the two northern towns of Maiduguri and Katsina, which began as demonstrations against the Danish cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad.

Nigeria, roughly divided into a mainly Muslim north and Christian south, has been hit by sectarian violence in the past.

More than 10,000 people died in communal violence across the country in the first few years following Nigeria's return to democratic rule in 1999, but in recent months these clashes have become less frequent.

Posted by Publisher at 02:42 PM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2006

Nigeria's shadowy oil rebels

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which has threatened "total war" in Nigeria's main oil-producing region and is behind the recent kidnapping of oil workers is a shadowy group, about which little is known.

The BBC's Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar managed to meet one of the group's leaders, who used the alias Major-General Godswill Tamuno.

But he refused to be interviewed on tape or for his location to be disclosed.

Our correspondent says the "general" was not visibly armed and you could easily walk past him in the streets without noticing him.

Mend's leaders like to be faceless, our reporter says, and they usually send statements to the media via e-mail.

Yet their threats and attacks on oil installations in the region have caused a 15% cut in Nigeria's oil output and a surge in world oil prices.

Support

Mr Tamuno told our reporter that Mend was fighting for "total control" of the Niger Delta's oil wealth, saying local people had not gained from the riches under the ground and the region's creeks and swamps.

He said the Delta had been exploited for the benefit of other parts of Nigeria and foreign companies and ordered all oil companies and Nigerians whose roots lie elsewhere to leave the region.

This argument has been made by several other militant groups who have staged attacks in the Niger Delta in recent years.

Nigeria is one of the world's biggest oil exporters and yet most Delta residents live in poverty.

There are few major roads in the area and even fewer decent hospitals.

The group enjoys considerable local support and it is difficult to pinpoint exactly who is a member, our reporter says.

But unlike at least one other group, Mend has not specifically called for the Niger Delta to secede from Nigeria.

Oil thieves

This was one of the demands of Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, the leader of another militant group which said it was standing up for the rights of the Niger Delta's biggest community, the Ijaws.

Last year, his threats of open warfare against foreign oil companies caused similar turbulence on the world markets.

He was invited to the capital, Abuja for a meeting with President Olusegun Obasanjo.

He operated quite openly and after talking about independence once too often, he was arrested and is in custody, awaiting charges of treason.

Another Mend demand has been for the release of Mr Asari but they insist they are a separate organisation.

However, Mr Asari's Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force has gone quiet recently and it is quite likely that at least some of his supporters are behind the new group.

While Mend and the other militant groups claim to be standing up for Delta residents, some locals say they are just oil thieves.

The region is home to a huge industry of stealing oil and selling it on the black market.

This trade is believed to fund the purchase of weapons.


Posted by Publisher at 02:18 PM | Comments (1)

Curfew after third Nigerian riot

A curfew has been imposed in Bauchi in northern Nigerian after at least 13 people were killed in a sectarian riot.

It began as an argument between a teacher and a pupil over the confiscation of a Koran in school.

But rumours swept the city that the book had been desecrated and that was the cue for youths, some armed with machetes, to rampage in the streets.

The violence comes just two days after protests against Danish cartoons in two northern cities left at least 25 dead.

Reports say two churches were burnt in Bauchi before police fired tear gas and live rounds to disperse the crowd.

The state governor and senior security officials in the state are meeting to discuss security and consider whether to hold an inquiry into the incident.

Toll

The Red Cross say they have recovered 13 bodies but this may rise as they hope to recover more bodies.

The riot was not directly related to the violence over the weekend in the two northern towns of Maiduguri and Katsina, which began as demonstrations against the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

But Nigeria is going through a period of civil disturbance, with riots in the north and militant activity in the southern Niger Delta .

The BBC's Alex Last in Abuja says there is speculation that the instability is linked to the question of whether the Nigerian president will try to change the constitution and stand for a third term.

Public hearings on constitutional reform are due to begin on Wednesday.


Posted by Publisher at 02:11 PM | Comments (1)

February 20, 2006

Nigerian militants claim attacks

The group holding nine foreign oil workers in the Niger Delta say they have attacked another oil facility on Monday and blown up a military vessel.

The report has not been confirmed by the Nigerian authorities.

Three Americans, two Thais, two Egyptians, a Briton and Filipino were abducted on Saturday while laying a pipeline for oil giant Shell.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta say they will decide the hostages' fate in the coming days.

The unrest in Nigeria's main oil-producing area has led to an increase of more than $1 a barrel - to $61.15 - in early trade on Monday morning.

Leaders of the region's Ijaw community say they are heading into the creeks in search of the hostage-takers.

They say they support the youths' demand for using more oil wealth to improve the impoverished Delta region, but they oppose hostage-taking.

The group has threatened more attacks, including firing rockets at tankers.

They said they attacked a Shell oil facility and a navy vessel on Monday.

"Both were destroyed with explosives," the group said in an e-mail.

Political agenda

Nigeria's government has assembled a team to negotiate their release and they are on their way to the region.

The BBC's Alex Last in Nigeria says hostages are usually released unharmed after some sort of deal, sometimes political but mostly financial.

He says Mend has a political agenda of securing greater control of the oil wealth and unlike most previous kidnappings, this group has proved it is serious by staging well-organised attacks that have drastically cut Nigerian oil exports.

Shell has suspended loading from its Forcados export terminal, which was damaged in the series of pre-dawn attacks on Saturday, cutting Nigerian oil exports by about 15%.

The nine hostages were working for Willbros, a US engineering firm which is a Shell sub-contractor, in the Forcados river, 50km (30 miles) west of the oil port city of Warri, when they were abducted.

Rocket threat

In an e-mail to the Associated Press news agency on Sunday, the hostage-takers said they had not yet decided what to do with their captives.

"They are being moved around with our units and may likely only be killed in a crossfire," AP quoted the group as saying.

"We have not reached a decision on what to do with these individuals... The next few days will determine what steps we will take," the statement read.

The rebels said they launched Saturday's attacks to avenge a series of helicopter strikes on local Ijaw villages.

The Nigerian military said it targeted barges being used by militants to smuggle stolen oil.

Nigeria is Africa's leading oil exporter and the fifth-biggest source of US oil imports. But despite its oil wealth, many Nigerians live in abject poverty.

Posted by Publisher at 03:00 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria cartoon protests kill 16

Sixteen people have been killed in northern Nigeria during protests by Muslims over the cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad.

Most of the deaths occurred in rioting in Maiduguri, capital of north-eastern Borno state. One person died in similar riots in north-central Katsina state.

Witnesses said most of the dead were from Maiduguri's minority Christians.

The cartoonist whose cartoons sparked off the worldwide riots told a Scottish newspaper he had "no regrets".

The riots in Nigeria are the first violent protests in the country over the cartoons.

Eleven churches were torched during the protests and Christian businesses targeted.

The country is nearly equally split between Muslims in the north and Christians.

Violent protests

The BBC's Alex Last in northern Nigeria says the protest had begun peacefully in Maiduguri, and it was not clear what started the violence.

The city's residents described demonstrators running wild after police tried to disperse the protest with teargas.

Crowds of protesters carried machetes, sticks and iron rods through the city centre, the Associated Press news agency reported.

One group threw a tyre around one man, poured gas on him and set him ablaze, it said.

Christian leader Joseph Hayab told Reuters agency that most of those who died had been Christians.

"The Muslim group came out to protest and the security forces tried to ensure it was peaceful, but there were some hoodlums in the crowd and somehow the security forces shot one or two of them," said Mr Hayab.

"They went on the rampage, burning shops and churches of the Christians. The protesters killed the others. Some were even killed in the churches."

Soldiers have been deployed and a curfew imposed. Around 115 people were arrested in Maiduguri and 105 in Katsina.

Borno state governor Modu Sheriff said the state "was shocked and disgusted" by "the civil disturbance" in Maiduguri.

Nigeria has witnessed sectarian violence in the past, and the concern now is that the violence does not spread to other cities, our correspondent says.

"No regrets"

Meanwhile the Danish cartoonist whose cartoons provoked the outcry said he did not regret drawing them or having them published.

Kurt Westergaard told the Scottish newspaper, the Glasgow Herald, the cartoons were inspired by "terrorism - which gets its spiritual ammunition from Islam".

Mr Westergaard has gone into hiding since a Pakistani cleric offered a bounty for his death.

The cartoons, first published by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September and later reprinted by several other European publications, have angered Muslims across the world and sparked sometimes violent protests.

In Libya, at least 10 people died in clashes with police outside an Italian mission on Friday, during a rally over an Italian minister's decision to put the cartoons on T-shirts.

The minister, Roberto Calderoli has resigned, and Libya's interior minister has been suspended as the country investigates the violence.


Posted by Publisher at 02:48 PM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2006

Nigeria oil 'total war' warning

A Nigerian militant commander in the oil-rich southern Niger Delta has told the BBC his group is declaring "total war" on all foreign oil interests.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has given oil companies and their employees until midnight on Friday night to leave the region.

It recently blew up two oil pipelines, held four foreign oil workers hostage and sabotaged two major oilfields.

The group wants greater control of the oil wealth produced on their land.

The warning came as militants and the army exchanged fire after a government helicopter gunship attacked barges allegedly used by smugglers to transport stolen crude oil.

Correspondents say the militants provide security for the smugglers.

Nigeria is Africa's leading oil exporter and the fifth-biggest source of US oil imports, but despite its oil wealth, many Nigerians live in abject poverty.

Aims

It is the first time the military leader of the Mend movement, Major-General Godswill Tamuno, has spoken publicly of his group's aims.

He refused to be interviewed on tape or for his location to be disclosed.

He told the BBC's Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar that they had launched their campaign, called "dark February", to ensure that all foreign oil interests left.

He said that they had had enough of the exploitation of their resources and wanted to take total control of the area to get their fair share of the wealth.

Our correspondent says the movement brings together a variety of local Ijaw groups that had been operating in the Niger Delta before.

The group enjoys considerable local support and it is difficult to pinpoint exactly who is a member, he says.

Mend's leaders tend to like to be faceless, our reporter says, and they usually send statements to the media via email.

Shell, one of the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta, told our reporter that security measures were being taken to secure their staff and property, but would not give details.

Well armed

The Niger delta has been the scene of a low-level war in recent months and the government has increased its military presence in the region.

After a government raid on oil barges earlier this week , Mend released a statement saying the helicopter gunship had fired rockets and machine-guns at targets on land and accused the military of targeting civilians.

It warned that its fighters were capable of shooting down military helicopters and accused Shell of helping out the security forces by allowing them use of an airstrip it operates.

The military has denied it used the facility.

According to AFP news agency, Shell has not confirmed or denied that its airstrip was the base for the attack.

The smugglers are believed to exchange oil for weapons from eastern Europe.

Posted by Publisher at 04:05 PM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2006

Nigerian military in oil attack

The Nigerian military says an army helicopter has attacked barges used in oil-smuggling in the Niger Delta.

By Alex Last
BBC News, Abuja

The militant group the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta however condemned the raid and accused the military of targeting civilians.

The attack came as UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw paid a visit to the oil city Port Harcourt, in the Niger Delta.

There has been a recent spate of violent incidents involving oil industry facilities in the Niger Delta.

Change of tactics

A spokesman for the military task force in the Niger Delta, Major Said Hammed, said one of its helicopters attacked eight barges being used to smuggle oil after spotting them on a routine flight near the village of Okerenkoko, about 30km west of the town of Warri.

Maj Hammed said it was not clear if there were any casualties.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) released a statement immediately after the raid saying the helicopter had fired rockets and machine-guns at targets on land and accused the military of targeting civilians.

The Nigerian military does not normally attack barges used in smuggling. Maj Hammed said such a raid was a new directive.

It is the first major military operation in the Niger Delta since Mend carried out a string of attacks on the oil industry, including the kidnapping of four foreign oil workers who were held hostage for almost three weeks.

The militants have threatened to continue attacks unless local communities are given greater control of the oil wealth produced on their land.

The military operation comes as Mr Straw paid a quick visit to Port Harcourt in the eastern Niger Delta at the end of a three-day visit to Nigeria.

Posted by Publisher at 05:55 PM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2006

Nigeria bird flu screening starts

Doctors have begun screening workers in northern Nigeria at the first poultry farm to be confirmed with the deadly bird flu virus in Africa.

The virulent H5N1 strain was found in birds in three states last week. Health Minister Eyitayo Lambo said another five states had suspected cases.

Some farmers are angered by the government's handling of the outbreak, saying compensation was too low.

Thousands of chickens have been dying in Nigeria for more than a month.

No humans have tested positive for the virus in Nigeria but there are fears that the emergency measures may have come too late to stop the virus spreading.

'Recovered'

Dr Mohammed Bala Abubakar, from Kaduna State's health ministry, told the BBC that tests were being carried out on some 120 workers from Sambawa farm in Kaduna State on Monday and would continue throughout the week.

None of the workers on the farm where the outbreak was first identified have shown any signs of illness, he said.

Two children, who live near the farm in Kaduna State and who fell ill last week, have since recovered and been released.

Their blood samples have been sent to several laboratories for analysis, he said.

H5N1 has also been found on farms in Kano and Plateau States, either side of Kaduna.

Mr Lambo and his health ministry officials say there are five other states with suspected bird flu cases: Abuja, where the capital is located, Katsina, Nassarawa, Yobe and Jigawa states.

Experts with protective equipment are being flown in from abroad to help local officials contain the spread of the disease.

Neighbouring countries have banned chicken imports from Nigeria.

Panic

Meanwhile, farmers in Kano, who estimate they have lost some 150,000 chickens since the crisis began, are demanding $10 in compensation for each bird lost.

So far, the government has only offered them $2 for each chicken.

The BBC's Ado Saleh in Kano says there is a rising sense of panic among the farmers as they have yet to be told what has been killing their livestock.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for a massive public education campaign, to stop bird flu from spreading to humans in Nigeria.

It is not clear how the virus has spread to Nigeria. It was first found in South-East Asia and more recently Turkey and Russia.

Some experts blame illegal poultry imports; others migrating birds.

More than 80 people have died of H5N1 bird flu since the disease's resurgence in December 2003 - most of them in South-East Asia.

Experts point out that cross-infection to humans is still relatively rare, and usually occurs where people have been in close contact with infected birds.

But they say if the H5N1 strain mutates so it can be passed between humans, it could become a global pandemic, killing millions.


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Conmen hit Nigerian scambusters

Anti-corruption officials in Nigeria have been forced to act after conmen impersonated their own investigators to pull off scams.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said fraudsters duped people out of large sums by impersonating its staff including chairman Nuhu Ribadu.

The impostors allegedly persuaded people to pay bribes to quash investigations into non-existent cases.

Nigeria is cracking down on corruption in both the public and private sectors.

'Gold mine'

Last month, it revoked the licences of a dozen banks which it said were inefficient or tainted by corruption.

Since it was set up in 2003, the Commission has frequently exposed corruption in high places.

Its investigations have lead to the downfall of Nigeria's policy chief and a state governor.

Now, the agency has been forced to turn its attention closer to home.

It said the alleged fraudsters had "turned the name of the Commission into a gold mine by using it to dupe members of the public".

An undisclosed number of people are now standing trial for the alleged offences.


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February 13, 2006

UN urges Nigeria bird flu action

Nigeria must step up its measures to prevent further spread of the deadly bird flu virus, the UN has warned.

The government needs to clamp down on the trade in poultry and intensify culling and movement controls, said two UN world bodies.

Nigerian officials have confirmed the virulent H5N1 strain of the virus is affecting poultry in three states.

Chickens started dying four weeks ago, leading to fears that the emergency measures may come too late.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Organisation for Animal Health also urged neighbouring Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Ghana and Niger to tighten border inspections.

The agencies said they would send a joint mission to Nigeria within 48 hours to assess the situation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for a massive public education campaign, to stop bird flu from spreading to humans in Nigeria.

The WHO says it is also sending experts to Nigeria who will use a mass polio vaccination from Saturday to help detect possible human cases of the virus.

"All countries must take measures to protect human health against avian flu and prepare for a pandemic," WHO director general Lee Jong-Wook said.

New cases

The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu was found on three more farms in the north of the country on Friday, where thousands of poultry have died recently.

The new cases - confirmed by National Veterinary Research Institute head Doctor Lamy Lombar - are in Kano State and Plateau State, on either side of Kaduna, where the first case was found on Wednesday.

Samples have now been sent abroad for further analysis.

The WHO's regional director in Africa said international support had arrived but most of it in the form of technical advice and not what the region needs most - money.

Police marksmen, ordered to cull 180 ostriches at a farm in the virus-stricken north, killed only 120 birds before running out of bullets, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Although the government said it will compensate farmers if their poultry are killed, people have been rushing to sell sick or dead chickens in the markets before restrictions are imposed.

Human infections

It is not clear how the virus has spread to Nigeria. It was first found in South-East Asia and more recently Turkey and Russia.

Some experts blame illegal poultry imports; others migrating birds.

More than 80 people have died of H5N1 bird flu since the disease's resurgence in December 2003 - most of them in South-East Asia.

Experts point out that cross-infection to humans is still relatively rare, and usually occurs where people have been in close contact with infected birds.

But they say if the H5N1 strain mutates so it can be passed between humans, it could become a global pandemic, killing millions.

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Nigeria confirms bird flu spread

The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has been found on three more farms in northern Nigeria, where thousands of poultry have died recently.

Officials said tests had confirmed bird flu on farms in two different states to where Africa's first case of bird flu was confirmed on Wednesday.

Chickens have been dying in Nigeria for a month, leading to fears that the virus may have spread widely.

The government says it has now imposed a quarantine on the affected farms.

Large-scale culls of poultry have also begun.

The World Health Organization has called for a massive public education campaign, to stop bird flu from spreading to humans in Nigeria.

"The single most important public health priority at this stage is to warn people about the dangers of close contact with sick or dead birds infected with H5N1," a WHO statement said.

Imports banned

Although Nigeria's government has said it will compensate farmers if their poultry are killed, people have been rushing to sell sick or dead chickens in the markets before restrictions are imposed.

Neighbouring Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Ghana and Niger have all banned chicken imports from Nigeria.

The new cases - confirmed by National Veterinary Research Institute head Doctor Lamy Lombar - are in Kano State and Plateau State, on either side of Kaduna, where the first case was found.

Samples have now been sent abroad for further analysis.

Agriculture Minister Adamu Bello met diplomats and UN agencies to appeal for help to contain the outbreak, reports the AFP news agency.

"We told them that we need facilities such as laboratories, vaccines and technical support," he said.

The remaining poultry on the first farm - some 300 ostriches - were shot on Thursday night in a bid to contain the outbreak.

Auwalu Haruna, head of the Kano Poultry Farmers' Association, has accused the authorities of being slow to react to the suspicious deaths of chickens - giving the virus time to spread.

"We have 30 farms that have been affected, and we're still counting... Just yesterday, 40,000 chickens died at Phed Farm alone."


It is not clear how the virus has spread to Nigeria. It was first found in South-East Asia and more recently Turkey and Russia.

Some experts blame illegal poultry imports; others migrating birds.

More than 80 people have died of H5N1 bird flu since the disease's resurgence in December 2003 - most of them in South-East Asia.

Experts point out that cross-infection to humans is still relatively rare, and usually occurs where people have been in close contact with infected birds.

But they say if the H5N1 strain mutates so it can be passed between humans, it could become a global pandemic, killing millions.

Posted by Publisher at 06:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Scene of devastation at Nigerian farm

Chickens in northern Nigeria have been dying for a month. As the deadly strain of bird flu is confirmed on three more farms, the BBC's Alex Last visits a farmer in Kano State battling with diseased poultry.

The farm stands in dry fields just outside Kano city.

Inside its walls stand 11 concrete rectangular barns with corrugated roofs where the birds were kept.

They are now empty save for feathers strewn on the floor.

The birds starting dying two weeks ago - 20,000 died in just one week - then the alarm was raised.

The birds that survived were culled but their carcases are still being burnt in the open - black smoke coming off the smouldering pile of birds.

Facemasks

The work of destroying the poultry is done by farm workers simply wearing their work overalls.

The farm's owner, Abdullahi Saidu, said so far no-one had reported any illness.

He said he was devastated by what had happened and said the government had yet to do anything to help.

The farm is not sealed off - the villagers still come there to draw water from a well.

Mr Saidu said other farms in the area had also suffered similar losses.

In the adjacent fields, two men with facemasks said they were burning 1,000 dead chickens that had died on a nearby farm.

The four farms named so far may just be the start of the problems here.

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Crackdown on Nigeria Sharia group

Nigeria's federal government has accused the northern Kano State's government of seeking foreign funding to train an Islamic militia.


Information Minister Frank Nweke said the state was trying to turn Hisbah, a volunteer group that enforces Islamic law, into a parallel police force.

His comments come 24 hours after police announced a ban on Hisbah and detained its leader and deputy.

Kano governor Ibrahim Shekarau has described the moves as unacceptable.

Kano is one of 12 mainly Muslim states in Nigeria that reintroduced parts of Islamic Sharia law in 2000.
Hisbah enforces rules such as a ban on alcohol sales and the segregation of men and women on public transport.

Patrols stopped

"The Kano State Hisbah Board has, with brazen disregard for the overriding imperatives of national security, sought the assistance of foreign governments for the training of '100 jihadists' in the areas of 'intelligence' and 'practice of jihad'," Mr Nweke said in a statement.

But reaction from Kano has been defiant.

"It is a blunder for anybody to interpret Hisbah as an independent terrorist group... We will pursue all constitutional means to assert our right on this issue," Mr Shekarau said in a radio broadcast, AFP news agency reports.

Hisbah groups operate in several Nigerian Sharia states, but are more visible in Kano and Zamfara where they receive state government support.

The BBC's Ado Saleh in Kano city says Hisbah has refused to comment on the issue, being in "a state of mourning" after its leader Yahaya Chedi, his deputy and other Hisbah members were detained for questioning on Wednesday.

Earlier in the week, Hisbah ceased its patrols that were aimed at looking for motorbike taxis carrying women, our correspondent adds.

Hisbah volunteers in Kano have seized 2,000 motorcycles since the patrols began in December.

According to Sharia law, men and women are not allowed to travel together on public transport, but women can travel with their male relations.

Posted by Publisher at 06:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nigeria plans huge bird flu cull

Nigeria will kill all birds at any farm where suspicious deaths have occurred in a bid to contain Africa's first outbreak of bird flu, a minister says.

Bird flu has been confirmed at one farm in the northern state of Kaduna. Some 45,000 chickens died on a farm owned by Sports Minister Saidu Balarabe Sambawa.

Tests are being carried out on dead poultry at two more farms.

Chickens started dying four weeks ago, leading to fears that the H5N1 bird flu strain may have already spread widely.

Quarantines and other restrictions are only now being imposed on farms near where the chickens have died.

Thousands more chickens have died in the two neighbouring states of Kano and Plateau. The cause of these deaths has not yet been determined but international experts are heading for all three areas.

'Strong precautions'

Dr David Nabarro of the World Health Organization (WHO) told the BBC the virus "might be quite widespread".

"If it's in Nigeria it might also be in other countries that are less well-equipped."

He said governments and ordinary people would have to take "very, very strong precautions" to protect themselves and stop the disease spreading.

A team of Nigerian experts is heading for Mr Sambawa's farm to cull the 200 ostriches which are still alive.

The BBC's Adamu Yusuf at the farm says a quarantine has been imposed and all workers have been sent home.

Mr Sambawa has told the BBC's Adamu Yusuf that he suspects the outbreak is down to "sabotage", possibly by disgruntled former workers at the farm.

Mr Sambawa was speaking by telephone from the African Cup of Nations in Egypt, where he saw Nigeria lose in the semi-finals on Tuesday.

Agriculture Minister Adamu Bello, who announced the mass cull, has suggested illegal poultry imports may be behind the outbreak.

The disease may also have been spread by migrating birds.

Rushing to market

Correspondents say an outbreak of bird flu could have devastating consequences in a country where millions of people rear chickens as a basic source of income.

northern Nigerian farmer has told the BBC News website that farmers are rushing to sell dead chickens in markets before restrictions are imposed.

Experts have long feared that if H5N1 reached Africa, it could quickly take hold and spread out of control.

Dr Alex Thiermann of the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health told the BBC that Africa's "veterinary infrastructures are very weak".

More than 80 people have died of H5N1 bird flu since the disease's resurgence in December 2003 - most of them in South-East Asia.

Experts point out that cross-infection to humans is still relatively rare, and usually occurs where people have been in close contact with infected birds.

But they say if the H5N1 strain mutates so it can be passed between humans, it could become a global pandemic, killing millions.

Posted by Publisher at 06:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bird flu grips Nigeria press

As Nigeria is confirmed to have the first African cases of bird flu amongst poultry, newspapers across the country focus on the plight of local farmers and the efforts to halt the spread of the virus.

Many reports describe the anxious mood of people in the affected areas of Kaduna and Kano. "The highly dreaded bird flu" hit the country "like a whirlwind", says This Day.

A Kaduna villager tells The Guardian that people are worried the disease may "affect them through the air they breathe", while The Vanguard warns that the virus causes serious illness in humans and "spreads easily from person to person".

A full-colour banner on the web site of The Sun - Nigeria's self-styled "King of the Tabloids" - reads "DANGER, Bird flu in Nigeria" and warns that "Eating chicken may lead to death". The headline below the banner reads "Panic in Kaduna, Kano".

Half-price birds

The Daily Champion in Lagos warns that farmers who fear their birds will be culled are selling them for half the normal price in local markets. The Guardian says it has also observed farmers selling livestock "at give-away prices".

Abuja's The Daily Trust maintains some of the birds being sold "are from farms where birds have been dying". The paper interviews Ismail Musa in Kano market sitting next to baskets full of birds for sale: "I lost ten birds", he says, "and I cannot afford to lose more."

The Daily Champion reports that Kano farmers are holding an emergency meeting on how to combat the spread of the disease, with Nigeria's National Veterinary Institute promising a cooperative effort rather than "a backyard operation".

Warning leaflets from the Institute tell people to wear protective gear when killing the affected birds, The Punch reports. However, the Daily Trust says farmhands have continued culling birds "without protective gloves".

'Political flu'

A lighter touch is provided by a cartoon in the New Age. A couple are watching TV where the Nigerian football team is being beaten 1-0 in the African Cup of Nations by the Ivory Coast. "See the Eagles playing like chickens?" laments the woman. "They must have caught the bird flu," replies the man.

The New Age is the only paper so far to devote an editorial to the outbreak.

It says, however, that the immediate concern of the ordinary African is not bird flu or even HIV/Aids. "His headache is political flu, which is a disease characterized by societal corruption, economic waste and administrative and governmental oppression."

And, the paper remarks, for this disease "no cure has been developed".

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.

Posted by Publisher at 06:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

African bird flu 'set to spread'

The first case of H5N1 bird flu in Africa is likely to be followed quickly by others, creating a "very severe situation", the UN's top expert says.

Dr David Nabarro of the World Health Organization (WHO) told the BBC the virus "might be quite widespread".

It comes after the strain deadly to humans was detected on a farm in Kaduna in northern Nigeria.

Officials are investigating whether poultry in other states have also died from the virus.

Dr Nabarro said the WHO was anticipating further outbreaks in other parts of Africa.

"If it's in Nigeria it might also be in other countries that are less well-equipped."

He said governments and ordinary people would have to take "very, very strong precautions" to protect themselves and stop the disease spreading.

"We've got to have all countries, particularly in West Africa, being very vigilant for bird die-offs, which are the indicator of bird flu being in the population."

Experts have been sent to the commercial chicken farm in Jaji, in Kaduna state, where bird flu was found.

Authorities there said they had taken measures to stamp out the outbreak by disinfecting the affected premises, imposing a quarantine and putting restrictions on animal movements.

Dr Nabarro, who is leading the UN's response to bird flu, said reports from Nigeria's ministry of agriculture suggested bird flu may also have been found in the northern state of Kano and further south in Jos.

Early detection

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos, Nigeria, says an outbreak of bird flu could have devastating consequences in a country where millions of people rear chickens as a basic source of income.

Experts have long feared that if H5N1 reached Africa, it could quickly take hold and spread out of control.

Dr Alex Thiermann of the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health told the BBC that Africa's "veterinary infrastructures are very weak".

"And it is essential for the containment of this disease to have the ability to early detect and take rapid action. And therefore we feel that Nigeria and the other countries that are at risk need help very quickly."

Sold as meat

Nigeria says it will cull all infected birds and compensate farmers.

But a northern Nigerian farmer told the BBC News website that people fear they will not be paid.

"The dead birds are being sent to market to be sold as meat... because people are not sure if the government will assist them," said Auwalu Haruna from Kano.

It is thought bird flu may have been carried to Nigeria by migrating birds or the smuggling of infected chickens from abroad.

More than 80 people have died of H5N1 bird flu since the disease's resurgence in December 2003 - most in Asia.

Experts point out that cross-infection to humans is still relatively rare, and usually occurs where people have been in close contact with infected birds.

But they say if the H5N1 strain mutates so it can be passed between humans, it could become a global pandemic, killing millions.

Posted by Publisher at 06:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 09, 2006

Live: Nigeria 1-0 Senegal

1756: FULL-TIME Nigeria 1-0 Senegal
For the third Nations Cup running the Nigerians win the bronze medal.

Goalflashes and major incidents (all times GMT):

1753: Three minutes of injury time will be played.

1751: Pape Bouba Diop has a free-kick just outside the area that he hits against the wall and then he fires the rebound over the bar.

1742: GOAL Nigeria 1-0 Senegal
Garba Lawal gets on the end of a John Utaka cross and he fires the ball back across the goal and into the back of the net.

1739: Senegal make their final change with Mamadou Niang coming on for Souleymane Camara and Nigeria bring on Nwankwo Kanu for Obinna Nsofor.

1732: Senegal bring on striker Henri Camara for Rahmane Barry.

1730: Its the end of an era as Jay-Jay Okocha is substituted on his final appearance for Nigeria, Wilson Oruma comes on in his place.

1729: Nigeria's Obafemi Martins has the best chance of the game so far but simply sends the ball flying over the bar from a shot from John Utaka that becomes a cross.

1726: Obinna Nsofor works an opening for himself but his angled shot from the edge of the area is straight at Pape Mamadou Diouf in the Senegal goal.

1724: Senegal make a change with Pape Bouba Diop replacing Dino Djiba.

1722: Jay-Jay Okocha tries a little trick with a back-heeled flick but the ball falls to a Senegal defender who clears.

1718: It's still a game being played at walking pace, at this rate we are going to have a penalty shoot-out as there is no extra time scheduled if the game is level after 90 minutes.

1709: Obafemi Martins gets a long ball over the top and the Senegal keeper rushes out but fails to tackle him but does force Martins to go very wide and he cannot shoot and his cross is picked up by the Teranga Lions defence and cleared.

1708: Senegal kick off the second-half of the third place play-off against Nigeria.

1649: HALF-TIME Nigeria 0-0 Senegal
Senegal have a free-kick about 30 yeards out but the ball is hit tamely past the wall and easily dealt with by Vincent Enyeama. The first 45 minutes have been played a pedestrian pace.

1644: Senegal break forward and Diomanst Kamara pushes the ball wide to Rahmane Barry who has a shot from the corner of the six-yard area but the ball goes wide. Kamara is in the middle and would have had a great chance if the ball had been passed back to him,

1638: Obafemi Martins heads down a cross for Obinna Nsofor but his mishit shot is well saved by the Senegalese goalkeeper.

1636: Senegal's Souleymane Camara picks up a long ball over the top from his goalkeeper but his effort on goal goes over the bar.

1634: John Utaka breaks into the area along the byeline but delays getting the ball across the area and it is scrambled behind for a corner, that Nigeria waste.

1631: Joseph Yobo slips and fires the ball miles over the bar as he tries to get a shot on target after the Senegal keeper Pape Mamadou Diouf spills the ball from a corner.

1626: Guiranne Ndaw has Vincent Enyeama in the Nigerian goal back peddling as his long range effort from the left wing looks goal bound but the keeper manages to touch it over the top.

1620: Nigeria's Christian Obodo tries from a very long way out but his shot lacks power and is straight at Pape Mamadou Diouf in the Senegal goal.

1614: Taiye Taiwo hits the bar with powerfuly struck free-kick swung in from the righthand side and the ball is cleared as it bounces down off the woodwork.

1613: Still no clearcut chances in the opening 10 minutes with both sides happy to try and play the ball over the top.

1609: The opening few minutes have been evenly matched and the game is being played virtually at walking pace.

1605: Jay-Jay Okocha, in his final game for Nigeria. swings in a free-kick from the left but it evades the strikers and the defence to go behind for a goal-kick.

1602: Nigeria get the third place play-off against Senegal underway.

Nigeria name a strong starting line-up with Jay-Jay Okocha named as captain for his final appearance for the Super Eagles. Nwankwo Kanu drops to the bench while John Mikel Obi has picked up an injury.

Senegal make eight changes from the side that started the semi-final with only Omar Daf, Pape Malikou Diakhate and Diomansy Kamara retaining their places.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Teams:

Nigeria: 1-Vincent Enyeama, 21-Obinna Nwaneri, 5-Chidi Odiah, 3-Taye Taiwo, 2-Joseph Yobo, 11-Garba Lawal, 18-Christian Obodo, 10-Jay-Jay Okocha (captain), 9-Obafemi Martins, 14-Obinna Nsofor, 7-John Utaka.

Senegal: 16-Pape Mamadou Diouf, 2-Omar Daf (captain), 4-Pape Malikou Diakhate, 18-Boukary Drame, 3-Guiranne Ndaw, 10-Issa Ba, 23-Dino Djiba, 20-Abdoulaye Diagne Faye, 6-Rahmane Barry, 9-Souleymane Camara, 15-Diomansy Kamara.

Referee: Koman Coulibaly (Mali)


Posted by Publisher at 05:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Nigeria plans huge bird flu cull

A large-scale cull is being planned at a Nigerian farm where thousands of chickens have died from bird flu.

A team of Nigerian experts is heading for the farm - owned by Sports Minister Saidu Balarabe Sambawa - in northern Kaduna state to carry out the cull.

Agriculture Minister Adamu Bello says all birds at any farm where suspicious deaths have occurred will be culled.

This is the first confirmed case of H5N1 bird flu in Africa, and experts fear it could spread rapidly.

QUICK GUIDE

Officials are investigating whether the deaths of thousands of chickens in two neighbouring states were also caused by bird flu.

International experts are heading for Kaduna, as well as the northern state of Kano and the state of Jos, to the south, where the other deaths took place.

Chickens started dying in the area four weeks ago, raising fears that bird flu could have spread across Nigeria - and to neighbouring countries - before it was confirmed on Wednesday.

Quarantines and other restrictions are only now being imposed on farms near where the chickens have died.

'Strong precautions'

Dr David Nabarro of the World Health Organization (WHO) told the BBC the virus "might be quite widespread".

"If it's in Nigeria it might also be in other countries that are less well-equipped."

He said governments and ordinary people would have to take "very, very strong precautions" to protect themselves and stop the disease spreading.

A BBC correspondent at Sambawa farm in says a quarantine has been imposed and all workers have been sent home.

Mr Sambawa has told the BBC's Adamu Yusuf that he suspects the outbreak is down to "sabotage", possibly by disgruntled former workers at the farm, which used to have 40,000 chickens.

Just 5,000 are left, a farm-worker told the AFP news agency.

Mr Sambawa was speaking by telephone from the African Cup of Nations in Egypt, where he saw Nigeria lose in the semi-finals on Tuesday.

The agriculture minister has suggested illegal poultry imports may be behind the outbreak.

The disease may also have been spread by migrating birds.

Rushing to market

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos, Nigeria, says an outbreak of bird flu could have devastating consequences in a country where millions of people rear chickens as a basic source of income.

A northern Nigerian farmer has told the BBC News website that farmers are rushing to sell dead chickens in markets before restrictions are imposed.

Experts have long feared that if H5N1 reached Africa, it could quickly take hold and spread out of control.

Dr Alex Thiermann of the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health told the BBC that Africa's "veterinary infrastructures are very weak".

More than 80 people have died of H5N1 bird flu since the disease's resurgence in December 2003 - most of them in South-East Asia.

Experts point out that cross-infection to humans is still relatively rare, and usually occurs where people have been in close contact with infected birds.

But they say if the H5N1 strain mutates so it can be passed between humans, it could become a global pandemic, killing millions.

Posted by Publisher at 04:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

African bird flu 'set to spread'

The first case of H5N1 bird flu in Africa is likely to be followed quickly by others, creating a "very severe situation", the UN's top expert says.

Dr David Nabarro of the World Health Organization (WHO) told the BBC the virus "might be quite widespread".

It comes after the strain deadly to humans was detected on a farm in Kaduna in northern Nigeria.

Officials are investigating whether poultry in other states have also died from the virus.

Dr Nabarro said the WHO was anticipating further outbreaks in other parts of Africa.

"If it's in Nigeria it might also be in other countries that are less well-equipped."

He said governments and ordinary people would have to take "very, very strong precautions" to protect themselves and stop the disease spreading.


"We've got to have all countries, particularly in West Africa, being very vigilant for bird die-offs, which are the indicator of bird flu being in the population."

Experts have been sent to the commercial chicken farm in Jaji, in Kaduna state, where bird flu was found.

Authorities there said they had taken measures to stamp out the outbreak by disinfecting the affected premises, imposing a quarantine and putting restrictions on animal movements.

Dr Nabarro, who is leading the UN's response to bird flu, said reports from Nigeria's ministry of agriculture suggested bird flu may also have been found in the northern state of Kano and further south in Jos.

Early detection

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos, Nigeria, says an outbreak of bird flu could have devastating consequences in a country where millions of people rear chickens as a basic source of income.

QUICK GUIDE

Experts have long feared that if H5N1 reached Africa, it could quickly take hold and spread out of control.

Dr Alex Thiermann of the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health told the BBC that Africa's "veterinary infrastructures are very weak".

"And it is essential for the containment of this disease to have the ability to early detect and take rapid action. And therefore we feel that Nigeria and the other countries that are at risk need help very quickly."

Sold as meat

Nigeria says it will cull all infected birds and compensate farmers.

But a northern Nigerian farmer told the BBC News website that people fear they will not be paid.

"The dead birds are being sent to market to be sold as meat... because people are not sure if the government will assist them," said Auwalu Haruna from Kano.

It is thought bird flu may have been carried to Nigeria by migrating birds or the smuggling of infected chickens from abroad.

More than 80 people have died of H5N1 bird flu since the disease's resurgence in December 2003 - most in Asia.

Experts point out that cross-infection to humans is still relatively rare, and usually occurs where people have been in close contact with infected birds.

But they say if the H5N1 strain mutates so it can be passed between humans, it could become a global pandemic, killing millions.

Posted by Publisher at 04:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bird flu grips Nigeria press

As Nigeria is confirmed to have the first African cases of bird flu amongst poultry, newspapers across the country focus on the plight of local farmers and the efforts to halt the spread of the virus.

Many reports describe the anxious mood of people in the affected areas of Kaduna and Kano. "The highly dreaded bird flu" hit the country "like a whirlwind", says This Day.

A Kaduna villager tells The Guardian that people are worried the disease may "affect them through the air they breathe", while The Vanguard warns that the virus causes serious illness in humans and "spreads easily from person to person".

A full-colour banner on the web site of The Sun - Nigeria's self-styled "King of the Tabloids" - reads "DANGER, Bird flu in Nigeria" and warns that "Eating chicken may lead to death". The headline below the banner reads "Panic in Kaduna, Kano".

Half-price birds

The Daily Champion in Lagos warns that farmers who fear their birds will be culled are selling them for half the normal price in local markets. The Guardian says it has also observed farmers selling livestock "at give-away prices".

Abuja's The Daily Trust maintains some of the birds being sold "are from farms where birds have been dying". The paper interviews Ismail Musa in Kano market sitting next to baskets full of birds for sale: "I lost ten birds", he says, "and I cannot afford to lose more."

The Daily Champion reports that Kano farmers are holding an emergency meeting on how to combat the spread of the disease, with Nigeria's National Veterinary Institute promising a cooperative effort rather than "a backyard operation".

Warning leaflets from the Institute tell people to wear protective gear when killing the affected birds, The Punch reports. However, the Daily Trust says farmhands have continued culling birds "without protective gloves".

'Political flu'

A lighter touch is provided by a cartoon in the New Age. A couple are watching TV where the Nigerian football team is being beaten 1-0 in the African Cup of Nations by the Ivory Coast. "See the Eagles playing like chickens?" laments the woman. "They must have caught the bird flu," replies the man.

The New Age is the only paper so far to devote an editorial to the outbreak.

It says, however, that the immediate concern of the ordinary African is not bird flu or even HIV/Aids. "His headache is political flu, which is a disease characterized by societal corruption, economic waste and administrative and governmental oppression."

And, the paper remarks, for this disease "no cure has been developed".

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.


Posted by Publisher at 04:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 08, 2006

Deadly bird flu found in Africa

The deadly strain of bird flu has been found in poultry in northern Nigeria, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has said in statement.

The Paris-based organisation said this was the first time the disease had been detected in Africa.

The body said it was the "highly pathogenic" strain of the H5N1 bird flu virus, which can kill humans.

It was detected on a farm in the northern state of Kaduna, where a team of experts have been sent.

Authorities there said they had taken measures to stamp out the outbreak by disinfecting the affected premises, imposing a quarantine and putting restrictions on animal movements.

It is not clear if the case on a commercial chicken farm in Jaji, near the city of Kaduna, has any relation to the deaths of thousands of chickens in neighbouring Kano state.

Officials at the Ministry of Agriculture say they are still investigating whether the poultry there died of a more common avian disease.

Emergency meeting

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says an outbreak of bird flu could have devastating consequences in Nigeria where millions of people rear chickens as a basic source of income.

The OIE said that an Italian laboratory for avian flu had detected the strain from samples from the infected farm which had some 46,000 birds.

"We are really not dealing with a backyard operation," OIE expert Alex Thiermann told Associated Press news agency.

Farmers in Kano are preparing to hold an emergency meeting.

The price of chickens in Kano has halved, with a bird now fetching not more than $2.

Mutation fears

Scientists believe the bird flu might have been carried by migrating birds from Asia to Europe and Africa but say it is hard to prove a direct link.

There are fears that the disease could easily spread in Africa because of a lack of safeguards.

"What is most important now is not how it got into Nigeria, but how it can be prevented from leaving Nigeria," Cape Town ornithologist Phil Hockey told Reuters.

A northern Nigerian farmer has told the BBC News website that farmers have been killing their sick birds and sending them to market to be sold as meat.

"We are still waiting for the affected farmers round here to be quarantined," said Auwalu Haruna from Kano.

More than 80 people have died of H5N1 bird flu since the disease's resurgence in December 2003 - most in Asia.

Experts point out that cross-infection to humans is still relatively rare, and usually occurs where people have been in close contact with infected birds.

But they say if the H5N1 strain mutates so it can be passed between humans some 150m people could die.

Posted by Publisher at 04:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 07, 2006

1451: FULL-TIME Nigeria 0-1 Ivory Caost

The final whistle goes and the Ivory Coast are into their first Nations Cup final since 1992 and Nigeria crash out at the semi-final stage for the third time running.

1450: Jay-Jay Okocha hurls in a long thrown-in but it is dealt with by the Ivory Coast defenders.

1448: The Ivory Coast have the ball and are simply passing it around trying to run down the clock.

1447: Nigeria have just four minutes of injury time to find an equaliser.

1445: Didier Drogba weaves his way into the Nigerian box but his shot is wide, he does however find time to encourage the Ivorian fans behind the goal to get behind the Elephants.

1444: Jean-Jacques Tizie bravely dives at the feet of Obafemi Martins to get the ball before the striker can get his shot away.

1437: The Nigerians are pressing and get two corners in quick succession but cannot create a chance.

1436: Jay-Jay Okocha slams the free-kick into the Ivorian wall.

1435: The Ivory Coast's Didier Zokora gets a yellow card for his foul on Sani Kaita ten yards outside the Elephants' area.

1433: Arouna Kone replaces Bonaventure Kalou for the Ivory Coast.

1432: There is a long ball aimed at Julius Aghahowa for Nigeria but Kolo Toure makes a timely challenge to get the ball away from him.

1431: Nigeria make a change up front with Julius Aghahowa replacing Nwankwo Kanu.

1430: A great Ivory Coast move ends with Marc Zoro crossing the ball in from the right towards Didier Drogba who has a free-kick given him against him for climbing.

1423: The Ivory Coast replace Emmanuel Eboue with Marc Zoro.

1422: Didier Drogba is given off-side as he appears to have a chance of a second goal.

1421: Joseph Enakarhire is shown a yellow card for a deliberate trip from behind on Koffi Ndri Romaric.

1419: Another shot comes in from Jay-Jay Okocha that takes a deflection and goes behind for a corner. Nigeria make another substitution with Stephen Makinwa coming on for Peter Odemwingie.

1417: Jay-Jay Okocha fires in a free-kick over the Ivory Coast wall but Jean-Jacques Tizie gets across easily to catch the ball.

1416: The Ivory Coast bring on Emerse Fae for Gilles Yapi Yapo.

1411: Jay-Jay Okocha makes his first appearance at this year's Nations Cup for Nigeria as he comes on for John Mikel Obi.

1410: The Ivory Coast's Gilles Yapi Yapo gets the first yellow card of the game after mistimed challenge on John Mikel Obi.

1403: GOAL Nigeria 0-1 Ivory Coast
A long ball over the top evades Joseph Enakarhire, who seems to misjudge the flight of the ball, and it drops to Didier Drogba in acres of space and he calmly puts the ball between Vincent Enyeama's legs to score.

1402: Nigeria kick off the second-half of the semi-final against the Ivory Coast, no changes for either side but Jay-Jay Okocha is stretching on the sidelines for the Super Eagles.

1345: HALF-TIME Nigeria 0-0 Ivory Coast
It has been an open yet evenly matched first-half with both sides creating chances.

1345: Koffi Ndri Romaric swings in a cross for the Ivory Coast but Bonaventure Kalou's glancing header goes straight to Vincent Enyeama in the Nigerian goal.

1343: Two minutes of injury time are added to the end of the first-half.

1341: Peter Odemwingie makes a great cross from right for Nigeria but none of their strikers can get a head to the ball.

1336: The Ivory Coast's Yaya Toure makes a neat sidestep to avoid a Nigerian player and get the ball to Koffi Ndri Romaric who shoots from a long way out but the ball goes harmlessly past the post.

1331: Ivory Coast get the ball into Bonaventure Kalou who has his back to the goal and he tries a cheeky flick over his shoulder under pressure from Joseph Enakarhire but the ball goes straight to Vincent Enyeama.

1323: Taye Taiwo takes a free-kick from outside the area that hits the Ivory Coast wall and John Mikel Obi's follow up shot finds its way through but Jean-Jacques Tizie gathers the ball after an initial fumble.

1319: Both sides are passing the ball well and have had chances to open the scoring in an evenly matched opening 20 minutes.

1313: Nwankwo Kanu makes a great pass to Peter Odemwingie who is inside the Ivory Coast area but after some fancy footwork his shot is well wide of the target and is cleared by Emmanuel Eboue.

1310: Obafemi Martins gets into the Ivory Coast area but takes too long on the ball and Abdoulaye Meite makes a crucial tackle before the striker can shoot.

1310: Yaya Toure breaks forward for the Ivory Coast and has a long range effort at goal that goes wide.

1307: Emmanuel Eboue is back on for the Ivory Coast.

1306: Didier Drogba goes for goal from the free-kick and his dipping shot is on target and is well saved by Vincent Enyeama.

1304: The Ivory Coast's Emmanuel Eboue is fouled by Sani Kaita on the edge of Nigerian area and the Arsenal defender is stretchered off the pitch.

1259: Koffi Ndri Romaric has the first shot on target as he is put into the Nigerian area but his angled shot is straight at Vincent Enyeama who gathers the ball easily.

1258: The Ivory Coast get the first semi-final of the African Cup of Nations underway against Nigeria in Alexandria.

1240: The 30,000 seater Harras El-Hedoud Stadium in Alexandria is about half full as the drums of the Ivory Coast fans are trying to drown out the brass band of the Nigerian fans.

Nigeria start with Nwankwo Kanu, Peter Odemwingie and Sani Kaita in place of Yusuf Ayila, Stephen Makinwa and John Utaka

The Ivory Coast make four changes with Abdoulaye Meite, Koffi Ndri Romaric, Gilles Yapi Yapo and Bonaventure Kalou starting in place of Blaise Kouassi, Kanga Akale, Emerse Fae and Arouna Kone.

Teams:

Nigeria: 1-Vincent Enyeama, 6-Joseph Enakarhire, 5-Chidi Odiah, 3-Taye Taiwoo, 2-Joseph Yobo, 22-Sani Kaita, 8-John Obi Mikel, 4-Nwankwo Kanu (captain), 9-Obafemi Martins, 14-Obinna Nsofor, 20-Peter Odemwingie.

Ivory Coast: 1-Jean-Jacques Tizie, 3-Arthur Boka, 21-Emmanuel Eboue, 12-Abdoulaye Meite, 4-Kolo Toure, 22- Koffi Ndri Romaric, 10-Gilles Yapi Yapo, 19-Yaya Toure, 5-Didier Zokora, 11-Didier Drogba (captain), 8-Bonaventure Kalou.

Referee: Jerome Damon (South Africa).

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February 04, 2006

Live: Nigeria 1-1 Tunisia

1555: Nigeria win 6-5 on penalties to avenge their defeat to Tunisia in the same tournament two years ago.

Goalflashes and major incidents (all times GMT):

Penalty shoot-out:

6-5 Vincent Enyeama saves from Riadh Bouazizi. Nigeria go through.
6-5 Nwankwo Kanu scores for Nigeria.
5-5 Tunisia's Alaeddine Yahia scores in the corner.
5-4 Nigeria keeper Vincent Enyeama scores with a penalty.
4-4 Tunisia keeper Ali Boumnijel scores to keep his team in the shoot-out.
4-3 Jon Obi Mikel scores with a strike into the bottom corner.
3-3 Clayton scores to keep Tunisia in the contest.
3-2 Obafemi Martins just scores to put Nigeria in front.
2-2 Vincent Enyeama saves from Tunisia's Slim Benachour. Scores are level.
2-2 Obinna Nsofor scores for Nigeria with a well-struck shot.
1-2 Vincent Enyeama saves from Tunisia's Adel Chedli.
1-2 Yusuf Ayila hits the crossbar for Nigeria.
1-2 Haikel Guemamdia puts Tunisia back in front.
1-1 Taye Taiwo scores for Nigeria.
0-1 Hamed Namouchi puts Tunisia in front.
0-0 Tunisia keeper Ali Boumnijel saves from Joseph Yobo.


1543: The penalty shoot out starts with Nigeria taking the first kick.

1534: Penalties The end of extra-time and, for the first time in the current tournament, the tie will be decided on penalties.

115 mins: Nigeria win a corner but Obinna Nsofor's near-post flick goes over the Tunisia crossbar.

112 mins: Nigeria win a free-kick in a dangerous position but Jon Obi Mikel's shot hits the wall. Nigeria seem most likely to score a late winner.


107 mins: Ali Boumnijel makes a good save to thwart Nwankwo Kanu.

106 mins: The match moves to within 15 minutes of a dramatic penalty shoot-out. Jon Obi Mikel has a good shooting opportunity but smashes the ball straight at the Tunisia keeper.

105 mins: The end of the opening half of the extra-time period. The possibility of penalty kicks looms ever larger.

104 mins: Tunisia win a corner that culminates with Radhi Jaidi attempting to score with an over-head kick.

101 mins: More of the game is being played in the middle third, with chances at a premium. The pace of the game has also slowed down.

97 mins: Obinna Nwaneri comes on for Nigeria, replacing Chidi Odiah. There will be no appearance for Jay-Jay Okocha.

94 mins: Nigeria's Obafemi Martins uses his awesome pace to create space but cannot keep his shot on target.

91 mins: The first period of extra-time starts. Defending champions Tunisia defeated Nigeria in the last Nations Cup after a semi-final penalty shoot-out.

1453: Full-time Nigeria 1-1 Tunisia
With the scores locked the match goes into extra-time. Some players are showing signs of cramp. Jay-Jay Okocha is on the bench for Nigeria but has yet to appear. The Super Eagles have one substitution left to make.

88 mins: Tunisia substitute Haikel Guemamdia almost scores a late winner after cutting inside but he drills his shot wide of the near post.

83 mins: The match moves ever closer to the first extra-time period of the tournament. The tempo of the game has really slowed down after an exciting opening half.

80 mins: Tunisia coach Roger Lemerre replaces striker Francileudo dos Santos with Haikel Guemamdia.

73 mins: Several players tangle in the Nigeria penalty area as Tunisia prepare to take a corner. Seconds later Kanu creates another opening at the other end of the field but Stephen Makinwa's shot is blocked by Karim Hagui.

67 mins: After a quiet phase of play Nigeria almost create an opening but Obafemi Martins cannot control the ball under pressure from a Tunisia defender. A minute later Obinna Nsofor then shoots just wide from a tight angle.

60 mins: Nigeria's John Obi Mikel picks up the ball 14 yards from goal but fluffs his shot. Francileudo dos Santos shoots up at the other end but his strike is saved.

59 mins: Nigeria bring on Nwankwo Kanu for John Utaka. Kanu has been an influential figure coming off the bench already in the tournament.

57 mins: Nigeria's John Utaka clashes with Zied Jaziri. Tempers have become a little frayed over the last few minutes with several late challenges.


49 mins: GOAL Nigeria 1-1 Tunisia
Karim Hagui equalises with a far-post header after a quickly taken free-kick catches Nigeria cold.

46 mins: The game restarts. Holders Tunisia have 45 minutes to turn around it around if they to stay in the tournament. Tunisia defender Hatem Trabelsi

1345: Half-time Nigeria 1-0 Tunisia:
Obinna Nsofor's early strike separates the teams at the break.

43 mins: Tunisia lose possession and Nigeria look to hit them on the break again. There has been little between the two teams, though the Super Eagles have offered more going forward.

35 mins: Ali Boumnijel makes a fine save, diving to his right to stop a well-struck Joseph Enakarhire shot. John Utaka breaks into the Tunisia box after cutting inside a minute later but shoots wildly wide.

33 mins: More poor marking almost costs Tunisia a goal. Stephen Makinwa heads narrowly wide after finding space in the Tunisia box.

26 mins: Obinna Nsofor is close to his second of the match with a fierce strike from the edge of the Tunisia area. Nigeria are looking to play in the blisteringly quick Obafemi Martins as often as possible.

21 mins: Tunisia almost equalise. Hamed Namouchi gets the slightest of touches to a floated cross and has Vincent Enyeama scrambling to keep the ball out. Seconds later Francileudo dos Santos heads wide at the far post.

18 mins: Ali Boumnijel comfortably saves a header. Both teams are pushing forward as often as possible in what has been an entertaining start to the game.


14 mins: PENALTY SAVE
Joseph Enakarhire clips Zied Jaziri and the referee has no hesitation in awarding a penalty. Clayton's strike is superbly saved by Vincent Enyeama, diving to his right.

5 mins: GOAL Nigeria 1-0 Tunisia
Obinna Nsofor puts the Super Eagles in front with a crisp strike from 14 yards after Tunisia keeper Ali Boumnijel diverts a cross into his path.

3 mins: Tunisia create the first opening. Zied Jaziri latches on to a long ball and tries to guide the ball past Vincent Enyeama, who makes a good save.

1300: The game starts, with Nigeria in green and Tunisia in white.

1245: The atmosphere builds in Port Said ahead of kick-off.

1220 GMT: Nigeria make one change from the team that defeated Senegal in their final group game, with Obinna Nsofor coming in for Julius Aghahowa.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Teams:


Nigeria: 1-Vincent Enyeama, 5-Chidi Odiah, 2-Joseph Yobo (Captain), 3-Taye Taiwo, 6-Joseph Enakarhire, 7-John Utaka, 13-Yusuf Ayila, 8-John Obi Mikel, 14-Obinna Nsofor, 9-Obafemi Martins, 19-Stephen Makinwa.


Tunisia: 1-Ali Boumnijel, 15-Radhi Jaidi, 20-Clayton, 6-Hatem Trabelsi, 3-Karim Hagui, 13-Riadh Bouazizi, 14-Adel Chedli, 8-Hamed Namouchi, 4-Sofiane Melliti, 11-Francileudo dos Santos 5-Zied Jaziri.


Referee: Eddy Maillet (Seychelles).


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February 01, 2006

Martins puts Nigeria on top

Nigeria's Obafemi Martins scored two goals in the 79th and 88th minutes to secure a 2-1 victory over Senegal and the top spot in group D.

James Copnall
BBC Sport, Port Said

Senegal missed numerous chances and should have won, but still went through on goal difference despite only picking up three points in three games.

Souleymane Camara had given them the lead in the second half but Henri Camara should have wrapped the match up long before Nigeria's late onslaught.

Henri Camara had the first serious shot on target, a fierce drive Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama turned for a corner.

Minutes later, Diomansy Kamara curled a shot over the bar from a good position, after Pape Bouba Diop had released him with a delightful crossfield pass.

But it was Senegal central defender Lamine Diatta who should have scored when he met El Hadji Diouf's precise free-kick, but instead he headed wide.

Nigeria were under pressure, but Martins reminded everyone of his menace when he ran on to an underhit back pass.

The Senegal goalkeeper Tony Sylva rushed off his line to hack clear.

As the half ended, Senegal missed a succession of chances in quick succession.

Diouf headed against the post, Souleymane Camara hit the rebound firmly but it was cleared off the line, and Bouba Diop hoisted his effort over the bar.

Shortly after half time, Eguavoen brought on Nwankwo Kanu - which later proved crucial - and Garba Lawal, as Nigeria attempted to get back in the game.

Within five minutes, though, Senegal finally made their domination pay.

Diouf played in Henri Camara, and although his shot was saved the substitute Souleymane Camara was on hand to thump home the loose ball.

The Senegalese supporters, including the legendary former Senegal striker Jules Bocande, leapt for joy.

Bouba Diop had been a commanding presence in midfield, and he nearly doubled Senegal's lead, thumping a low shot that Enyeama had to scramble to save.

Seconds later, the Nigeria keeper made an even better stop from Henri Camara, as the striker sprinted clear.

With slightly over ten minutes left, Nigeria took advantage of Senegal's poor finishing to restore parity.

Sylva could not hold Kanu's cross from the right, with an appreciative Martins nodding it into empty net.

The skills of the wily Kanu, who came on as a second half substitute, proved vital for the Super Eagles.

He set up Martins' winner, allowing the Inter Milan striker to tap home.

Nigeria face defending champions Tunisia in their quarter-final match on Saturday.

----------------------------------------------------------------------
Nigeria coach Austin Eguavoen:
"It was a dramatic group. We were lucky. We could have been two down, but we came back.
"Any team could have advanced from this group, but first place is very important for us.

Senegal coach Abdoulaye Sarr:
"I thank God for qualifying.

"We came to qualify and we did. We played with quality for 80 minutes then fell apart, but I'm still happy.


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January 28, 2006

Nigeria 2-0 Zimbabwe

John Mikel Obi guided Nigeria to a 2-0 victory over Zimbabwe and to the top of Group D at the African Cup of Nations on Friday. Coming on as a second-half substitute, Obi swung in a corner for Christian Obodo to head home for the first goal in the 57th minute.

By Farayi Mungazi
BBC Sport, Port Said

Moments later the 18-year-old scored his first senior goal for Nigeria, with a low 20-yard shot that flew in the bottom corner of Gift Muzadzi's goal.

Nigeria need a draw in their final game against Senegal to reach the last eight, while Zimbabwe cannot advance.

After a cagey first-half in which neither team put together a move worth mentioning, the game came alive in the second period after Obi and Nwankwo Kanu entered the fray.

The pair's introduction gave Nigeria a renewed sense of purpose, and the Super Eagles took the game to their opponents, creating several chances which went begging.

The Warriors did force two good saves from Vincent Enyeama after the goals - first was a long-range effort from Cephas Chimedza, the second a shot on the turn from close range Benjani Mwaruwari.

As expected, the Warriors bow out of the tournament but not before raising a few questions about Nigeria's ability to go all the way and win their third African title.

The Super Eagles were expected to easily beat their supposedly inferior opponents, but like Senegal, last Monday, they huffed and puffed their way to an unconvincing win over Zimbabwe.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Nigeria midfielder John Mikel Obi:
"I thank the coach for having given me the chance.
"To score a goal makes me very happy but the most important thing is the victory of the team."


Nigeria coach Austin Eguavoen:
"I was satisfied with my team's overall performance.
"It was a tough game against Zimbabwe and I expect another tough match against Senegal.

"But I have a team that is focussed and capable of beating any team.

"We will work harder and with some luck we will achieve our targets here."


Zimbabwe coach Charles Mhlauri:
"We lost concentration in the defence in the second half.
"But against Ghana we will not lie down, we will take the game very seriously so as to take something back home."

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Nigeria gang issue hostage photo

Nigerian kidnappers holding four foreign oil workers have issued a first picture of the captives, who appear relaxed and in good health.

But the gang denied reports they were close to handing over their captives.

In e-mails to journalists, the group holding the men said the foreigners were "going nowhere".

The men were seized 17 days ago in the oil-producing Niger Delta region in an armed raid by militants demanding more control over resources.

Despite the kidnappers' denials, Nigerian government officials continue to suggested that the four men could be freed soon.

"The hostages are safe. We're almost getting there. The negotiators have been able to make an agreement and very soon they will be released," Bayelsa state government spokesman Ekiyor Welson told the AFP news agency.

State negotiators and security chiefs released the image of the four hostages - a Briton, an American, a Bulgarian and one man from Honduras, according to AFP.

Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo also said negotiations were going well.

Companies concerned

However, the kidnappers' denial came twinned with threats of imminent new attacks.

"I promised you the hostages were going nowhere in spite of the rumours and repeat that to you," the e-mail read.


The group holding the men, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, has launched several attacks on oil interests in the region.

They are demanding the release of two ethnic Ijaw leaders currently in detention and want more of the Niger Delta's oil wealth to go to local people.

Royal Dutch Shell, the largest oil producer in the Niger Delta, has cut production capacity and withdrawn hundreds of staff pending discussion on security with Nigeria's government.

Oil workers' unions in Nigeria have threatened to withdraw members from the main oil-producing region unless the government moves to improve security.

The instability has led to a 10% fall in Nigeria's oil production. The country is Africa's leading oil exporter and the fifth-biggest source of US oil imports, but despite its oil wealth, many Nigerians live in abject poverty.

On Tuesday unidentified gunmen in speedboats stormed the offices of Italian firm Agip, stealing tens of thousands of dollars and killing at least nine people in the main Niger Delta town, Port Harcourt.

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January 21, 2006

Nigerian rebels vow new oil raids

Nigerian militants who have kidnapped four foreign oil workers and attacked a Shell oil platform say they are preparing to carry out more raids.

The rebel group says it wants more control over the Niger Delta region's enormous oil wealth, and is demanding the release of two local leaders.

Negotiations between the government and the rebels are said to be continuing.

The foreign hostages have been captive for nine days and kidnappers say one of the men, an American, is very ill.

The hostages were allowed to speak by phone to the Reuters news agency on Thursday.

British hostage Nigel Watson-Clark said that all the men were suffering from diarrhoea and fatigue.

Mr Watson-Clark said they were being moved to different hiding places around creeks and swamps to avoid Nigerian army patrols.

Harassment

The rebel group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, is demanding the release of separatist leader Mujahid Dokubu Asari, being held on treason charges, as well as former governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, accused of corruption and money-laundering.

The previously unknown group has also reiterated a demand for compensation of $1.5bn from the Shell oil company for pollution in the region.

The group attacked a Royal Dutch Shell pumping station near the port of Warri last weekend, prompting the oil giant to withdraw 330 workers.

Oil workers' unions in Nigeria have threatened to withdraw members from the main oil-producing region unless the government moves to improve security.

The instability has led to a 10% fall in Nigeria's oil production. The country is Africa's leading oil exporter and the fifth-biggest source of US oil imports.

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January 20, 2006

Nigeria unions' oil region threat

Oil workers' unions in Nigeria have threatened to withdraw members from the main oil-producing region unless the government moves to improve security.

The two main unions issued a statement saying oil workers were always the first targets of the aggression of young militants in the Niger Delta.

The unions condemned the recent kidnapping of four foreign workers during a raid on an oil station.

The hostage-takers say one of the captives, an American, is very ill.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the previously unknown group believed to be behind the kidnappings, reiterated a demand for compensation of $1.5bn from the Shell oil company for pollution in the Niger Delta.

Harassment

The unions said 22 people had been killed since a militant attack on 11 January, when the four foreign oil workers were kidnapped.

"It needs to be mentioned that if the restiveness and consequent harassment and violence on workers in the oil and gas industry persist, we shall not hesitate to withdraw our members in the various oil and gas companies operating in the region," the Nupeng and Pengassan unions said in a joint statement.

Militants in the oil-rich Delta want local Ijaw people to benefit more from the region's oil wealth.

The hostage-takers are also demanding the release of separatist leader Mujahid Dokubu Asari, being held on treason charges, as well as former governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, accused of corruption and money-laundering.

The group attacked a Royal Dutch Shell pumping station near the port of Warri last weekend, prompting the oil giant to withdraw some 330 workers.

The instability has led to a 10% fall in Nigeria's oil production. The country is Africa's leading oil exporter and the fifth-biggest source of US oil imports.

The kidnappings are the latest in a string of violent incidents in the troubled region.

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January 19, 2006

Nigeria hostages 'not threatened'

Nigerian militants who kidnapped four foreign oil workers a week ago have dropped a Thursday deadline for their demands to be met, they say.

They say the four - from the UK, US, Honduras and Bulgaria - will not be harmed unless the authorities try to rescue them, Reuters reports.

They also say that they do not want money but insist that two ethnic Ijaw leaders be freed from custody.

The kidnapping and attacks on oil platforms have pushed up oil prices.

On Wednesday, the previously unknown Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said it had attacked platforms run by the Total and Agip oil firms, in addition to their original attacks on Shell installations.

Both companies have denied the claims.

President Olusegun Obasanjo has appealed to the kidnappers to "not to do anything that might result in the loss of lives" and has set up a committee to work for their "prompt release".

Instability

"Please disregard any deadlines given on account of the hostages. We have no intention of harming them," the militant group said in an e-mail to Reuters.

"This of course is dependent on the actions of the Nigerian government. They may wish to use this situation to train on hostage rescue. In that instance the safety of the hostages cannot be guaranteed."

The group want local Ijaw people to benefit more from the region's oil wealth and are demanding the release of separatist leader Mujahid Dokubu Asari, being held on treason charges, as well as former governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, accused of corruption and money-laundering.

The group attacked a Royal Dutch Shell pumping station near the port of Warri over the weekend, prompting the oil giant to withdraw some 330 workers.

One catering contractor died and 10 Shell workers were injured in the attack. An army spokesman said five soldiers were killed and nine were missing.

On Tuesday, President Obasanjo met high-level security chiefs and political leaders in an effort to halt attacks on oil facilities and to secure the release of the oil workers.

"A small committee has been set up to procure a political solution to the problem there. It's better to get to the underlying causes for the crisis, rather than engaging in any confrontation," Information Minister Frank Nweke told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

The instability has led to a 10% fall in Nigeria's oil production. The country is Africa's leading oil exporter and the fifth-biggest source of US oil imports.

In a telephone call to the Reuters news agency on Monday, a man identifying himself as US citizen Patrick Landry said "these people are treating me good, but the climate is not what it should be".

The kidnappings are the latest in a string of violent incidents in the troubled region.

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January 18, 2006

Nigeria rebels claim more attacks

Nigerian militants who say they have kidnapped four foreign oil workers and attacked on a Shell oil platform say they have carried out more attacks.

The group says it attacked platforms run by the Total and Agip oil firms. Both companies have denied the claims.

The increased tension in the Niger Delta region has pushed up oil prices to more than $67 (£38) a barrel.

The four foreign workers, who are said to be in good health, have been held hostage for close to a week.

In a statement, the previously unknown rebel group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, said its ultimate aim was "to prevent Nigeria from exporting oil".

"We will attack all oil companies, including Chevron facilities," it said. "Pipelines, loading points, export tankers, tank farms, refined petroleum depots, landing strips and residences of employees of these companies can expect to be attacked."

"We know where they live, shop and where the children go to school," it added.

The group want local Ijaw people to benefit more from the region's oil wealth and are demanding the release of separatist leader Mujahid Dokubu Asari, being held on treason charges, by Friday.

Instability

The group attacked a Royal Dutch Shell pumping station near the port of Warri over the weekend, prompting the oil giant to withdraw some 330 workers.

One catering contractor died and 10 Shell workers were injured in the attack. An army spokesman said five soldiers were killed and nine were missing.

The instability has led to a 10% fall in Nigeria's oil production. The country is Africa's leading oil exporter and the fifth-biggest source of US oil imports.

The four hostages come from the UK, the US, Honduras and Bulgaria.

In a telephone call to the Reuters news agency, a man identifying himself as US citizen Patrick Landry said "these people are treating me good, but the climate is not what it should be".

A man who said he was Briton Nigel Watson-Clark said the kidnappers were demanding local control of the region's oil wealth, compensation money for pollution and the release of a separatist leader and an ethnic Ijaw militant.

The kidnappings are the latest in a string of violent incidents in the troubled region.

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January 17, 2006

Nigeria hostages 'in good health'

The four foreign oil workers kidnapped by Nigerian militants have told Reuters news agency they are in good health.

The four - from the UK, US, Bulgaria and Honduras - were taken hostage by armed men on speedboats a week ago while in the Niger Delta region.

There was a further gunboat attack on a pumping station over the weekend, prompting oil giant Royal Dutch Shell to withdraw some 330 workers.

The instability has led to a 10% fall in Nigeria's oil production.

"I'd like y'all to contact my family and let them know that I'm alright, these people are treating me good, but the climate is not what it should be," a man identifying himself as US citizen Patrick Landry told Reuters by telephone.

A man who said he was Briton Nigel Watson-Clark said that the Nigerian military should not try to use force to rescue them.

He also read out five demands, which the kidnappers said should be met within 48 hours:


Local control of the region's oil wealth
The payment of $1.5bn by Shell to Bayelsa State to compensate for pollution
The release of separatist leader Mujahid Dokubu Asari, being held on treason charges
The release of former Bayelsa State governor Diepreye Alamieyaseigha, accused of corruption and money-laundering
The release of another ethnic Ijaw militant.
Soldiers killed

Brigadier-General Elias Zamani, who heads a military task force in the area told Reuters he had not yet located the hostages.

He also said that four soldiers and eight assailants had died on Sunday, as gunmen overran the Benisede pumping station near the port of Warri.

"The safety and security of our staff, contractors and the communities within which we operate is our main priority," Shell said.

One catering contractor died in the attack and ten Shell workers are being treated in a company hospital in Warri.

The evacuations from Benisede and three other pumping stations will not affect production, as it had been halted after a pipeline attack last Wednesday.

Shell has 1,000 oil wells and around 80 pumping stations in the Delta region.

But the firm said it had no current plans to pull any more of its workers out of the Delta.

Correspondents say the recent attacks will increase pressure on Nigeria's government to crack down on ethnic Ijaw militants who want more control over the region's oil revenues.

The kidnappings and explosion, the latest in a string of violent incidents in the troubled region, have slashed Shell's production there by some 220,000 barrels a day - almost 10% of Nigeria's average output of 2.6 million barrels.

Nigeria is Africa's leading oil exporter and the fifth-biggest source of US oil imports.

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January 16, 2006

African first for Liberian leader

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has been sworn in as Liberia's president, making her Africa's first elected female leader.

Loud cheers greeted her inauguration, with US First Lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice among those at the ceremony.

Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf says her top challenge is to maintain peace, law and order after 14 years of civil war.

UN peacekeepers and Liberian police have maintained tight security around the capital, Monrovia.

About 500 UN troops have been redeployed to the area, with more police officers on the capital's streets.

Public vehicles have been banned from Monrovia's streets for the day.

Two US Navy warships are stationed off Liberia's coast, in a show of support for Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf's presidency.

The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt in Monrovia says that after all the years of war, there was no public building in a good enough state to host the ceremony.

The guests gathered in the grounds of the Capital Building and sat on white plastic chairs with coconut matting to protect them from the sun and the rain. They then walked over the road to the stained and gloomy Executive Mansion for a reception, our correspondent says.

She says Ms Rice got an especially warm welcome in a country founded in 1847 by freed American slaves.

Other guests include Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo.

Thousands of volunteers have been repainting buildings, bridges and road signs and clearing rubbish from Monrovia's streets in readiness for the ceremony.

Huge challenges

In an hour-long speech after the ceremony, she called for a moment of silent prayer to remember the thousands of people who died during the war.

"We know that your vote was a vote for change, a vote for peace, security... and we have heard you loudly," she said.

Her vow to wage a war on Liberia's "major public enemy" - corruption was also applauded by the large crowd.

She said that leading civil servants and ministers would have to declare their assets.

"I will lead by example - I will be the first to comply."

Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf becomes Liberia's first elected head of state since the end of the war in 2003.

The 67-year-old grandmother won 59% of the vote in November's run-off election, beating Liberian football star George Weah.

A former World Bank economist and veteran politician, Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf is nicknamed the Iron Lady but has promised to show a new, softer side as president.

The challenges which lie ahead as she begins her six-year term are great.

After a quarter of a century of war and misrule, Liberia's road network is in ruins, there is no national telephone network, no national electricity grid and no piped water.

A further challenge is to reintegrate the 100,000 ex-combatants, including many former child soldiers, into civilian life.

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Shell evacuates Nigeria workers

Shell has withdrawn about 330 workers from four sites in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria following a gunboat attack.

Gunmen fought Nigerian soldiers on Sunday as they overran the Benisede pumping station near the port of Warri.

One catering contractor died in the attack and ten Shell workers are being treated in a company hospital in Warri.

The evacuations from Benisede and three other pumping stations will not affect production, as it had been halted after a pipeline attack last Wednesday.

The latest attack helped to put upward pressure on oil prices, with markets already worried about the nuclear standoff involving Iran, the world's fourth-largest crude oil exporter.

In London the price for a barrel of Brent crude had risen by 71 cents to $62.97 after morning trading.

Production cut

In two attacks last week, militants ruptured a major pipeline feeding an export terminal and kidnapped four foreign workers from another Shell oil rig in the region.

The hostages, who are still being held, come from the UK, the US, Honduras and Bulgaria, a Shell spokeswoman said.

Shell has 1,000 oil wells and around 80 pumping stations in the delta region.

But the firm said it had no current plans to pull any more of its workers out of the delta.

"The safety and security of our staff, contractors and the communities within which we operate is our main priority," Shell said.
Correspondents say the recent attacks will increase pressure on Nigeria's government to crack down on ethnic Ijaw militants who want more control over the region's oil revenues.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the group that says it is holding the hostages, has demanded the release of separatist leader Mujahid Dokubu Asari, who is being held on treason charges, and former Bayelsa State governor Diepreye Alamieyaseigha, who is accused of money-laundering.

"It must be clear that the Nigerian government cannot protect your workers or assets. Leave our land while you can or die in it," the group said in an e-mail statement. "Our aim is to totally destroy the capacity of the Nigerian government to export oil."

The kidnappings and explosion, the latest in a string of violent incidents in the troubled region, have slashed Shell's production there by some 220,000 barrels a day - almost 10% of Nigeria's average output of 2.6 million barrels.

Evacuation

In a statement about the latest attack, Shell said "heavily armed persons" attacked the platform early on Sunday.

"The attackers invaded the flow station in speedboats, burnt down two staff accommodation blocks, damaged the processing facilities and left," it added.

Soldiers guarding the platform returned fire, Brigadier-General Elias Zamani, commander of a special task force assigned to the area, said.

According to the Reuters news agency, a number of soldiers and assailants also died in the latest attack.

Nigeria is Africa's leading oil exporter and the fifth-biggest source of US oil imports.


Posted by Publisher at 02:21 PM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2006

Nigerian state impeaches governor

The Nigerian governor of Oyo State has been impeached by state legislators and arrested on allegations of corruption.

Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja has lost his battle to remain in office after he fell out with his political backer.

After the 20-minute impeachment hearing, he was arrested by police and flown to the capital, Abuja, for questioning by anti-corruption agents.

He is the second governor to be impeached recently. Unless impeached, governors enjoy judicial immunity.

This is also the second time a governor has publicly fallen out with his backer, known in Nigeria as a political godfather.

Homage

After Mr Ladoja's arrest, his deputy Christopher Alao-Akala was sworn in as governor of the south-western state.

The BBC's Sola Odunfa in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, says immediately afterwards Mr Alao-Akala drove in a motorcade to the residence of Lamidi Adedibu, the former governor's political godfather.

A large crowd cheered as the new governor paid homage to Mr Adedibu and promised to toe the ruling party line, our correspondent says.

Eighteen of the 32 legislators voted to proceed with impeachment after considering a report by a panel set up to investigate the governor.

Earlier, Mr Ladoja had accused them of taking bribes, saying they had been induced or coerced.

The legislators were reported to have said they had uncovered attempts by Mr Ladoja to sack the chief judge on the investigating panel.

Security fears

There is a high security presence throughout the state, prompting fears there may be further violence.

Earlier this week, the state's chief imam called on the former governor and Mr Adedibu not to attend Muslim Eid prayers, to avoid clashes between their supporters.

Last month, the political fallout between them erupted into street violence as gunmen clashed around parliament.

Correspondents say Mr Adedibu has been a powerful political figure in Ibadan for many decades.

Mr Ladoja will now be questioned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly misappropriating state funds.

Fighting fraud

The body was set up by President Olusegun Obasanjo in order to fight fraud in a country ranked as one of the most corrupt in the world.

In December, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, the former governor of oil-rich Bayelsa State, was impeached and charged with corruption after jumping bail in the UK.

Three years ago, Anambra State governor Chris Ngige was kidnapped and forced to write a resignation letter at gunpoint after failing to do the bidding of his backer.

He remains in office but has been expelled from the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP).

Posted by Publisher at 06:56 PM | Comments (0)

Twin blow cuts Nigerian oil flow

Nigeria's oil production has been cut by 10% after an explosion and the kidnapping of four foreign oil workers.

In the southern Delta region, gunmen in three boats boarded a vessel and seized the men, said a spokesman for oil giant Royal Dutch Shell.

Diplomats say the hostages come from the UK, the US, Honduras and Bulgaria, although Shell has not confirmed this.

Elsewhere in the Delta, a major pipeline has been ruptured by unknown vandals, Shell said.

Overall, production is down by some 220,000 barrels a day - almost 10% of Nigeria's average output of 2.6m barrels.

Meanwhile, the first audit of Nigeria's oil and gas industry has been published and, without finding direct evidence of fraud, it reveals "accounting weaknesses".

Discrepancies worth hundreds of millions of dollars were found between what oil companies paid in taxes and what the government said it received.

Vulnerable

Kidnappings and pipeline explosions are common in the Niger Delta region, where local groups complain they do not see the benefits of the area's oil wealth.

Ransom demands are often made in similar cases and the hostages are usually released unharmed.


Last month, a pipeline was blown up by dynamite, killing eight people in the same area.

Shell is in dispute with villages near the EA field, where the oil workers were kidnapped, reports the AP news agency.

They accuse the oil company of reneging on promises to undertake development projects.

The navy has deployed helicopters and gunboats to track down the hostage-takers, Reuters news agency reports.

EA is closer to land than other Nigerian offshore oilfields, making it more vulnerable to militant attacks, Reuters says.

Other oil workers, both foreign and Nigerian, have been seized in the area, before being released.

The pipeline was attacked in Brass Creek, leading Shell to suspend exports from the Forcados terminal.

Nigeria remains plagued by appalling poverty despite being the world's eighth largest oil producer and the largest in Africa.

Posted by Publisher at 06:49 PM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2006

Apology for Nigeria's Hajj chaos

Nigeria's president has apologised to his country's Muslims after thousands were left stranded at airports last week unable to attend the annual Hajj.

President Olusegun Obasanjo blamed the firm that had been given the contract to provide the planes.

He said insurance regulations had prevented the use of military planes.

Over 4,000 pilgrims did not reach Jeddah airport by last Friday's deadline set by Saudi authorities, which had been extended by 36 hours.

The president revealed that he had appealed to the Saudi royal family for the airport to be kept open, but it had turned down his request

After a plane load of Nigerian pilgrims were turned back in Saudi airspace on Friday morning, people at airports across the country were told by officials to go home and make the pilgrimage next year instead.

'No knowledge'

"My apology goes to them [who missed the Hajj] on behalf of all of us, and those people who are involved in this because it should never have happened," he said, This Day newspaper quoted him as saying on Tuesday.

He said the contract for the airlifting of Hajj pilgrims was awarded to a concern that had "no knowledge of aviation matters".

Many airlines had refused to take part in the airlift to Mecca, saying the fees offered by the Nigerian organising authorities did not cover their costs.

The president said a lasting solution to the problem needed to be found, as it happened most years.

"Indonesia sent three times the number we sent and it was organised orderly, so also Palestine and Bangladesh. How did they do it?" he said, Nigeria's Guardian newspaper reported.

It costs between $1,000 to $2,500 to make the pilgrimage to Mecca from Nigeria and many Nigerians spend their life savings on the trip.

Every year about 2m Muslims converge on Mecca - the holiest place in Islam - for the Hajj.

Every adult Muslim is supposed to undertake the Hajj at least once in their life if they can afford it and are physically able.

Posted by Publisher at 12:42 PM | Comments (0)

China oil firm buys into Nigeria

CNOOC, one of China's largest state-run oil and gas producers, has agreed to buy a stake in a Nigerian offshore oil and gas field for $2.3bn (£1.3bn).

By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Hong Kong

It will buy a 45% stake in the license covering the OML 130 field, which is owned by South Atlantic Petroleum and is in deep water near the Niger Delta.

CNOOC is hunting overseas oil and gas assets to supply its domestic market.

China's appetite for commodities such as oil and gas is second only to that of the United States.

The OML 130 field covers almost 500 square miles, and was first discovered six years ago.

It is reported to need billions of dollars of investment before it comes on stream in two years time.

'Huge interest'

Company chairman and chief executive, Fu Chengyu, said the purchase would give CNOOC access to "an oil and gas field of huge interest and upside potential, located in one of the world's largest oil and gas basins".

CNOOC is one of four big oil companies created when China's oil industry was restructured seven years ago.

Its parent company is controlled by the Chinese government.

CNOOC shares were suspended before the start of trading in Hong Kong on Monday, ahead of the announcement.

The company has bought access to overseas oil and gas resources in a number of countries in recent years, including Indonesia and Australia.

Last year CNOOC failed to buy US firm Unocal following what it called unprecedented political opposition to its plans from US lawmakers.

The deal still needs to be approved by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the Chinese government.


Posted by Publisher at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

Saudis turn back Nigeria pilgrims

A plane load of Muslims from northern Nigeria trying to reach this year's Hajj has been turned back in Saudi Arabian air space and sent home.

The 492 pilgrims from Kaduna had missed an extension to Wednesday's deadline secured by Nigeria's president.

Thousands of other Nigerian pilgrims have been stranded as a shortage of aircraft is blamed for the chaos.

Kano's state governor told angry pilgrims to go home and accept "the will of Allah".

Many airlines have refused to take part in this year's pilgrimage to Mecca, saying the fees offered by the Nigerian organising authorities did not cover their costs.

On Wednesday, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered national carrier Virgin Nigeria to divert its flights to help the pilgrims after securing the 36-hour extension, which expired on Friday morning.

Promise

Saudi authorities have said they would fine airlines $50,000 for every plane carrying Hajj pilgrims that arrived after the deadline.

The BBC's Ado Saleh Kankiya at Kano airport says thousands of Muslims from northern Katsina, Bauchi and Jigawa are still hoping that their state authorities - which organise travel on the Hajj - will pay these fines.

But following the return of the plane to Kaduna, people at airports across the country have been told by officials to go home and make the pilgrimage next year instead.

In a long address to angry pilgrims from Kano, Governor Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau asked them to accept the disappointment, our correspondent says.

He promised them that they would be among the first to go to the Hajj next year and said that next year better plans would be put in place.

Every year about 2m Muslims converge on Mecca - the holiest place in Islam - for the Hajj.

Every adult Muslim is supposed to undertake the Hajj at least once in their life if they can afford it and are physically able.

Posted by Publisher at 12:33 PM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2006

Court frees Czech diplomat killer

A former Czech army doctor convicted of shooting dead Nigeria's consul to Prague after falling prey to fraudsters has been spared his full jail term.

Prague's public prosecutor decided not to oppose a court motion to free Jiri Pasovsky, 74, on grounds of ill health.

He was sentenced in June to eight years in jail, cut to five on appeal.

Pasovsky killed consul Michael Lekara Wayid, 50, and injured another embassy employee in 2003 after losing more than $600,000 (£340,000) to Nigerian conmen.

He is said to have been persuaded to give his bank details to someone posing as a senior Nigerian official.

Pasovsky now suffers cancer and other illnesses, his lawyer said, and heard the verdict lying down. He was scarcely able to speak in court.

Posted by Publisher at 12:05 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2006

Nigerians 'missed' Hajj deadline

Stranded Muslims across Nigeria have been told that Saudi Arabia has closed its airport to pilgrims trying to reach this year's Hajj.

A BBC correspondent in Kano said people had been told to get off their planes.

Kano's state governor told the angry pilgrims from his northern state that they must accept "the will of Allah".

Nigeria's president had ordered the national carrier to divert its flights to help the pilgrims after securing an extension to Wednesday's deadline.

But the extra 36 hours have now expired as well.

Promise

Saudi authorities have said they will fine airlines $50,000 for every plane carrying Hajj pilgrims that arrives after the deadline.

The BBC's Ado Saleh Kankiya at Kano airport says thousands of Muslims from northern Katsina, Bauchi and Jigawa are still hoping that their state authorities - which organise the travel arrangements to the Hajj - will pay these fines.

People at the Port Harcourt airport in the south have also been told by officials to go home and make the pilgrimage next year instead.

In a long address to angry pilgrims from Kano, Governor Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau said the fine would not be paid by Kano State and asked them to accept the disappointment, our correspondent says.

He promised them that they would be among the first to go to the Hajj next year and said that next year better plans would be put in place.

Every year about 2m Muslims converge on Mecca - the holiest place in Islam - for the Hajj.

Every adult Muslim is supposed to undertake the Hajj at least once in their life if they can afford it and are physically able.

Posted by Publisher at 02:08 PM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2006

Nigeria to free half its inmates

Nigeria is to set free about half of all prisoners to reduce overcrowding. Up to 25,000 people, including the sick, the elderly and those with HIV will be freed, said Justice Minister Bayo Ojo.

Those who have been awaiting trial for longer than the sentences they face and those whose case files have been lost by the authorities will also benefit.

Correspondents say many people wait up to 10 years, often in awful conditions, for their case to come to trial.

Human rights groups say death rates are unacceptably high for inmates who endure overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.

"The issue of awaiting-trial inmates has become an endemic problem in Nigeria... The conditions of the prisons are just too terrible. The conditions negate the essence of prison which is to reform," Mr Ojo said.

There are currently some 40,444 inmates held in 227 prisons across Nigeria.

Some 65% of these are awaiting trial.

The government will build six "half-way houses" to provide those being freed with education and training, Mr Ojo said.

"By the time the process is completed, we hope to have reduced the inmates to between 15,000 and 20,000," Mr Ojo told a news conference.

To facilitate the releases, a new chief prison inspector is also set to be named, with responsibility for improving prison conditions.

Posted by Publisher at 05:29 PM | Comments (0)

January 03, 2006

Nigeria troops kill 'oil thieves'

Security forces in Nigeria have killed 12 men they say were stealing oil from a pipeline in the southern Niger Delta.

Officials said that a gun battle broke out when troops on patrol came across a group using heavy drilling equipment to siphon oil from a pipeline.

Three others in the group, in the remote Oghara community, were wounded and five were arrested.

Correspondents say oil theft is a common practice in one of Africa's biggest oil-producing countries.

Bunkering

The men were caught on Saturday about to siphon the oil into trucks from a pipeline owned by the Pan Ocean Oil Corporation, Nigeria's This Day newspaper said.

Nigerian security forces have been working hard to curb the crime, which is known locally as bunkering.

Pipelines in the region have also been attacked a number of times before.

Some local residents have long claimed they do not benefit from the oil wealth.

The country remains plagued by appalling poverty despite its huge oil wealth.

Nigeria is the world's eighth largest oil producer, and the largest in Africa.

Posted by Publisher at 01:17 PM | Comments (0)

Robson in talks over Kanu delay

West Brom boss Bryan Robson hopes to persuade the Nigerian Football Association to delay Kanu's departure for the African Nations Cup.

Robson wants the former Arsenal striker to be available for Saturday's FA Cup tie with Reading and a Premiership game against Wigan on 15 January.

Kanu is required to join up with Nigeria on Friday.

"His first game is on January 24 and he would still have a week to prepare with the team," said Robson.

Robson has been unable to delay midfielder Diomansy Kamara's departure to join up with Senegal and hopes to have better luck when he talks to Nigerian officials later this week.

"We are just asking the Nigerian FA to be helpful because we have got a massive game against Wigan," added Robson.

"If we can delay Kanu's departure, it is not as if he is going to miss any matches."

The 29-year-old former Ajax and Inter Milan forward has 39 Nigeria caps and has scored six goals.

He has bagged five goals for West Brom this season, including both in the 2-0 victory over Tottenham at The Hawthorns on 28 December.

Posted by Publisher at 01:10 PM | Comments (0)

Nigerian banks face liquidation

A dozen Nigerian banks face forced liquidation after failing to prove they have adequate capital to operate under new government regulations.

Banks must now hold minimum financial reserves of 25bn naira ($190m; £110m), compared with 2bn naira previously.

The reforms are intended to bolster the financial sector which saw regular bank failures and corruption in the 1990s.

Regulators said the banking sector's total capital reserves have increased from $3bn (£1.7bn) to $5bn.

Merging to survive

The reforms have led to a series of mergers and takeovers as businesses tried to build up sufficient financial reserves to escape sanctions.

The number of banks operating in Nigeria has shrunk from 89 to 25 as a result of the process.

However, 13 companies failed to comply with the 1 January deadline imposed by the Central Bank of Nigeria to raise their capital threshold.

These banks now face having their licences revoked or being forced out of business.

The restructuring is part of President Olusegun Obasanjo's efforts to clean up the banking sector, in an effort to attract more foreign investment.

'Tainted'

The Central Bank of Nigeria said the reforms had weeded out "fragile and uncompetitive" banks that had been "tainted by corruption and mismanagement".

"We are on course to achieve (our) objectives," Charles Soludo, the Bank's Governor, said in a report.

Mr Soludo said the reforms had stimulated foreign direct investment into Nigeria and encouraged bank lending to the private sector.

Nigeria was hit by a number of bank collapses in the 1990s, leaving people who had deposited money out of pocket.

According to Reuters, six banks met the new capital requirements without having to merge with other firms.

They include Nigeria International Bank, owned by US financial services giant Citigroup, and Stanbic, owned by South Africa's Standard Bank.

Posted by Publisher at 01:09 PM | Comments (0)

December 30, 2005

Nigeria ex-ruler warns Obasanjo

A former Nigerian military leader has warned President Olusegun Obasanjo not to change the constitution and stand for a third term in office.

The speech by General Yakubu Gowon received a standing ovation at a conference of central Nigerian leaders.

Mr Obasanjo has expressed his desire to retire to his farm when his mandate expires in 2007.

But there is increasing speculation in Nigeria that behind the scenes he is trying to secure a third term.

Divided nation

Correspondents say the ruling People's Democratic Party is deeply divided between those who would like Mr Obasanjo to remain in office and supporters of Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.

The question of who should succeed Mr Obasanjo is also threatening to divide Nigeria along regional lines.

Both northern and southern leaders have held meetings and demanded that the next president should come from their respective areas.

Southern groups have threatened to seek more power for individual states if a northerner becomes the next president.

Mr Abubakar is from the north, while Mr Obasanjo is from the south.

However, southern ethnic groups have already cautioned Mr Obasanjo against trying to remain in power.

The BBC's Mannir Dan-Ali says the central region, or Middle-Belt, sees itself as a bridge between the two other areas.

"We have to avoid the tendency of leadership to prolong itself or overstaying its acceptability," said Gen Gowon, who ruled Nigeria from 1966 until 1975.

The US has also warned Mr Obasanjo not to change the constitution, prompting Nigerian officials to tell the UN to mind its own business.

Nigeria's parliament is currently discussing proposed constitutional amendments which, if approved, could allow presidential third terms.

Any constitutional amendment needs to be approved by parliamentarians and two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states.

Posted by Publisher at 01:51 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria questions Abacha official

Nigerian officials are questioning a leading member of former dictator Sani Abacha's military government.

Former Lagos Governor Mohamed Buba Marwa has been held for a week, in connection with his alleged possession of funds looted by Mr Abacha.

Correspondents say the allegations arose from Mr Marwa's time as Nigerian military attache in Washington.

Mr Abacha was in power from 1993 until he died in 1998 and is believed to have embezzled more than $2bn.

A spokesman for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) described the investigation as the first serious case undertaken by them regarding the missing Abacha money.

Mr Marwa had said he planned to run for president in Nigeria's 2007 elections.

Nigeria's government has received some cash back from Swiss bank accounts. Money has also been found in the UK, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Austria but the process of recovering the money is a painstaking one.

Posted by Publisher at 12:59 PM | Comments (0)

December 28, 2005

Row over Nigeria debt repayment

A row has broken out in the UK over a deal to cancel part of Nigeria's $30bn (£17bn) debt to Western nations.

Religious leaders say that although the deal would relieve Nigeria of nearly $18bn in debt, it would still have to repay a further $12bn in coming months.

They said it would be a huge burden for Nigeria which is one of the world's poorest countries despite oil wealth.

But critics say funds available from abroad only benefit Nigeria's rich elite, which cares little for the poor.

The head of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Rev David Coffey, said debt relief is a matter of justice, not charity.

"We want to secure that debt cancellation. We applaud the UK and Nigerian governments' efforts to secure debt cancellation for Nigeria," he told BBC Radio Four's Today programme.

He pointed out that of the $12bn that would still have to be repaid, "$1.7bn is coming to the UK - and that figure is twice as much as the UK is giving in aid to the whole of Africa in 2005."

The Anglican Archbishop of York and the Muslim Council of Britain are also among a group of religious leaders who have become involved in the debate.

Correspondents say the issue has raised serious questions about debt cancellation, including whether the rich countries have a moral obligation at all to help poor countries which fail to keep their house in order.

Nigeria is the world's eighth largest oil producer, and the largest in sub-Saharan Africa.

Posted by Publisher at 04:38 PM | Comments (0)

Russian oil smugglers return home

Twelve Russian sailors convicted of smuggling crude oil from Nigeria have arrived back in Moscow from Africa.

The men were convicted earlier this month but later released after having spent two years in detention.

They were among 15 east European sailors arrested after being caught in possession of 10,000 tonnes of stolen oil worth 2m euros (£1.37m) in 2003.

Correspondents say the incident soured relations between Russia and Nigeria - Africa's largest oil exporter.

The tanker - the MT African Pride - mysteriously disappeared from custody last year, causing embarrassment in Nigeria's political circles.

Some 30,000 barrels of oil are believed to be lost to fuel thieves each day in Nigeria.

The sailors received an emotional welcome from family and friends, and television crews, when they flew into Moscow's Sheremetyevo international airport on Wednesday.

"I finally believe that we are back, that I am free. There are no words to express what I am feeling now," the team's captain Valery Pakhomov was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying.

Posted by Publisher at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)

December 27, 2005

Contempt case for Shell over gas

The oil multinational Shell is facing contempt of court proceedings in Nigeria over gas flaring.

By Richard Black
Environment Correspondent, BBC News website

Last month, a court ordered the company to stop flaring gas from oil wells in the country, which accounts for much of Africa's greenhouse gas emissions.

Shell has not halted the practice, so campaign groups have initiated proceedings for contempt of court, which can result in imprisonment.

Shell has appealed against the initial judgement and denies it is in contempt.

Waste of resources

In November, the Nigerian Federal Court, sitting in Benin City, ruled on a case brought by environmental and social groups on behalf of the Iwherekan community of Delta State.

They argued that flaring creates significant local pollution and health problems, and is inherently wasteful of a resource which could bring income to local communities.

International environmental groups also argue it is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, with flaring in Nigeria perhaps the biggest source of emissions in Africa.

The Benin court ruled that gas flaring amounts to "...a gross violation of [the plaintiffs'] fundamental right to human life and dignity...", and that Shell and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation had broken national law by failing to carry out an environmental impact assessment.

By failing to stop flaring, as ordered by the court, campaigners now argue Shell is in contempt, and have initiated proceedings in the Federal Court.

"Since judgement was passed, Shell has not halted her illegal activities," said Nnimmo Bassey, of the Nigerian group Environmental Rights Action.

"We see a multinational corporation that has no respect for the rule of law, but who at every turn loves to characterise local people as vandals and saboteurs."

Earlier this month, an attack with explosives on an oil pipeline forced Shell to suspend extraction at two of its wells and delay shipments.

The background to this and other incidents is the view held by some Nigerian communities that they do not benefit from oil wealth, with profit going to the multinationals.

"It's astonishing that Shell has not complied with this court order preventing it from continuing gross violations of human rights," added Peter Roderick of the international organisation Climate Justice, which has been involved with the action.

"Its behaviour seriously undermines respect for the rule of law that its operations rely on."

Appeals pending

In London, a Shell spokeswoman said that the company did not believe itself in contempt.

"The Benin High Court went ahead with its decision despite the fact that Shell Nigeria's preliminary appeal on jurisdiction was still outstanding," she told the BBC News website.

"In addition, the company has made a further appeal because it believes that the court did not adopt the correct procedure.

"Our appeals will be held by the Nigerian Court of Appeal; until then, our understanding is that we are not in contempt of court for continuing to flare gas."

The company says it flares the gas rather than processing it because there is no local market and no facilities which could liquefy it for export, though such facilities are now under development.

Shell and the Nigerian government have both committed to phase out flaring in Nigeria by 2008.

In 2004 the World Bank said that companies operating in Nigeria, which include Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron, flare 75% of the gas that they produce.

Posted by Publisher at 01:11 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria to offer free Aids drugs

Nigeria's government will provide all anti-retroviral drugs needed to fight HIV/Aids free of charge within two weeks, a health ministry official says.

Dr Abdulsalami Nasidi told the BBC the government planned to have 250,000 people on the drugs within a year.

After India and South Africa, Nigeria has the most HIV infections at 4m.

The BBC's Africa editor Martin Plaut says with such a high infection rate, fighting HIV has now become a national priority in the country.

Nigeria has been stung into action by criticism from the aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) that the government was asking Aids patients to pay for their drugs, which it got free.

Fight stigma

The project will be financed by a $250m grant from the Global Fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria as well as from money released after Nigeria's international debts were cancelled.

Much of the rest of funding has been promised by the United States.

This has meant that charges for administering the drugs, which put them beyond the means of the poor, have now been scrapped.

"Those that are already receiving the treatment that were paying that token money will just be getting the drugs free of charge. [For new patients] all the drugs will also be given to them free of charge," Dr Nasidi told the BBC.

Medecins Sans Frontieres' research found nearly half of people on drug treatment in Nigeria did not receive sufficient doses due to lack of funds.

With HIV patients having to pay for their drugs, many had been forced to beg or borrow to raise the money they needed, the medical agency said.

But Dr Nasidi said he hoped that providing free treatment would reverse this trend.

"To survive if you are infected with HIV/Aids, you must take the tablet daily. So now that we are giving free we hope more people should come in for treatment.

"And there will be less stigma in society, people will not discriminate against people carrying the disease like before," he said.

Posted by Publisher at 01:07 PM | Comments (0)

December 23, 2005

Nigeria hits back at US warning

Nigeria's government has told the United States to mind its own business over speculation that the president may stand for a third term.

US State Department officials have warned that any constitutional amendment to allow this would undermine Nigeria's democratic advances.

But Nigerian presidential spokesman Femi Fani-Kayode said Nigeria did not need lessons in democracy from abroad.

He said President Olusegun Obasanjo believed in constitutional rule.

"At no point in time has President Obasanjo said that he has any intention of not only staying on but also violating the constitution of Nigeria and neither would he do so," Mr Fani-Kayode told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

Hypothetical

Mr Fani-Kayode was responding to comments by US State Department officials that Mr Obasanjo should not seek a third term.

Herman Cohen, former US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said Mr Obasanjo had improved human rights and freedom of speech.

"I say he should take that credit and retire and leave it to a new generation of leaders who can take Nigeria a step further and start using those resources for the people - which he has not done," Mr Cohen told the BBC's World Today programme.

Mr Fani-Kayode said the US was responding to a hypothetical situation.

"We in our country, and certainly our president, does not need lessons in democracy, or in constitutional rule, or indeed in interpreting constitutional rule from anybody, least of all people from outside our shores," he said.

Nigeria's parliament is currently discussing proposed constitutional amendments which, if approved, could allow presidential third terms.

"If there is an amendment in regard to tenure of office, we will cross that bridge when we come to it," Mr Fani-Kayode said.

Correspondents say the issue has been the subject of heated debate in Nigeria since the amendments were tabled in the National Assembly.

Last month, the leaders of two major ethnic groups - the Yoruba and Igbo - come out strongly against President Obasanjo running in polls in 2007 saying it would cause instability.

Any constitutional amendment needs to be approved by parliamentarians and two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states.

Posted by Publisher at 05:41 PM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2005

'No evidence' Saddam was tortured

The Iraqi judge who prepared the case against Saddam Hussein says there is no evidence he was beaten in US custody. Iraq's former leader has claimed he has been tortured, and accused the US of "lies" for denying it abused him.

His trial went into closed session on Thursday afternoon, after one of his co-defendants said he needed to speak to the judge privately.

He and seven others are on trial over the killing of 148 people in Dujail in 1982. They all deny responsibility.

On Thursday, Iraq's former leader repeated claims in court that he had been beaten "all over my body" while in US custody.

The US has dismissed the idea as "preposterous".

The former president said the US denials could not be believed.

He cited as proof America's pre-war claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and the fact that none were found.

"We don't lie. It is the White House that lies," he told the court.

Investigating magistrate Raed Juhi said Saddam Hussein had never before said he had been mistreated.

"My job requires me to ask each of the defendants if he has been abused, and... I have received no complaints," the judge told reporters on Thursday.

'Grandstanding'

The US said Saddam Hussein was treated very well in custody.

State department spokesman Sean McCormack said his allegations that he was beaten and tortured were "highly ironic".

"Look, he's been given to grandstanding in this trial, but where the focus should be is on the testimony of those people who were victimised.

"That's what people should be listening to."

In the courtroom on Thursday, the judge dismissed a guard the defendants said had threatened them.

There was a stand-up row between Saddam's co-defendant Barzan al-Tikriti and a prosecutor, whom he accused of being a former member of the governing Baath party.

The prosecutor called the accusation an insult and asked to be relieved of his duties. The judge refused.

Barzan al-Tikriti - Saddam Hussein's half-brother and former intelligence chief - praised the judge as "brave", "educated" and "smart", but repeatedly defied his order to sit down.

He complained about the trial being televised with a 30-minute delay, which he said was an "undemocratic" means of editing out parts the authorities did not want heard.

He later said he wanted to speak to the judge in private, prompting Rizgar Amin to clear the court.

Families taken away

Three witnesses testified on Thursday, speaking from behind a curtain to conceal their identities.

The first said he was eight years old during the killings in Dujail.

He said his grandmother, father and uncles had been arrested and tortured. He said his male relatives were taken away and he never saw them again.

Saddam Hussein said the witness was too young at the time of the incident for his testimony to be reliable.

On Wednesday, witnesses had described being taken away and tortured by Iraqi security forces.

Saddam Hussein said on Thursday that he was sorry to hear accounts of torture.

"When I hear that any Iraqi has been hurt it hurts me too," he said.

"The wrongs that were done to those people were wrong and, according to law, those who did it should get what they deserve."

The ousted president is expected to face further charges relating to his tenure as Iraqi leader and could be hanged if found guilty.

Posted by Publisher at 03:51 PM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2005

Nigeria governor on fraud charges

An impeached Nigerian governor has appeared in a Lagos court on 40 counts of corruption and money-laundering.

Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was arrested in oil-rich Bayelsa state earlier this month after jumping bail in the UK.

His is accused of owning several multi-million dollar mansions in Nigeria, London and Cape Town.

He was not asked to plead but has previously denied that £1.8m ($3.2m) found in cash and bank accounts in London belonged to him.

He is expected to enter a plea on Wednesday after his lawyers have had time to study the charge-sheet.

At the court, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) prosecutor Rotimi Jacobs told the BBC that Nigeria would be prepared to start extradition proceedings, if the British government made a formal request to hand Mr Alamieyeseigha over.

As Nigeria battles to shed a reputation for corruption, this is the first time a governor has been impeached.

Achievement

Mr Alamieyeseigha enjoyed immunity from prosecution in Nigeria as a governor, until he was impeached.

He is also facing allegations of fraud by a special anti-corruption court sitting in the northern city of Kaduna.


Nigerian officials said Mr Alamieyeseigha left Britain disguised in women's clothing, although he has denied this.

He said the charges against him were politically motivated.

This move is an achievement for President Olusegun Obasanjo's anti-corruption crusade.

The president set up a special anti-corruption body to fight fraud in a country ranked as one of the most corrupt in the world.

But his critics say the anti-corruption drive is bring used to eliminate political rivals.

Mr Alamieyeseigha is seen as being close to Vice-President Atiku Abubakar - who is vying with Mr Obasanjo for control of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP).

Posted by Publisher at 04:39 PM | Comments (0)

Nigerian women defying bike ban

Women and motorbike taxi riders are defying a new ban in the Nigerian state of Kano that stops women travelling on the bikes by pretending to be related.

According to Islamic or Sharia law, men and women are not allowed to travel together on public transport, but women can travel with their male relations.

State authorities say mobile magistrate courts will impose on-the-spot fines on offenders of the law from Monday.

Women say there are not enough alternatives for them to get around.

Ahead of the ban that came into force this month, some 500 three-wheeled rickshaw taxis and 100 women's-only buses were introduced, but women say this is not sufficient.

The BBC's Ado Saleh Kankiya in the city of Kano says some 9,000 religious marshals have been on the streets to implement the ban that women and taxi riders have ignored.

In one incident, six people were wounded in a fight between taxi riders and the marshals.

The officials have not been arresting or fining offenders, just ordering women off the bikes.

But our correspondent says when stopped, many drivers and passengers pretend to be related.

For and against

From next week, offending taxi drivers will be face fines of between $40 to $80 from roving magistrate courts, our correspondent says.

In Zamfara State, taxi riders have been lashed when found carrying female passengers.

Kano is one of several Muslim majority states in northern Nigeria that adopted Sharia law five years ago.

The move initially heightened tensions between Muslims and Christians and led to clashes which left thousands dead.

Human rights groups have condemned abuses sanctioned under the law including amputations and flogging, and say it discriminates against women.

Sharia law appears to have retained popular support in the north.

But there is significant opposition to the law, especially among the Christian minority.

While officially it does not apply to them, many say that in practice they are forced to comply.

Posted by Publisher at 04:37 PM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2005

Oil thieves sentenced in Nigeria

Fifteen Eastern European sailors have been sentenced to six months in prison after admitting to stealing 11,300 tonnes of Nigerian crude oil.

Judges immediately freed the men, who had already spent two years in custody in Nigeria.

They were arrested aboard the Greek-owned tanker African Pride by security forces in October 2003 and charged with stealing the oil.

The ship and its cargo later vanished from the custody of the Nigerian navy.

Two rear admirals were court-martialled for their involvement in the disappearance.

The ship has not been recovered, though Nigerian media have reported a sighting in the Middle East.

Plea bargain

Judge Gloria Okeke was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying the 15 men had pleaded guilty to reduced charges of illegal oil possession.

They were initially charged with oil-smuggling and economic sabotage, which would have led to much longer prison sentences if they had been convicted.

In September, the sailors were released on bail after diplomatic missions guaranteed they would show for their trial.

"I can't believe I'm free," ship engineer Ivan Martemyanov said as he received his seized passport from court officials. "Being in prison was the worst time in my life."

Nigeria, the world's eighth-biggest oil exporter, is estimated to lose between 100,000 and 250,000 barrels daily to oil thieves.

Posted by Publisher at 08:32 AM | Comments (0)

Women bike ban clash in Nigeria

Motorbike taxi riders and religious marshals have clashed in the northern Nigerian state of Kano over a ban that stops women travelling on the bikes.

In accordance with Sharia law, men and women are not allowed to travel together on public transport.

Women have ignored the ban, being implemented this week, saying there are not enough transport alternatives.

Six people were wounded in the incident as a woman was told to get off a taxi motorbike on Tuesday afternoon.

The BBC's Ado Sale Kankiya in the city of Kano says some 9,000 religious marshals are on the streets to implement the ban passed earlier this year.

Despite the officials and publicity leading up to the implementation of the law, many women are still riding on the bikes, he says.

About 500 three-wheeled motorbike taxis and 100 women's-only buses have been introduced, but women say this is not sufficient.

Our correspondent says officials are not arresting or fining offenders, just warning them about the new law.

But after one taxi rider was told to drop a woman on Tuesday afternoon, more than 50 other motorbike taxi riders began fighting with religious marshals.

In Zamfara State, taxi riders have been lashed when found carrying female passengers.

For and against

Kano is one of several Muslim majority states that adopted Sharia law five years ago.

The move initially heightened tensions between Muslims and Christians and led to clashes which left thousands dead.

Human rights groups have condemned abuses sanctioned under the law including amputations and flogging, and say it discriminates against women.

Sharia law appears to have retained popular support in the north.

But there is significant opposition to the law, especially among the Christian minority.

While officially it does not apply to them, many say that in practice they are forced to comply.

Posted by Publisher at 08:31 AM | Comments (0)

Nigeria's counting controversy

No-one knows how many Nigerians there are - and the authorities are too afraid to find out.

By Sola Odunfa
BBC Focus on Africa magazine

Legend has it that one out of every five black people on Earth is a Nigerian. But that can only be an assumption, for every headcount held in Nigeria in the past 30 years has ended in national controversy and with strong allegations of population inflation.

The last census was carried out in 1991. Its figures - which are regarded only as being marginally less manipulated than the others - put the total population at 88.9 million, almost equally divided between the two sexes.

Since then the population has been projected on an annual growth rate of about 2.9%. The official projected figure for 2003 was 126 million.

Headcount

A new census was to have been held between November and December last year. Preparations for it by the National Population Commission (NPC) started in 2003.

But last July, President Olusegun Obasanjo delayed the exercise until this coming March.

The official reason given for the postponement was that vital material would not arrive from abroad in time for the headcount to be held as scheduled.

What was not openly acknowledged was the gathering political storm over the type of data to be collected.

The controversy relates to ethnicity and religion. How many Nigerians are Muslims and how many are Christians? What is the strength of each ethnic group in the country?

Traditional and political leaders in the largely Muslim northern states announced last year their strong opposition to the inclusion of questions on religious persuasion and ethnicity in the census questionnaire.

They warned that they would mobilise people in the states against taking part in the census if the questions were included. But governors of states in the south-east responded with a counter warning - they would mobilise against the headcount in their states if the data to be collected did not include the numerical strengths of every religious and ethnic group.

Amidst the growing furore, came the announcement from the NPC that it was abandoning the inclusion of the sensitive subjects - although it is not known whether it had made its decision before or after the heated arguments began.

Professor JG Ottong, a social scientist at the University of Calabar, explained that population has been a sensitive and controversial issue "because of its implications for shaping regional, state and ethnic relations and balance of power".

In the past, census figures were believed to have been manipulated for political advantage.

When Nigeria had three regions, the combined population of the two in the south was said to be less than that of the north. Therefore the north was - and still is - assured of absolute control of the federal government.

Funds

Southern leaders claimed at the time that election rigging began at the census level.

Their argument was that it ran against all known demographic principles for the largely semi-arid north to be more populated than the coastal south. And such deep-seated suspicion continues.

The mutual hostilities it engenders are thinly veiled. Each side is struggling for population and, therefore, political advantage.

The distribution of funds which accrue to the nation among the 36 component states is also based largely on population.

If a state is assigned a bloated populace, its draw from the national purse is more than that of those with smaller populations.

This accounts for the sharp interest shown by state governors in how the census is conducted.

In addition to the regional balancing of power on a population basis, there are also the ethnic and religious equations.

The Nigerian constitution stipulates that the "federal character" must be reflected in every government appointment.

This means that the relative strengths of every ethnic and religious group must be taken into consideration in determining appointments in the civil service, the armed forces and political institutions.

The "federal character" principle is a very touchy issue in Nigeria. Political and community leaders study the personnel composition of every institution of government with a microscope to find a breach of the principle where they are not favoured.

Christians across Nigeria refuse to accept past census conclusions that they are in a minority to Muslims.

On the other hand, Muslim leaders always point to the fact of their acknowledged numerical superiority to claim dominance in public institutions.

Posted by Publisher at 08:30 AM | Comments (0)

Big shake-up for Nigeria airlines

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has ordered a major shake-up of the aviation sector after Saturday's plane crash that killed over 100 people.

He has grounded two airlines and said all aircraft flying in Nigeria would undergo safety checks within a week.

Mr Obasanjo also said corruption had tainted the sector, causing deaths. He had earlier angrily criticised aviation officials live on television.

The crash was Nigeria's second major air disaster in less than two months.

'Sit down'

Mr Obasanjo said concerns had been raised about the safety of aircraft belonging to Sosoliso before one of its planes crashed, although he had not been informed until after the disaster.

He grounded the entire Sosoliso fleet, along with that of another airline, Chanchangi, with immediate effect.

Seven of the 109 people on board the plane were pulled out of the wreckage alive but four of these have since died.

The plane overshot the runway in Port Harcourt and burst into flame.

A memorial service is being held there for the victims who included 71 pupils from the same secondary school.

Before announcing the shake-up, Mr Obasanjo publicly dressed down the head of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Fidelis Onyeyiri

"If you have nothing to say go and sit down," he shouted during a meeting broadcast on national television.

He was listing his responsibilities, when he was interrupted by Mr Obasanjo, reports Reuters news agency.

"If you were doing all this that you claim you are doing we wouldn't have the discussion we are having, so who do you think you are talking to here?" the president said.

"There's a lot of corner-cutting, and corner-cutting at the expense of precious lives of Nigerians," he said bemoaning the levels of corruption in the aviation sector.

He has also sacked the permanent secretary in the aviation ministry, Tommy Oyelade, and another senior official.

Burning

Investigators have begun sifting through the wreckage of the DC-9 and analysing the flight data recorders after the crash which it is now known killed 106 people.

A Catholic Archbishop, John Onaiyekan of Abuja, said 71 pupils from Abuja's Ignatius Loyola Jesuit College died in the crash.

They had been on their way home for the Christmas holidays.

Many of the pupils' families had been at Port Harcourt's airport to collect their children and witnessed the crash in the capital of Nigeria's main oil-producing region.

"We watched it happen. It was terrible. We just watched our children burning without being able to help," said Ngozi Ugochukwu, who lost her 13-year-old son in the crash, is quoted by Reuters as saying.

The plane, which was flying from the capital, Abuja, is believed to have been caught in stormy weather.

The Nigerian Bar Association has called for the immediate sack of the aviation minister and have offered a free legal service to families of the victims of Saturday's crash.

Posted by Publisher at 08:27 AM | Comments (0)

December 15, 2005

Oil thieves sentenced in Nigeria

Fifteen Eastern European sailors have been sentenced to six months in prison after admitting to stealing 11,300 tonnes of Nigerian crude oil.

Judges immediately freed the men, who had already spent two years in custody in Nigeria.

They were arrested aboard the Greek-owned tanker African Pride by security forces in October 2003 and charged with stealing the oil.

The ship and its cargo later vanished from the custody of the Nigerian navy.

Two rear admirals were court-martialled for their involvement in the disappearance.

The ship has not been recovered, though Nigerian media have reported a sighting in the Arabian Gulf.

Plea bargain

Judge Gloria Okeke was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying the 15 men had pleaded guilty to reduced charges of illegal oil possession.

They were initially charged with oil-smuggling and economic sabotage, which would have led to much longer prison sentences if they had been convicted.

In September, the sailors were released on bail after diplomatic missions guaranteed they would show for their trial.

"I can't believe I'm free," ship engineer Ivan Martemyanov said as he received his seized passport from court officials. "Being in prison was the worst time in my life."

Nigeria, the world's eighth-biggest oil exporter, is estimated to lose between 100,000 and 250,000 barrels daily to oil thieves.


Posted by Publisher at 03:36 PM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2005

Women bike ban clash in Nigeria

Motorbike taxi riders and religious marshals have clashed in the northern Nigerian state of Kano over a ban that stops women travelling on the bikes.

Women say there is no public transport alternative

In accordance with Sharia law, men and women are not allowed to travel together on public transport.

Women have ignored the ban, being implemented this week, saying there are not enough transport alternatives.

Six people were wounded in the incident as a woman was told to get off a taxi motorbike on Tuesday afternoon.

The BBC's Ado Sale Kankiya in the city of Kano says some 9,000 religious marshals are on the streets to implement the ban passed earlier this year.

Despite the officials and publicity leading up to the implementation of the law, many women are still riding on the bikes, he says.

About 500 three-wheeled motorbike taxis and 100 women's-only buses have been introduced, but women say this is not sufficient.

Our correspondent says officials are not arresting or fining offenders, just warning them about the new law.

But after one taxi rider was told to drop a woman on Tuesday afternoon, more than 50 other motorbike taxi riders began fighting with religious marshals.

In Zamfara State, taxi riders have been lashed when found carrying female passengers.

For and against

Kano is one of several Muslim majority states that adopted Sharia law five years ago.

The move initially heightened tensions between Muslims and Christians and led to clashes which left thousands dead.

Human rights groups have condemned abuses sanctioned under the law including amputations and flogging, and say it discriminates against women.

Sharia law appears to have retained popular support in the north.

But there is significant opposition to the law, especially among the Christian minority.

While officially it does not apply to them, many say that in practice they are forced to comply.

Posted by Publisher at 03:19 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria's counting controversy

No-one knows how many Nigerians there are - and the authorities are too afraid to find out.

By Sola Odunfa
BBC Focus on Africa magazine

The census dictates who really holds power

Legend has it that one out of every five black people on Earth is a Nigerian. But that can only be an assumption, for every headcount held in Nigeria in the past 30 years has ended in national controversy and with strong allegations of population inflation.

The last census was carried out in 1991. Its figures - which are regarded only as being marginally less manipulated than the others - put the total population at 88.9 million, almost equally divided between the two sexes.

Since then the population has been projected on an annual growth rate of about 2.9%. The official projected figure for 2003 was 126 million.

Headcount

A new census was to have been held between November and December last year. Preparations for it by the National Population Commission (NPC) started in 2003.

But last July, President Olusegun Obasanjo delayed the exercise until this coming March.

The official reason given for the postponement was that vital material would not arrive from abroad in time for the headcount to be held as scheduled.

What was not openly acknowledged was the gathering political storm over the type of data to be collected.

The controversy relates to ethnicity and religion. How many Nigerians are Muslims and how many are Christians? What is the strength of each ethnic group in the country?

The last census was carried out 14 years ago

Traditional and political leaders in the largely Muslim northern states announced last year their strong opposition to the inclusion of questions on religious persuasion and ethnicity in the census questionnaire.

They warned that they would mobilise people in the states against taking part in the census if the questions were included. But governors of states in the south-east responded with a counter warning - they would mobilise against the headcount in their states if the data to be collected did not include the numerical strengths of every religious and ethnic group.

Amidst the growing furore, came the announcement from the NPC that it was abandoning the inclusion of the sensitive subjects - although it is not known whether it had made its decision before or after the heated arguments began.

Professor JG Ottong, a social scientist at the University of Calabar, explained that population has been a sensitive and controversial issue "because of its implications for shaping regional, state and ethnic relations and balance of power".

In the past, census figures were believed to have been manipulated for political advantage.

When Nigeria had three regions, the combined population of the two in the south was said to be less than that of the north. Therefore the north was - and still is - assured of absolute control of the federal government.

Funds

Southern leaders claimed at the time that election rigging began at the census level.

Their argument was that it ran against all known demographic principles for the largely semi-arid north to be more populated than the coastal south. And such deep-seated suspicion continues.

The mutual hostilities it engenders are thinly veiled. Each side is struggling for population and, therefore, political advantage.

The distribution of funds which accrue to the nation among the 36 component states is also based largely on population.

If a state is assigned a bloated populace, its draw from the national purse is more than that of those with smaller populations.

This accounts for the sharp interest shown by state governors in how the census is conducted.

In addition to the regional balancing of power on a population basis, there are also the ethnic and religious equations.

The Nigerian constitution stipulates that the "federal character" must be reflected in every government appointment.

This means that the relative strengths of every ethnic and religious group must be taken into consideration in determining appointments in the civil service, the armed forces and political institutions.

The "federal character" principle is a very touchy issue in Nigeria. Political and community leaders study the personnel composition of every institution of government with a microscope to find a breach of the principle where they are not favoured.

Christians across Nigeria refuse to accept past census conclusions that they are in a minority to Muslims.

On the other hand, Muslim leaders always point to the fact of their acknowledged numerical superiority to claim dominance in public institutions.


Posted by Publisher at 03:16 PM | Comments (0)

December 13, 2005

Goodluck for Nigeria's oil state

Jonathan Goodluck has been sworn in as the new governor for Nigeria's oil-rich Bayelsa state after the previous governor was impeached last week.
Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was arrested after his impeachment and could be sent back to the UK to face charges of money-laundering up to £1.8m ($3.2m).

Mr Goodluck was the deputy governor and is to stay in office until 2007 polls.

Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was arrested after his impeachment and could be sent back to the UK to face charges of money-laundering up to £1.8m ($3.2m).

Mr Goodluck was the deputy governor and is to stay in office until 2007 polls.

He promised to reduce poverty in what is one of Nigeria's most deprived areas, despite its oil wealth.

ThisDay newspaper reports that security was tight for the swearing-in ceremony.

"I enjoined my fellow Bayelsans, and indeed all people of the south, not to be dampened by the sad events of the recent past," Mr Goodluck said in his inaugural speech.

"On the contrary, I urge old and young to use this incident to reposition the state for a better future. "

'Shame'

Mr Alamieyeseigha skipped bail in the UK to return home to Bayelsa, hoping to benefit from the immunity from prosecution enjoyed by governors.

But he was widely condemned. President Olusegun Obasanjo said he had brought "shame" on Nigeria.

Last year, another Nigerian state governor returned home after being arrested in London . Joshua Dariye from Plateau state was quizzed by police on money laundering allegations involving more than £1m ($1.75m).

Everyone wants him

EFCC's Osita Nwajah


Profile: Nigeria's 'Houdini'
Mr Alamieyeseigha denied the charge of money laundering and said the money allegedly found in his house and bank accounts did not belong to him.

He said the charges against him were politically motivated.

As Nigeria battles to shed a reputation for corruption, this is the first time a governor has been impeached.

On the run

Mr Alamieyeseigha is also facing allegations of fraud by a special anti-corruption court sitting in the northern city of Kaduna.


"The cover of immunity has been taken away from him by the impeachment. We are going to move in immediately... The man has several cases against him. Everyone wants him," Osita Nwajah, spokesman for Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) told AFP.

The president set up the EFCC anti-corruption body in order to fight fraud in a country ranked as one of the most corrupt in the world.

But his critics say the anti-corruption drive is bring used to eliminate political rivals.

Mr Alamieyeseigha is seen as being close to Vice-President Atiku Abubakar - who is vying with Mr Obasanjo for control of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP).

Earlier this month, the governor was suspended from the PDP.


Posted by Publisher at 02:29 PM | Comments (0)

December 12, 2005

Families seek Nigeria crash dead

Relatives of more than 100 people who died in a plane crash in Nigeria on Saturday have been gathering at mortuaries to try to identify victims.

More than 70 of those killed were pupils from a top secondary school.

The plane was travelling from the capital Abuja when it overshot the runway at Port Harcourt during a storm and burst into flames.

Investigators have begun sifting through the wreckage of the DC-9 and analysing the flight data recorders.

President Olusegun Obasanjo is to hold an emergency meeting with aviation officials to review air safety.

Clutching photographs, family members have been walking past badly burnt bodies laid out on the mortuary floor at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital.

The bodies, which were still identifiable, had been sprinkled with disinfectant and tagged with numbers, in a room with no refrigeration or air-conditioning.

"All we can do now is bury our dead and mourn," one man, among hundreds of wailing relatives at the mortuary, told Reuters news agency. "There is so much suffering here."

A Catholic Archbishop, John Onaiyekan of Abuja, said 71 pupils from Abuja's Ignatius Loyola Jesuit College died in the crash. Four others had got off the plane during a scheduled stopover in another city, he said.

Many of the pupils' families had been at Port Harcourt's airport to collect their children and witnessed the crash.

"So you can imagine the great trauma for the parents watching their own children just roasting there in the air crash," he told news agency AFP.

"It's a great tragedy for the school."

The fee-paying boarding school has 600 pupils and is one of Nigeria's most highly-rated schools.

The victims also included a French and a US national working for aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres.

'Deeply saddened'

The privately-run Sosoliso Airlines, which owned the plane, went into operation as a domestic airline in 2000 and now flies to six Nigerian cities.

The president, said to be deeply saddened by the accident, has cancelled a visit to Portugal to deal with the air disaster, Nigeria's second in less than two months, and review air traffic safety.

Correspondents say several Nigerian airports have come under criticism in recent months following a string of accidents and near-misses.

A Boeing 737 aircraft crashed in October shortly after take-off from the commercial capital Lagos, killing all 117 people on board.

The flight recorders from that plane were never found.

President Obasanjo had instructed his aviation minister to plug any loopholes to ensure airline safety.

Posted by Publisher at 08:20 AM | Comments (0)

Nigeria jet crash leaves 103 dead

Some 75 schoolchildren are feared to be among 103 people thought to have died on a plane that crashed in Nigeria.

Seven survivors are said to have escaped the burning wreckage of the plane, which crashed at Port Harcourt.

The plane was bringing passengers from the capital Abuja on Saturday when it overshot the runway during an electrical storm and burst into flames.

"I saw the plane break into three and then fire engulfed it and it started burning," an airport worker said.

Workers described charred bodies and pieces of the wrecked plane strewn around the disaster site.

Lightning

The DC-9, owned by the private Sosoliso Airlines, was carrying 75 school children, aged 12-16, home for the Christmas holidays, staff at the Loyola Jesuit school in Abuja said.

The cause of the crash is not known, but civil aviation spokesman Samuel Adurogboye said the aircraft "ran into bad weather".

Witnesses described flashes of lightning as the plane came into land.

"Almost everyone was killed. There was a lot of flames," an airport official said.

"There were many students onboard, returning for the holidays."

Mr Adurogboye said seven people were rescued.

"They were breathing and were taken to hospital. They are responding to treatment," he said.

He did not say if they were passengers or crew members.

Safety concerns

A Boeing 737 aircraft crashed in October shortly after take-off from the commercial capital Lagos, killing all 117 people on board.

The flight recorders from that plane were never found.

President Olusegun Obasanjo had instructed his aviation minister to plug any loopholes to ensure airline safety.

After the latest disaster, Femi Fani-Kayode, a spokesman for Mr Obasanjo, said: "It is a national tragedy for us. We need to take all the necessary measures to make sure this sort of thing stops happening."

Asked whether this raised questions about air safety in Nigeria, he said: "Of course, people would be concerned, in view of the circumstances."

Correspondents say Nigeria's aviation industry has grown rapidly in recent years, but many aircraft are elderly and there have been several fatal crashes.

However, Sosoliso was regarded as one of the safer domestic Nigerian airlines.


Posted by Publisher at 08:14 AM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2005

Nigeria jet crash leaves 103 dead

A passenger plane has crashed in the southern Nigerian city of Port Harcourt, killing 103 people on board.

Seven survivors are said to have emerged from the burning wreckage of the plane.

The plane was bringing passengers from the capital Abuja when it overshot the runway during an electrical storm and burst into flames.

The DC-9, owned by the private Sosoliso Airlines, was said to be carrying dozens of school pupils.

The cause of the crash is not known, but civil aviation spokesman Samuel Adurogboye said the aircraft "ran into bad weather".

"Almost everyone was killed. There was a lot of flames," said an airport official.

"There were many students onboard, returning for the holidays."

Mr Adurogboye said seven people were rescued.

"They were breathing and were taken to hospital. They are responding to treatment," he said.

He did not say if they were passengers or crew members.

A distraught mother awaiting news of her child at the Port Harcourt airport said the plane was carrying 75 secondary school students from a Jesuit college in Abuja.

Safety concerns

A Boeing 737 aircraft crashed in October shortly after take-off from the commercial capital Lagos, killing all 117 people on board.

The flight recorders from that plane were never found.

President Olusegun Obasanjo had instructed his aviation minister to plug any loopholes to ensure airline safety.

Correspondents say Nigeria's aviation industry has grown rapidly in recent years, but many aircraft are elderly and there have been several fatal crashes.

However, Sosoliso was regarded as one of the safer domestic Nigerian airlines.

Posted by Publisher at 06:21 PM | Comments (0)

December 09, 2005

Nigeria arrests runaway governor

A Nigerian state governor who was charged with money laundering in the UK has been impeached and arrested in his oil-rich home state of Bayelsa.

Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was detained by police after losing the immunity from prosecution that he enjoyed in office.

He has always said he is innocent of charges that he laundered £1.8m ($3.2m) found in cash and bank accounts.

As Nigeria battles to shed a reputation for corruption, this is the first time a governor has been impeached.

The BBC's Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar in the state capital, Yenagoa, says there is a heavy security presence on the streets of the city.

Bayelsa State police commissioner, Hafiz Abubakar Ringim, said he personally took Mr Alamieyeseigha into custody and met no resistance.

"He doesn't appear very concerned to me," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

The governor is now being transferred to the capital, Abuja, our correspondent says.

On the run

"The cover of immunity has been taken away from him by the impeachment. We are going to move in immediately... The man has several cases against him. Everyone wants him," Osita Nwajah, spokesman for Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) told AFP.

Seventeen out of the state assembly's 24 members voted in favour of impeachment after considering the report of a panel that has been investigating the governor.

Before the vote, the speaker said the governor had not responded in anyway to the notice of his impeachment made more than two weeks ago.

Mr Alamieyeseigha is facing allegations of fraud by a special anti-corruption court sitting in the northern city of Kaduna.

He is also on the run from the UK authorities after he jumped bail last month in London, where he has been charged with money laundering.

Nigerian officials said Mr Alamieyeseigha left Britain disguised in women's clothing, although he has denied this.

Mr Alamieyeseigha has told the BBC that the $3.2m found in London does not belong to him.

Crackdown

He said the charges against him were politically motivated.

This move is an achievement for President Olusegun Obasanjo's anti-corruption crusade.

"I think we need to commend the courage of the State House Assembly of Bayelsa State for doing the right thing and restoring the honour of the Nigerian people," presidential spokesman Femi Fani-Kayode told Focus on Africa.

The president set up the EFCC anti-corruption body in order to fight fraud in a country ranked as one of the most corrupt in the world.

But his critics say the anti-corruption drive is bring used to eliminate political rivals.

Mr Alamieyeseigha is seen as being close to Vice-President Atiku Abubakar - who is vying with Mr Obasanjo for control of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP).

Last week, the governor was suspended from the PDP.

Posted by Publisher at 06:17 PM | Comments (0)

December 07, 2005

Saddam Hussein boycotts hearing

The trial of Saddam Hussein and seven of his former Baath Party regime colleagues has resumed without the former leader in the courtroom.

He is complaining about the conditions in which he is being held and how the trial is being conducted.

On Tuesday the former leader told his judges to "go to hell", vowing that he would not return to an "unjust" court.

The trial, over the 1982 killing of 148 Shia Muslims in Dujail, has now been adjourned until 21 December.

Meanwhile the eight-year-old son of a guard at the trial was abducted from outside his Baghdad home on Wednesday.

It was not immediately clear if the kidnapping was related to the trial.

Thousands of Iraqis, including many children, have been abducted - mainly for money - since the Iraqi leader was ousted in 2003.

In overnight violence, a man arrested on suspicion of plotting to kill the top trial investigator was freed by gunmen from a hospital in Kirkuk.

Wrangling

Saddam Hussein and his co-accused all deny the charges against them and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Wednesday's hearing resumed four hours late - after wrangling over how to proceed in the face of Saddam's boycott - with evidence from a new male witness.

Testifying from behind a curtain and with his voice disguised, the man said he had been arrested following the assassination attempt against Saddam in Dujail that prompted the alleged killing of 148 Shias.

He told the court of beatings in a Baghdad intelligence prison and said Saddam's half-brother and co-defendant Barzan al-Tikriti was present at one point.

However, he admitted under questioning that he had been blindfolded and had been told by other detainees that it was Barzan who spoke.

Having been moved to Abu Ghraib jail, he was beaten and saw prisoners being tortured every day, he said.

One other witness is due to testify on Wednesday.

'Go to hell!'

According to AFP news agency, as the hearing got under way, Saddam's lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi stood up to thank the chief judge, Rizgar Mohammed Amin for allowing the trial to continue.

Under Iraqi law the trial can carry on without the defendant present in the courtroom.

Arrangements may be made for the former president to watch the trial on a closed circuit TV link, with the right to intervene at certain points, possibly via a microphone, BBC world affairs editor John Simpson says.

Previous court sessions have been marked by frequent violent outbursts from the former Iraqi leader, who has complained constantly that the trial is unjust.

At the end of Tuesday's hearing, the former leader shouted at the judge: "I will not return, I will not come to an unjust court! Go to hell!"

This was after the judge ruled that the court would reconvene on the next day to hear two more witnesses, overruling Saddam's lawyers' request for a longer break.

Until now, many observers have felt that Saddam has used his appearances in court to great effect, calling on his followers to continue their fight against the American presence in Iraq and condemning the 2003 invasion again and again.

The defence team has long challenged the legitimacy of the process - which is being conducted by an Iraqi court set up under a mixture of Iraqi and international statutes.

Posted by Publisher at 02:49 PM | Comments (0)

Jacob Zuma's ANC duties suspended

South Africa's governing ANC party has confirmed that deputy leader Jacob Zuma may not carry out offical leadership duties while he faces a rape charge.

Mr Zuma was sacked as deputy president of the country in June and charged with corruption. He denies both charges.

Mr Zuma said on Tuesday he would suspend his participation in party structures during the rape trial.

The ANC said it accepted his suspension "forthwith". Mr Zuma was released on bail after a court hearing on Tuesday.

The party's decision leaves Mr Zuma politically isolated, unable to rally the support of his remaining sympathisers within the ANC, say correspondents.

Sensitivity

In a statement read out by secretary general Kgalema Motlante, the ANC national working committee said the law must be allowed to take its course, and that the party respected the principle of the presumption of innocence.

"The extended NWC noted the announcement by the deputy president of his decision, given the nature and the seriousness of the allegations, to voluntarily suspend his participation in the leading structures of the ANC for the duration of this trial. The meeting accepted this decision," the statement said.

Although Mr Zuma will retain the title of ANC deputy president, the ANC emphasised that he will not be allowed to speak on party platforms or carry out any other duties in the name of the ANC without express permission.

"Following consultation with Comrade Zuma, the National Working Committee understands this decision to mean that he would not act nor pronounce in the capacity of deputy president of the ANC for the duration of this trial," the statement said.

The sensitive nature of the rape charge made the decision a difficult one for the ANC, and the announcement of a decision was delayed several times.

Debate

Mr Motlante said the charge had raised "issues relating to the focus of the 16 days of activism" - an annual initiative against gender violence, supported by the government and the ANC - and had generated "lots of debate".

Mr Zuma was previously seen as the natural successor to President Thabo Mbeki.

While Mr Zuma's many supporters within the ANC and its allies stood by him as he was charged with corruption, his support has ebbed since the rape allegations first emerged in the press last month.

The corruption and rape charges have caused the party its biggest internal crisis since it was elected to power in 1994.

The corruption charges stem from the trial of Mr Zuma's former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, who is appealing against a 15-year jail sentence for fraud and corruption.

Posted by Publisher at 02:48 PM | Comments (0)

December 06, 2005

Nigeria VP vows no hand in 'plot'

Nigeria's Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has pledged he will never become involved in any plot to undermine the country's democratic government.

Mr Atiku's statement followed a media report of an alleged plan to frame him for treason over a false coup plot.

He also said denied rumours that he was on the verge of resigning. Observers say relations between Mr Atiku and President Obasanjo have become strained over who will stand in the 2007 presidential elections.

Nigeria's constitution would have to be changed to allow Olusegun Obasanjo to have a third term.

The vice-president is the only member of the government and the ruling People's Democratic Party who has not joined the campaign for an extension of Mr Obasanjo's tenure beyond 2007.

On Monday, the Daily Trust newspaper said it had received an e-mail message from an aide to Mr Atiku alleging the president's supporters were planning to frame the vice president for a false coup plot and then have him arrested.

The paper said it was told by a spokesman for the president that the allegations were fantasy and that the presidency did not bother itself with such "speculation and idle gossip".

In his statement, Mr Atiku said his attention had "been drawn to some documents circulating in the country about a purported plan to rope me and some of my associates into certain unconstitutional acts.

"For the avoidance of doubt, I wish to state unequivocally, that by my antecedents and democratic convictions, I will never be involved in any plot to derail our hard-earned democratic system of government," he said.

He added that he remained committed and faithful to his oath of office to uphold the constitution.

"In this regard, anyone purporting to drag my name or office into anything contrary to this oath should be regarded as mischief-makers who do not wish our country well."

Posted by Publisher at 04:15 PM | Comments (0)

Military in Lagos flats showdown

Soldiers in the Nigerian city of Lagos have descended on tower blocks in a well-off suburb to evict the residents.

The armed men arrived before dawn and knocked down apartment doors shouting: "Pack out or you'll suffer".

Bar Beach Towers and a nearby complex are being sold off by the government and civil servants living there are being given a rent allowance instead.

The government workers wanted to buy the flats but the buildings have been handed over to the military.

The BBC's Sola Odunfa at the Bar Beach Towers said the soldiers have cordoned off the area in Victoria Island and are not allowing people in or out of the 120 apartments.

They are threatening those inside the five high-rise blocks, he said.

The army is expected to try and forcibly remove the residents from a nearby complex of 1004 apartments next.

On Monday, our correspondent says there were demonstrations outside the 1004 block as civil service occupants prepared to battle it out and resist their eviction.

All military services across Nigeria face a shortage of barracks, he says.


Posted by Publisher at 04:02 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria's runaway governor

The BBC News website profiles Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, the Nigerian governor who is under investigation after jumping bail in the UK.

Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, governor of Nigeria's Bayelsa state, has an official CV that boasts awards including Best Governor on Security and the Golden Trophy for Good Governance.

British prosecutors argue that his achievements also include money laundering to the tune of £1.8m ($3.2m).

The governor denies this charge - but responded to it by developing a new talent as an escapologist as he jumped bail and fled the UK, eventually reappearing back in Bayelsa.

Nigeria's anti-corruption agents also say he is a master of disguise, donning women's clothing as he fled - though the governor denies this. But he told the BBC that he does not remember any other details of the long journey home.

Rumours

One Nigerian paper claimed that the rumours of cross-dressing were in fact put about by British intelligence.

Whatever the true details of his escape, the governor has not gone home to a warm welcome.

On the contrary, no sooner had he arrived than demonstrators began calling for his departure from office, and the state assembly served notice of impeachment proceedings.

If removed from office, he would lose the immunity from prosecution that he enjoys in his office as governor.

In fact, he is already being prosecuted by the Kaduna Code of Conduct Tribunal - the only court which has the power to remove his immunity.

Projects

Those who are being kind say Mr Alamieyeseigha is a product of Nigeria's corrupt democratic system.

"The present democratic system in Nigeria is faulty as it is incapable of producing visionary, selfless and popular leaders," says one critic.

His opponents say "Alamco" - he got his nickname from the Alamieyeseigha Campaign Organisation of the 2003 general election - is hardly a charismatic leader, and has abused the trust of Ijaw people he claims to represent.

They feel he has spent state money on unnecessary projects like building a new government house at the cost of over 10bn naira ($77m), an airport in his native town of Amassoma, and an Olympic-sized stadium in the state capital, Yenagoa.

Poverty

They argue that these and other projects have no direct benefit for the people of the state who are living in abject poverty.

Meanwhile, a general hospital he started building about six years ago is still to be completed.

Since the state is yet to be connected to the national electrical grid, the state depends on an ageing gas turbine that was out of order for about eight months earlier this year.

Mr Alamieyeseigha began his career as a civil servant before undergoing military training and joining the Nigerian Air Force in 1974.

He served in the force until resigning voluntarily in 1992 - but allegations about his military career came back to haunt him in the 1999 elections, when his opponent claimed that Mr Alamieyeseigha had resigned hastily from the Air Force before being expelled for cheating in exams.

Since his arrest and arraignment in a London court for alleged money laundering, jumping bail and return to his state in Nigeria, he has been under extreme pressure to resign.

Thousands of Bayelsans - men, women and youths - have staged peaceful protests demanding his resignation or his impeachment by the state house of assembly.

Investigation

The state assembly is now waiting for a judge to complete an investigation that will guide assembly members on whether to vote for impeachment.


His supporters, who are few compared to the opposition, have also staged peaceful demonstrations calling for him to continue in office at least until 2007 when his tenure expires.

These supporters, who feel the governor is being witch-hunted by the federal government, say he should be left alone as he is not the only corrupt government official in the country.

As one of them puts it: "Corruption has become part and parcel of our national life, there is hardly one official that is not corrupt, so Obasanjo should leave Alamco alone."

Some of his supporters feel that Mr Alamieyeseigha is being victimised because he is seen as being close to Vice-President Atiku Abubakar - Mr Obasanjo's rival to contest 2007 presidential elections on behalf of the ruling People's Democratic Party.

Posted by Publisher at 04:00 PM | Comments (0)

December 02, 2005

Governor escape 'shames' Nigeria

President Olusegun Obasanjo has said that the governor who jumped bail on money-laundering charges in the UK and escaped home is "shameful" to Nigeria.

Mr Obasanjo was commenting on the case of Diepreye Alamieyeseigha for the first time in public, although he has asked the UK for an explanation.

Mr Alamieyeseigha was expelled from the ruling PDP party on Thursday.

He also faces corruption charges in a special court, which can strip elected officials of their immunity.

Neither he nor his legal representatives, however, appeared in the Kaduna Code of Conduct Tribunal on charges of illicit enrichment and failure to declare properties and bank accounts.

The judge ordered newspapers to publish a summons for him to appear in court and adjourned the case for a week.

Mr Alamieyeseigha has told the BBC that the £1.8m ($3.2m) found in his properties in London did not belong to him.

He said the charges against him were politically motivated.

Change attitudes

Mr Obasanjo also criticised those who marched through the streets of the Bayelsa state capital, Yenagoa, celebrating the governor's escape.

He said it was unfortunate that people were taking public pride in doing-wrong and said these attitudes must change if Nigeria is to move forward.


"Many Nigerians were doing wrong without a sense of wrong-doing."

"It is shameful to all of us that a governor jumped bail and some people are hailing him," he said.

Correspondents say the governor is under siege, facing impeachment in his oil-rich home state of Bayelsa, while extra troops have been sent there.

They have closed down the state radio station, which some see as being close to the governor.

He has moved out of his official residence in the state capital, Yenagoa, and has surrounded himself with his own team of armed bodyguards.

However, he was at work on Thursday, inspecting projects in Yenagoa, reports Nigeria's Guardian newspaper.

Women's clothing

Nigerian officials have said the governor had left Britain disguised in women's clothing, although he has denied this.

Mr Alamieyeseigha said he was prepared to return to Britain, where police say they want him back to face the charges.

He was granted bail on condition that he remained in the UK, surrendered his passport and reported regularly to the police.

If the judges find that he has skipped bail, securities worth some £1.25m ($2.14m) would be forfeited.

Mr Obasanjo set up the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in order to fight fraud in a country ranked as one of the most corruption in the world.

But his critics say the anti-corruption drive is bring used to eliminate political rivals.

Mr Alamieyeseigha is seen as being close to Vice-President Atiku Abubakar - who is vying with Mr Obasanjo for control of the ruling People's Democratic Party.

Posted by Publisher at 03:25 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria summons 'rogue' governor

Nigeria's anti-corruption body has begun legal proceedings against a governor in a special court, which can strip elected officials of immunity.

Diepreye Alamieyeseigha faces charges of corruption and failure to declare properties and bank accounts at the Kaduna Code of Conduct Tribunal.

He escaped to Nigeria from the UK where he was accused of money-laundering.

The judge ordered newspapers to publish a summons for him to appear in court and adjourned the case for a week.

Correspondents say he is under siege, facing impeachment in his home state and suspension from the ruling party.

Mr Alamieyeseigha did not turn up for the hearing in the northern city of Kaduna.

Extra troops have been sent to his oil-rich Bayelsa state and they have closed down the state radio station, which some see as being close to the governor.

He has moved out of his official residence in the state capital, Yenagoa, and has surrounded himself with his own team of armed bodyguards.

He is accused of operating unauthorised bank accounts in several countries including Britain, and illegally acquiring property in London and Nigeria.

Last week, Mr Alamieyeseigha told the BBC that the £1.8m ($3.2m) found in his properties in London did not belong to him.

He said the charges against him were politically motivated.

Women's clothing

Although elected officials have immunity from prosecution in Nigeria, the BBC's Yusuf Sarki Mohammed in the capital, Abuja, says the Code of Conduct tribunal can override this and can even prosecute the president.

Several days ago, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair seeking an explanation of how Mr Alamieyeseigha managed to escape while he was on bail.


Nigerian officials have said Mr Alamieyeseigha had left Britain disguised in women's clothing, although he has denied this.

Mr Alamieyeseigha said he was prepared to return to Britain, where police say they want him back to face the charges.

He was granted bail on condition that he remained in the UK, surrendered his passport and reported regularly to the police.

If the judges find that he has skipped bail, securities worth some £1.25m ($2.14m) would be forfeited.

Mr Obasanjo set up the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in order to fight fraud in a country ranked as one of the most corruption in the world.

But his critics say the anti-corruption drive is bring used to eliminate political rivals.

Mr Alamieyeseigha is seen as being close to Vice-President Atiku Abubakar - who is vying with Mr Obasanjo for control of the ruling People's Democratic Party.

Posted by Publisher at 03:23 PM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2005

Darfur rebels 'united' for talks

Rival leaders of the largest rebel group in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region say they will present a united front at peace talks due to resume in Nigeria.

The splits in the SLM are blamed for the failure of previous talks and an upsurge in recent fighting.

"Our people on the ground need us to remain united," said Abdel Wahid Mohamed el-Nur, one of the men claiming to lead the SLM.

Some two million people have fled their homes in Darfur.

Earlier this month, a top US diplomat told the SLM rebels to end their differences or risking losing support.

'Final round'

Mr Wahid's rival in the SLM, Minni Minnawi, also said they would present a joint position at the talks with the Sudan government in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

"We are going to enter the talks with one delegation... I came here because I hope this should be the final round," he told Reuters news agency.

Mr Minnawi claims to have replaced Mr Wahid as SLM leader but Mr Wahid's supporters say a vote won by Mr Minnawi was invalid.

The BBC's Jonah Fisher in Sudan says Mr Wahid's has lost some support after he spent most of the last two years outside Darfur.

Mr Minnawi by contrast is a military man and has much greater support among commanders on the ground.

After meeting both factions in Kenya earlier this month, US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick said.

"My concluding point with the SLM was that we want to help them but to help them they need to help us be able to deal with the united movement."

The rebel splits have coincided with an upsurge in violence in Darfur with repeated ceasefire violations and the killing of African Union peacekeepers in the region.

The SLM took up arms in February 2003, accusing the Arab-dominated government of discriminating against Darfur's black African population.

The pro-government Janjaweed militia then swept through the region, killing and raping civilians in what some say equates to a genocide.

The Sudan government denies claims that it arms the Janjaweed.


Posted by Publisher at 02:39 PM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2005

Extra troops for Nigerian state

The Nigerian army has sent additional troops into Bayelsa state, amid tensions over the possible impeachment of the governor.

Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha recently returned to Bayelsa after skipping bail in the UK, where he has been charged with money laundering.

The state legislature has moved to impeach the governor.

Tension is high in the state capital, Yenagoa, with rival groups marching in favour of and against the governor.

The governor denies the charges of money laundering and says he is being persecuted for political reasons.

Soldiers set up road blocks in the state capital, Yenagoa, on Monday morning.

The BBC's Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar in Yenagoa reports that convoys of military vehicles are driving around the streets of the city.

'Tense'

"The area has been tense, there have been attempts by the house for impeachment. Militant youths have been moved into that place armed with weapons," Army Brigadier General Elias Zamani told Reuters news agency.

"There are different groups. They way things are going it could escalate to where different groups start fighting. So it's a pre-emptive step to save lives and property."


Diepreye Alamieyeseigha insists that the £1.8m ($3.2m) found in cash and bank accounts was not his.

In the UK, High Court judges have rejected his argument that he should enjoy immunity as a Nigerian state governor but said he could appeal to the House of Lords.

It is not clear whether Nigeria's federal security forces will try to arrest Mr Alamieyeseigha, as he has immunity from prosecution in Nigeria as long as he remains in office as governor.

Mr Alamieyeseigha was originally arrested in September at Heathrow airport and some £1m-worth of cash was allegedly found in his London home.

He was granted bail on condition that he remained in the UK, surrendered his passport and reported regularly to the police.

If the judges find that he has skipped bail, securities worth some £1.25m ($2.14m) would be forfeited.

Nigeria is considered one of the world's most corrupt countries but President Olusegun Obasanjo has vowed to fight the problem.

Mr Obasanjo's critics say the anti-corruption drive is being used to target his political opponents.

Mr Alamieyeseigha is seen as being close to Vice-President Atiku Abubakar - who is vying with Mr Obasanjo for control of the ruling People's Democratic Party.

Posted by Publisher at 06:02 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria presses UK over governor

Nigeria's president says he has written to the UK prime minister asking how a Nigerian state governor charged with money laundering was able to skip bail.

Olusegun Obasanjo said he had contacted Tony Blair after the governor of oil-rich Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, escaped to Nigeria.

The governor had been charged with three counts involving £1.8m ($3.2m).

Mr Obasanjo has launched a campaign to stop Nigeria being seen as a country where corruption is rife.

BBC World Affairs Correspondent Mark Doyle says the Nigerian authorities are now clearly furious that a man accused of money laundering in the UK should be able to escape to Nigeria where, as governor, he has immunity from prosecution.

The Nigerian army has sent additional troops into Bayelsa and set up roadblocks. The state legislature has moved to impeach the governor.

Tension is high in the state capital, Yenagoa, with rival groups marching in favour of and against the governor.

The BBC's Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar in the city says some 1,500 people called on Mr Alamieyeseigha to resign, while 500 people backed him. The marches passed off peacefully.

But apart from the marches and the roadblocks, life is continuing as normal.

Surprise

The Nigerian president's office said that since the UK and Nigeria were collaborating in the fight against corruption, President Obasanjo had been surprised to learn that the governor had been able to jump bail in the UK.

Nigerian officials have said Mr Alamieyeseigha had left Britain disguised in women's clothing, although he has denied this.

Mr Alamieyeseigha said he was prepared to return to Britain, where police say they want him back to face the charges.

He said the charges against him were politically motivated.

The UK's High Court rejected his argument that he should enjoy immunity as a Nigerian state governor but said he could appeal to the House of Lords.

Army Brigadier General Elias Zamani told Reuters news agency that rival militant youths armed with weapons had been seen in Yenagoa.

"The way things are going it could escalate to where different groups start fighting," he said.

"So it's a pre-emptive step to save lives and property."

Bail forfeited

The leader of one of Bayelsa's militant movements, the Ijaw Youth Council, accused soldiers of intimidating and harassing civilians.

"They will strip you almost naked in an attempt to search you," Jonjon Oyinfie said.

"They are stopping all the buses and making passengers get off and put their hands in the air."

It is not clear whether Nigeria's federal security forces will try to arrest Mr Alamieyeseigha, as he has immunity from prosecution in Nigeria as long as he remains in office as governor.

Mr Alamieyeseigha was originally arrested in September at Heathrow airport and some £1m-worth of cash was allegedly found in his London home.

He was granted bail on condition that he remained in the UK, surrendered his passport and reported regularly to the police.

If the judges find that he has skipped bail, securities worth some £1.25m ($2.14m) would be forfeited.

Mr Obasanjo's critics say his anti-corruption drive is bring used to eliminate political rivals.

Mr Alamieyeseigha is seen as being close to Vice-President Atiku Abubakar - who is vying with Mr Obasanjo for control of the ruling People's Democratic Party.


Posted by Publisher at 05:49 PM | Comments (0)

November 25, 2005

Governor 'did not flee in dress'

A Nigerian state governor has denied reports that he escaped charges of money-laundering in the UK by disguising himself as a woman.

However, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha told the BBC that he could not remember other details of his journey back to the oil-rich southern Bayelsa State.

He insisted that he was innocent and that the £1.8m ($3.2m) found in cash and bank accounts was not his.

On Thursday, some 2,000 people marched in Bayelsa, urging him to resign.

"Alamieyeseigha we are ashamed of you. Go back to London," read one banner.

Nigeria's newspapers have been full of doctored photos, showing Mr Alamieyeseigha wearing different styles of women's clothes.

In the UK, High Court judges have rejected his argument that he should enjoy immunity as a Nigerian state governor but said he could appeal to the House of Lords.

He has lodged bail worth £1.25m ($2.15m), which would be forfeited if the court rules that Mr Alamieyeseigha has broken his bail conditions.

The BBC's Sola Odunfa in the state capital, Yenagoa, says Mr Alamieyeseigha is no longer staying at his luxurious official residence in the city but has moved to his home town of Amasoma, 40km away.

Our correspondent says only his trusted loyalists have access to the governor and that when he goes to work in Yenagoa, his armed personal bodyguards are deployed throughout the building.

It is not clear whether Nigeria's federal security forces will try to arrest Mr Alamieyeseigha, as he has immunity from prosecution in Nigeria.

The ruling People's Democratic Party is set to expel the governor for bringing Nigeria into "national and international disrepute", following a recommendation of the party's top body.

Anti-corruption drive

But the governor told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that "of course" he would be returning to the UK to face the charges.

"I do not have that type of money," he said.

He said that the charges were part of a political plot to oust him and this was why impeachment papers had been filed by the state parliament after his return.


Governors have immunity from prosecution only while in office.

Mr Alamieyeseigha was originally arrested in September at Heathrow airport and some £1m-worth of cash was allegedly found in his London home.

He was granted bail on condition that he remained in the UK, surrendered his passport and reported regularly to the police.

The head of Nigeria's anti-corruption body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), told the BBC's Hausa service that Mr Alamieyeseigha had "forged documents" and "dressed as a woman" to escape the UK.

Last year, another Nigerian state governor returned home after being arrested in London.

Joshua Dariye from Plateau state was quizzed by police on money laundering allegations involving more than £1m.

Nigeria is considered one of the world's most corrupt countries but President Olusegun Obasanjo has vowed to fight the problem.

He set up the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after his election in 1999.

Several senior officials have been put under investigation for alleged corruption in recent months and the first significant conviction during his six years in power was made this week - when former police chief Tafa Balogun was sentenced to six months in prison.

Mr Obasanjo's critics say the anti-corruption drive is being used to target his political opponents.

Posted by Publisher at 05:54 PM | Comments (0)

November 22, 2005

Nigerian ex-police chief jailed

Nigeria's former police chief Tafa Balogun has pleaded guilty to eight charges of corruption and been sentenced to six months in prison. He becomes the first senior official to be convicted in Nigeria's drive to stamp out corruption.

Nigeria's former police chief Tafa Balogun has pleaded guilty to eight charges of corruption and been sentenced to six months in prison.
He becomes the first senior official to be convicted in Nigeria's drive to stamp out corruption.

He was arrested in January and has already spent 67 days in custody. He is due to be released early next year.

Judge Binta Nyako said her sentence reflected that Balogun was a first offender and had "shown remorse".

Balogun was inspector general of Nigeria's police for three years until his arrest.

He was also ordered to pay a fine of 4m naira ($30,000), while some $150m-worth of cash and property will be seized by government.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission set up to spearhead the fight against corruption by President Olusegun Obasanjo said the conviction was a victory.

"We have recovered all the money for which he was charged... Today's court order is the final order we need," said EFCC lawyer Rotimi Jacobs.

Nigeria is routinely ranked as being seen as one of the world's most corrupt countries by watchdog Transparency International.


Posted by Publisher at 06:41 PM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2005

Nigeria governor 'skips UK bail'

The governor of an oil-rich Nigerian state has fled the UK, where he was charged with laundering £1.8m ($3.2m) found in cash and bank accounts.

Diepreye Alamieyeseigha is back at work in his home state of Bayelsa, officials say. He was granted bail in September, on condition he stayed in the UK.

He was originally arrested in September in Heathrow airport and some £1m-worth of cash was found in his London home.

Mr Alamieyeseigha says he is innocent and said the UK was being neo-colonial.

Bayelsa's Information Commissioner Oronto Douglas told the AFP news agency: "We woke up this morning and he was here... He said that God brought him here."

Mr Douglas said large crowds had lined the streets of the state capital, Yenagoa, to welcome the governor back.

British police have confirmed that he has failed to meet his bail conditions which included reporting regularly to a police station.

Anti-corruption drive

The head of Nigeria's anti-corruption body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), told the BBC's Hausa service that Mr Alamieyeseigha had "forged documents" and "dressed as a woman" to escape the UK.

It was a "scandal", said Nuhu Ribadu.

Nigeria's anti-corruption body has been investigating the governor for more than three years.


Under Nigerian law, governors enjoy immunity from prosecution while in office.

However, such immunity does not extend beyond Nigeria's shores.

Last year, another Nigerian state governor was arrested in London.

Joshua Dariye from Plateau state was quizzed by police on money laundering allegations involving more than £1m.

He was freed on bail and returned to Nigeria and is still wanted for questioning by British police.

Nigeria is considered one of the world's most corrupt countries but President Olusegun Obasanjo has vowed to fight the problem.

He set up the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after his election in 1999.

Although several senior officials have been put under investigation for alleged corruption in recent months, there has not been any significant conviction during his six years in power.

Mr Obasanjo's critics say the anti-corruption drive is being used to target his political opponents.


Posted by Publisher at 02:52 PM | Comments (0)

ANC stands by Zuma on rape claim

South Africa's governing ANC party has refrained from acting against the party's deputy president, Jacob Zuma, who has been accused of rape.

Mr Zuma has also been charged with corruption and was sacked as the country's deputy president in June.

At a weekend meeting of ANC's national executive, Mr Zuma admitted he was facing allegations of rape, and asked to address the meeting on the subject.

This followed press reports that police were pursuing rape claims against him.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlante said Mr Zuma had again denied the allegations.

"The NEC [National Executive Committee] took the view that since the matter is still under investigation, we should not engage with it, but [ANC] officials must keep a close eye on the matter."

While Mr Zuma's supporters have continued to protest his innocence in the face of corruption charges, the rape allegations have increased the pressure on Mr Zuma himself and made it more difficult for his allies to continue their unequivocal support.

Mr Motlante added that the allegations are being "regarded very seriously by the ANC".

'No conspiracy'

The NEC weekend meeting, called in an attempt to resolve perceived differences between Mr Zuma's supporters and supporters of President Thabo Mbeki, continued for a day longer than scheduled, reportedly amid deep controversy.

The meeting's final statement, released on Monday, rejected allegations made by the Zuma camp over the past few months that the former deputy president was the victim of a conspiracy from within the ANC.

"The NEC rejects any suggestion that there is in existence a political conspiracy within our movement and its leadership, dedicated to marginalising or in any other way harming our deputy president," the statement said.

Mr Zuma's supporters have been alleging a conspiracy ever since the country's then deputy president came under investigation on charges of corruption relating to a multi-billion dollar arms deal - charges that he has consistently denied.

Mr Zuma has a large following among ANC members, and the case has caused the party its biggest internal crisis since it was elected to power in 1994.

His court appearances have been accompanied by rowdy demonstrations. On Monday, Mr Motlante said any future expressions of support must be conducted "with dignity".

The corruption charges stem from the trial of Mr Zuma's former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, who is appealing against a 15-year jail sentence for fraud and corruption.


Posted by Publisher at 02:39 PM | Comments (0)

Fifa boss lays foundation for SA

South African President Thabo Mbeki and Fifa chief Sepp Blatter on Monday laid the foundations for a new football facility at FNB stadium.

Fifa will pay for the building, called Safa House, which is due to be completed by next July.

It will serve as headquarters of the 2010 World Cup organising committee and Fifa's temporary home during the finals.

FNB stadium will be one of the main venues for the World Cup finals.

"It's time to build this house upon which its foundation lies trust and confidence from Fifa that South Africa will host a good World Cup in 2010," Blatter said.

Last year, South Africa won the right to become the first African country to hold the World Cup finals.

Organisers hope to keep construction costs to a minimum by refurbishing existing venues and only building new stadiums in areas where there is a need for a sporting complex which will be used after the event.

South African authorities say they are confident the country will cope with the influx of tourists during the event, but there are real concerns about the lack of good quality public transport for visiting fans.


Posted by Publisher at 02:16 PM | Comments (0)

November 08, 2005

Nigeria ex-president's home burnt

The home of Nigeria's late first post-independence president has been burnt down during a protest by Biafran separatists in the south-east.

They were demonstrating in the city of Onitsha against the arrest last month of their leader, Ralph Uwazurike.

His outlawed organisation, Massob, wants a separate state, Biafra, for the Igbo people in the south-east.

The BBC's Chukwujama Eze in Enugu says Massob denies starting the fire and it is unclear if there are injuries.

There are reports of gunshots being heard.

The demonstration brought chaos to much of the city and major roads were blocked, our correspondent says.

Other Massob demonstrations were held across eastern Nigeria on Monday, he says.

The late Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was president from 1963 to1966, is a revered figure among most Ibgo, Reuters reports.

The Igbo fought to break away from the rest of Nigeria during a three-year civil war that ended in 1970.

The Movement for the Actualisation of a Sovereign State of Biafra (Massob) was banned three years ago. It says it is pursuing its objectives peacefully.

Several Massob members have died in the last three years in clashes with the police in south-eastern Nigeria, where it draws the bulk of its support.

The government is intolerant of its existence because it revives memories of the horrors of the Biafran war, in which one million people died.


Posted by Publisher at 06:21 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria separatist treason charge

Nigeria has charged the leader of a separatist organisation that has campaigned for the creation of a Republic of Biafra with treason.

Ralph Uwazurike and six others denied in an Abuja court any intention to take up arms to intimidate the state.

His outlawed organisation, Massob, wants a separate state, Biafra, for the Igbo people in the south-east.

On Monday his supporters clashed with police in the city of Onitsha as they demanded Mr Uwazurike's release.

Authorities accused them of burning down the home of Nigeria's late post-independence head of state, Nnamdi Azikiwe, during the protests, which they deny.

The Movement for the Actualisation of a Sovereign State of Biafra (Massob) was banned three years ago. It says it is pursuing its objectives peacefully.

Meanwhile, 20 Massob members were charged in a Kaduna court in northern Nigeria - where there is a sizeable Igbo community - with incitement on Tuesday for allegedly distributing leaflets about their organisation.

Life imprisonment

The BBC's Yusuf Sarki Muhammad in the capital, Abuja, says that if found guilty Mr Uwazurike could face the death penalty.

But as this has not been carried out for decades, it would most likely be life imprisonment.

Charges against the men include training a Massob army and unlawfully running a society with the aim of waging war with the federal state.

The judge said the men were to remain in custody until the start of the trial on 6 December.

As the defendants left the courtroom they shouted: "Freedom, freedom. Biafra or nothing!", AFP reports.

The Igbo fought to break away from the rest of Nigeria during a three-year civil war that ended in 1970.

But Mr Uwazurike, who studied in India, says he is an admirer of the Indian nationalist leader Mahatma Gandi, who pursued a policy of non-violent civil disobedience.

Ethnic separatist crackdown

Mr Uwazurike is not the first ethnic separatist leader to be indicted recently.

Last month, Niger Delta militia leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari was put on trial for treason and two factional leaders of the south-western Yoruba Ooduna People's Congress were charged with murder.

Our correspondent says with general elections due in 2007, authorities may trying to crackdown on these tribal organisations.

Others believe the government is trying to prove that it is taking its war on corruption beyond official government circles, he says.

Several Massob members have died in the last three years in clashes with the police in south-eastern Nigeria, where it draws the bulk of its support.

The government is intolerant of its existence because it revives memories of the horrors of the Biafran war, in which one million people died.


Posted by Publisher at 06:08 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria militant on hunger strike

A militant leader from Nigeria's oil-region has begun a hunger strike in protest at police treatment in custody.

Mujahid Dokubu-Asari's lawyer said he was not even taking water and was unhappy at being kept in solitary confinement and often moved.

A police spokesman denied ill-treatment and said he was in a three-star chalet.

Mr Asari was arrested in September after an interview in which he vowed to fight to break up Nigeria, the world's eighth largest oil exporter.

"He started the hunger strike yesterday [Sunday]. He is not taking anything, not even water. He is demanding to be kept in prison custody where he can have access to facilities and other inmates, " defence council Festus Keyamo told Reuters news agency.

Police spokesman Haz Iwendi denied he was on a hunger strike saying they had a monthly budget of $1,500 just to feed him.

"We have given him VIP treatment. That means he is not in a normal cell, but in a chalet, in a suite of his own. He is not in solitary confinement."

Last year, Mr Asari's Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force contributed to a sharp rise in world oil prices when it threatened war against oil companies.

They want more control of oil resources for the Ijaw people of the Niger Delta, where most of Nigeria's oil is produced.

The Niger Delta remains one of Nigeria's poorest and least developed regions.


Posted by Publisher at 05:43 PM | Comments (0)

November 05, 2005

Nigeria seeks deal on Ivorian PM

Nigeria's president has held talks with rival factions in Ivory Coast in a bid to find the state a new prime minister.

Olusegun Obasanjo, who is also chairman of the African Union, said he had asked for recommendations and a name would be agreed "in the shortest time possible".

The candidate must be acceptable to all parties and will have to lead Ivory Coast towards free and fair elections.

Polls were due to be held last Sunday but the country is still divided after rebels took the north three years ago.

A recent United Nations resolution allowed Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo to remain in power for a year after the elections' postponement, and urged that a new prime minister be appointed.

List of names

Mr Obasanjo arrived to great fanfare, as drummers played and women in long white robes danced.

He spent the day meeting his Ivorian counterpart Mr Gbagbo, the outgoing Prime Minister Seydou Diarra, the political opposition and the mediation group.

The mediators - from South Africa, the UN and Economic Community of West African States - will study the list of nominees to try to find a candidate acceptable to all, Mr Obasanjo said.

"We are doing everything humanly possible to do it within the shortest time possible," he said, before leaving for Nigeria.

Mr Obasanjo said the question would be settled in the coming days or weeks.

The leader of the New Forces rebels, Guillaume Soro, said on Sunday that he would be the new prime minister but this is extremely unlikely, says the BBC's James Copnall in Abidjan.

The UN has said that the new prime minister should be acceptable to all - which rules out Mr Soro, our correspondent says - and that the new appointee should have reinforced powers.

These powers include areas such as defence, security and electoral matters.

The opposition interpret this as meaning the prime minister will be the de facto head of state, our correspondent adds.

Mr Gbagbo, who will stay in office for up to a year despite his mandate running out, insists he retains full powers.


Posted by Publisher at 11:41 AM | Comments (0)

October 31, 2005

Achebe: Oral tradition not needed

World-famous Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe has said that Africans should not be overly concerned if the long-established tradition of oral storytelling dies out.

Many African communities have a long tradition of oral storytelling

Achebe, once described by Nelson Mandela as "the writer in whose presence prison walls fell down," told the BBC that he agreed that the art was dying out - but insisted it could be revived "if we decide that the oral story is absolutely necessary."

"Oral storytelling was important when I was writing - it may not be important when the next generation is writing," he said.

"Obviously I believe in the importance of stories, but whether oral, or written, or televised, I cannot lay down the law.

"We are fascinated by the oral tradition, and it's right that we should be fascinated. But if it's not going to work any more in the future, then rather than sit and weep and mourn, why don't we find out what has come to replace it?"

Maintaining Igbo

But Achebe, who last year rejected an award from his home country on the grounds that the country was in a "dangerous" state of affairs, also spoke about the need in Nigeria to continue telling stories in Nigeria's native languages.

Achebe, who is very critical of colonialism and its aftermath in Africa, explained that he himself writes in English because he is a victim of linguistic colonialism.

But he added that he felt it was important not to "lose sight of the need for our mother tongue."


I hope I have shown it is possible to show respect to English and Igbo together

Chinua Achebe

"The situation may well develop in the future, in which the different languages of Africa will begin to reassert themselves," he added.

"I have made provision for that myself, by writing certain kinds of material in Igbo. For instance, I will insist my poetry is translated back into Igbo while I'm still around."

He insisted that he wrote in English not to attract a wide international audience, but simply because he had been educated in English.

But he added that his use of English was inspired by his Igbo background.

"When I'm writing in English, Igbo is standing next to it," he added.

"I have therefore developed, I think, this possibly, in which these two languages are in communion.

"I hope I have shown it is possible, in these two languages, to show respect to English and Igbo together."


Posted by Publisher at 02:12 PM | Comments (0)

October 28, 2005

Service for Nigeria leader's wife

A service of remembrance is being held on Friday in Nigeria for President Olusegun Obasanjo's wife who died in a southern Spanish resort at the weekend.

Nigerian officials have kept silent about how Stella Obasanjo died. The president said she passed away while on holiday and without noticeable illness.

But Spanish media reported she died after cosmetic surgery at the exclusive Molding clinic in Marbella.

The cause of her death is still being investigated.

On Wednesday mourners filed past her body lying in an open coffin in the capital, Abuja.

Mrs Obasanjo will be buried on Saturday.

She was known for her charitable work with children and HIV/Aids sufferers but was also implicated in a corruption scandal earlier this year.


Posted by Publisher at 01:36 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria arrests Biafra separatist

Nigeria has arrested the leader of a separatist organisation that has campaigned for the creation of a Republic of Biafra.

The leader, Ralph Uwazuruike, was flown to the capital, Abuja.

Mr Uwazuruike leads the Movement for the Actualisation of a Sovereign State of Biafra, which wants a separate state for the Igbo people in the south-east.

The Igbo fought to break away from the rest of Nigeria during a three-year civil war that ended in 1970.

News of the arrest is reported to have provoked demonstrations by supporters of the separatist movement.

The Movement for the Actualisation of a Sovereign State of Biafra (Massob) was banned three years ago. It says it is pursuing its objectives peacefully.

Several Massob members have died in the last three years in clashes with the police in south-eastern Nigeria, where it draws the bulk of its support.

The government is intolerant of its existence because it revives memories of the horrors of the Biafran war, in which one million people died.


Posted by Publisher at 01:33 PM | Comments (0)

October 27, 2005

Nigeria service at air crash site

A short inter-denominational Christian service is taking place for the victims of Saturday's air crash in which all 117 people on board were killed.

President Olusegun Obasanjo is attending the service at the crash site at Lissa, just north of Lagos.

The Bellview Airlines Boeing 737 bound for the capital Abuja came down shortly after taking off from Lagos.

The cause of the crash has yet to be established, and a team of United States air investigators has arrived.

The American team to assist in the probe includes representatives of the Boeing Corporation and members of the US National Transportation Safety Board.

Hundreds of mourners have gathered for the service united in grief, says the BBC's reporter there Sola Odunfa.

On Wednesday, Nigeria observed a one minute's silence but the BBC's Jamilah Tangaza in Abuja said the observance appeared to have little impact on the streets of the capital.

Meanwhile, a police spokesman has said he does not believe reports that a previously unknown group from the Niger Delta brought down the plane.

The Coalition for Militant Action in the Niger Delta sent a statement on Tuesday to a number of newspapers taking what it called "full responsibility" for the crash and demanding the release of a separatist Niger Delta militia leader, Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, who is on trial for treason.

"It's not real. If people planned it, the statement would have been out before now," the police spokesman Haz Iwendi told Nigeria's Comet newspaper.

Investigators have been combing the crash site looking for clues.

Security on domestic flights in Nigeria is lax, no photo ID is required and passengers can turn up to an airport and buy their ticket on the day of travel.

The pilot of Bellview Airlines flight 210 reportedly sent a distress signal just after taking off from Lagos for the capital, Abuja, in stormy weather at 2045 local time (1945 GMT) on Saturday.

Bellview said the 24-year-old plane had been given a clean bill of health by safety inspectors in February.


Posted by Publisher at 02:49 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria postpone FA Cup final

The Nigeria FA Cup final, scheduled for Saturday, has been indefinitely postponed.

By Oluwashina Okeleji
BBC Sport, Lagos

Robinson Okosun, spokesman for the Nigeria FA, told BBC Sport that the game between Enyimba and Lobi Stars was put off as a mark of respect to the 117 people that died in an air crash.

Nigeria was thrown into mourning last weekend, when a Bellview Airlines Boeing 737, bound for the capital Abuja, came down after taking off from Lagos.

The tragedy came on the heels of an earlier report that Stella Obasanjo, the wife of the Nigerian president, had died in a Spanish hospital.

This was the result of complications resulting from an operation.

"The entire Nigerian community is mourning the First lady and those who lost their lives in that tragic incident," Okosun said.

No new date has been fixed for the game, which was billed for Port Harcourt's Liberation Stadium.

"We have to sit down with the sponsors of the FA Cup to fix a new date."

In a related development, the Nigeria Football League (NFL) board also called-off this weekend's league fixtures.

"Games have been postponed for a week as we mourn the death of the First Lady Stella Obasanjo and those who died in the ill fated plane crash," NFL executive secretary Salihu Abubakar told BBC Sport.

Abubakar also revealed that on resumption of the league, players will be expected to wear black armbands, in memory of the dead, till the end of the season.


Posted by Publisher at 02:49 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria remembers crash victims

Nigeria has observed a one minute's silence, in memory of the victims of the crash of an airliner on Saturday.

All 117 people on board the Bellview Airlines Boeing 737 were killed shortly after take-off from Lagos.

The BBC's Jamilah Tangaza in Abuja says the observance appeared to make little impact on the streets of the capital.

Meanwhile, a police spokesman has said he does not believe reports that a previously unknown group from the Niger Delta brought down the plane.

The Coalition for Militant Action in the Niger Delta sent a statement on Tuesday to a number of newspapers taking what it called "full responsibility" for the crash and demanding the release of a separatist Niger Delta militia leader, Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, who is on trial for treason.

"It's not real. If people planned it, the statement would have been out before now," the police spokesman Haz Iwendi told Nigeria's Comet newspaper.

Lightning

It is not clear what caused the crash and investigators have been combing the crash site near the village of Lissa, in Ogun state, about 50km (30 miles) north of Lagos, looking for clues.

On Tuesday, Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo promised to plug "loopholes" in airline safety.

Security on domestic flights in Nigeria is lax, no photo ID is required and passengers can turn up to an airport and buy their ticket on the day of travel.

The pilot of Bellview Airlines flight 210 reportedly sent a distress signal just after taking off from Lagos for the capital, Abuja, in stormy weather at 2045 local time (1945 GMT) on Saturday.

John Obakpolor, a fellow of Britain's Royal Aeronautical Society and retired Nigerian Air Force officer, told Reuters news agency that the evidence pointed to a lightning strike as a possible cause.

"If it was hit by lightning - and there was lightning activity - the effect at that level is very dangerous."

Bellview said the 24-year-old plane had been given a clean bill of health by safety inspectors in February.

Kieran Daly, editor of the Air Transport Intelligence online newsletter, told the BBC that many African countries had a problem finding enough resources and qualified personnel to ensure that safety rules were being obeyed.

The Nigerian stock exchange has fallen sharply since the plane crash and the unrelated news of the death of the president's wife, Stella, over the weekend.


Posted by Publisher at 02:47 PM | Comments (0)

Prince jailed for smuggling coke

An African prince who tried to smuggle cocaine concealed inside onions into the UK has been jailed for 12 years.

Prince Adegbenie Olateru-Olagbegi, 55, thought the onion odour would hide his cache, worth £163,000, as he arrived at Heathrow Airport from Lagos, Nigeria.

He also packed shrimps and other pungent dried fish in his luggage - but failed to put off a drugs sniffer dog.

He denied all knowledge of the 17 hollowed-out onions containing 3.21kg of cocaine found in his luggage.

Max the sniffer dog smelt through the other pungent odours of 23 onions and the fish as the prince walked through the Nothing to Declare channel.

He had had more luck at customs in Lagos, where he was waived through by customs officials.

Sentencing him at Snaresbrook Crown Court in London on Tuesday, Recorder Farouk Ahmed said: "You took advantage of your good character and high social standing in Nigeria to cause Nigerian Customs to waive you through."

The prince's barrister, Gideon Cammerman, said the prince had been a "simple courier".

"Prince Adegbenie Olateru-Olagbegi's life, needless to say, now lies in ruins."

However, Mr Ahmed said: "A man of your very considerable standing...and with your connections in high places in Nigeria, is highly unlikely to have been carrying these drugs for someone else and certainly not for some small reward.

"You were not acting as some hapless drugs mule."

The prince was arrested in March this year and convicted of smuggling on 1 September following an eight-day trial at Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court in London.

He told his trial that his father is king to 450,000 subjects in Owo in southern Nigeria and that he has 149 siblings.

He had been involved in anti-drug work in Nigeria, run for office, and been a director of several companies, the court heard. He was also involved with several organisations which promoted good behaviour and Christian values among young men in Nigeria. His lawyer said he had faced "public pillory" in Nigeria since his arrest.


Posted by Publisher at 02:46 PM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2005

First lady's body back in Nigeria

The body of the Nigerian first lady, Stella Obasanjo, has arrived in the capital, Abuja, on a flight from Spain.

Mrs Obasanjo died in Spain on Sunday after undergoing plastic surgery. The cause of death is being investigated.

Her funeral will take place on Friday at President Olusegun Obasanjo's family compound in the town of Abeokuta.

Stella Obasanjo was recognised as Mr Obasanjo's official wife, although before coming to power in 1999, the president had several wives.

Correspondents say the death of the president's wife has caused huge speculation in Nigeria. She was not known to have any health problems.

Controversial figure

The Molding Clinic at Puerto Banus, where Mrs Obasanjo underwent surgery, has issued a statement saying that her death did not take place during the operation, and that they were waiting for the results of a post mortem to establish the cause of death.

It did not specify the nature of the operation.

According to the Spanish news agency, EFE, Mrs Obasanjo had been recovering from the operation, which took place earlier in the week, when her condition suddenly deteriorated, and she went into a coma.

She was rushed to a hospital in nearby Marbella, but doctors were unable to save her.

EFE quoted judicial sources as saying that the post mortem had attempted to establish whether her death was linked to the operation - in which case the clinic could face a possible prosecution for malpractice.

Mrs Obasanjo, 59, was a controversial figure who ordered the arrest of newspaper publisher Orobosa Omo-Ojo earlier this year after his newspaper, the Midwest Herald, ran an article headed "Greedy Stella".

But as first lady, Mrs Obasanjo was also involved in child care projects and work with disabled people.

Books of condolence have been opened at the Banquet Hall of the State House in Abuja, the State House Marina in Lagos, and at the president's home in Otta.


Posted by Publisher at 04:37 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria pledges better air safety

Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo has asked his aviation minister to plug "loopholes" in airline safety after the crash of an airliner on Saturday.

All 117 people on board the Bellview Airlines Boeing 737 were killed shortly after take-off from Lagos.

Mr Obasanjo said "lessons must be learnt" from the disaster and promised stricter regulation.

He said there would be a one minute's silence on Wednesday and an interfaith service on Thursday at the crash site.

'No stone left unturned'

"I have directed the aviation ministry to ensure strict compliance with maintenance and operational requirements and standards for all aircraft in order to plug loopholes and ensure passenger safety," the president said in his first public appearance since the crash and the death of his wife, Stella, in Spain on Sunday.

NIGERIA PLANE CRASHES

It is not clear what caused Saturday's crash but he said a full investigation had been ordered and that "no stones will be left unturned".

Investigators have been combing the crash site near the village of Lissa, in Ogun state, about 50km (30 miles) north of Lagos, looking for clues.

The BBC's Sola Odunfa at the site says there is a putrid smell, with many bodies believed to be buried inside the wreckage in a crater caused by the impact.

He says personal effects and documents litter the scene.

The pilot of Bellview Airlines flight 210 reportedly sent a distress signal just after taking off from Lagos for the capital, Abuja, in stormy weather at 2045 local time (1945 GMT) on Saturday.

Lightning

John Obakpolor, a fellow of Britain's Royal Aeronautical Society and retired Nigerian Air Force officer, told Reuters news agency that the evidence pointed to a lightning strike as a possible cause.

"If it was hit by lightning - and there was lightning activity - the effect at that level is very dangerous."

Bellview said the 24-year-old plane had been given a clean bill of health by safety inspectors in February.

Bellview is a private Nigerian company, popular with foreigners and wealthy Nigerians, which flies routes throughout West Africa, mainly using Boeing 737s.

Kieran Daly, editor of the Air Transport Intelligence online newsletter, told the BBC's Network Africa programme that Nigeria's air safety record is not great but that "the number of truly serious accidents is not as high as people imagine".

He said those countries with poor air safety records generally had a problem with oversight by the authorities.

Many African countries had a problem finding enough resources and qualified personnel to ensure that rules were being obeyed, he said.


Posted by Publisher at 04:35 PM | Comments (0)

October 24, 2005

All killed in Nigeria plane crash

All 117 passengers and crew of a commercial airliner which crashed on an internal flight in Nigeria on Saturday were killed, the government has said. There had initially been conflicting reports about whether anyone survived.

But officials at the scene said no-one could have survived the plane's impact, the cause of which remains unknown.

Senior officials, including an MP and a general, were said to be on the flight. The government has declared three days of national mourning from Monday.

President Olusegun Obasanjo urged all Nigerians to pray for the victims and their families.

Anxious relatives

The pilot of Bellview Airlines flight 210 sent a distress signal just after taking off from Lagos for the Nigerian capital, Abuja, in stormy weather at 2045 (1945 GMT) on Saturday.

The plane was first reported found on Sunday morning by a police helicopter search team near the rural town of Kishi, Oyo state, 400km (320 miles) from Lagos. It was suggested 50 people might have survived.

But officials later retracted statements about the plane's location and survivors after a TV crew said it had found the aircraft near the village of Lissa in Ogun state, about 50km (30 miles) from Lagos.

Images of mangled bodies, twisted chunks of metal and ripped luggage were broadcast.

The National Emergency Management Agency said on Sunday afternoon that the plane had crashed and burst into flames in swampland north of Lagos.

Spokesman Ibrahim Farinloye told AFP news agency that the plane hit the ground with such speed it was partly buried under ground. No-one on the plane would have lived after the initial impact, he said.

Nigerian Red Cross officials confirmed no sign of survivors had been found at the scene.

Hundreds of anxious relatives and friends of the 111 passengers and six crew have besieged the domestic terminal of Lagos airport seeking information.

The names of those killed, most thought to be Nigerians, have not yet been released.

In the meantime, Bellview Airlines has suspended all its flights from Lagos.

Bellview's management said the crash was the first by one of its planes in the company's 12-year history, the BBC's Sola Odunfa in Lagos reports.

The airline is a private Nigerian company, popular with foreigners and wealthy Nigerians, which flies routes throughout west Africa, mainly using Boeing 737s.

Nigeria has one of the world's worst air safety records, having been the scene of several crashes and near-misses.

An Air France plane was badly damaged after striking a herd of cows while trying to land in the oil city of Port Harcourt in July. No passengers were hurt.

In May 2002, a plane crashed near the city of Kano, killing nearly 150 people.

Posted by Publisher at 05:05 PM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2005

Bid to solve Senegal-Gambia feud

Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo has arrived in Senegal to mediate in its border feud with The Gambia.

In August, The Gambia increased prices on the ferry crossings over the River Gambia, which has led to a ferry boycott and a transport blockade.

The move has hit both economies hard and there is now an acute sugar shortage in southern Senegal.

People in Tambacounda town have to queue for hours to buy the precious commodity at hugely inflated prices.

Furious

Mr Obasanjo is set to meet his Senegalese and Gambian counterparts and the leader of Guinea-Bissau - indirectly affected by the crisis in the Senegalese capital, Dakar.

At a summit of the West African regional body Ecowas last month, Mr Obasanjo was mandated to help appease the tensions between the two neighbours.

The BBC's Alpha Jallow in Tambacounda says many basic food stuffs are in short supply, and the price of sugar - which is in high demand - has more than doubled from 20 US cents a kilogramme to 50 US cents.

"It is really a bad time for many households in Tambacounda," said juice seller Amanita Sow.

"Before the border problem, I used to buy a large quantity of sugar for my drinks business. Now not only is the price of sugar high, but it is very hard to come by."

At Tambacounda's main market customers queue for as long as four hours for a few kilogrammes, our correspondent says.

English-speaking The Gambia is a thin strip of land that cuts Francophone Senegal in two.

Senegalese transporters normally cross The Gambia in order to go between the north and south of their country.

When the Gambians doubled the price for the ferry the Senegalese were furious.

They boycotted The Gambia, preferring a long detour through the east of their country along bad roads.

The Senegalese boycott also hurt the Gambians for whom re-export is a major business.


Posted by Publisher at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2005

Saddam trial lawyer taken hostage

Gunmen have kidnapped one of the lawyers involved in the trial of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Sadoun Nasouaf al-Janavi was taken from his office in eastern Baghdad.

He is acting for one of Saddam Hussein's co-defendants, Awad Hamed al-Bandar. One report said seven other people were seized at the same time.

In a defiant appearance at his trial on Wednesday, Saddam Hussein pleaded not guilty to charges over the killing of 148 people in a Shia town in 1982.

He refused to confirm his identity, telling the presiding judge: "Who are you? What is all this?"

All eight defendants pleaded not guilty to charges of ordering the killing of 148 Shia men in 1982. If convicted, they could face the death penalty.

The trial was adjourned until 28 November.


Posted by Publisher at 08:17 PM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2005

Nigeria warns 'corrupt' governors

Nigeria's leading anti-corruption investigator says his agency is pursuing certain state governors who have been "stealing with impunity". Nigeria's 36 state governors are immune from prosecution while in office.

But Economic and Financial Crimes Commission head Nuhu Ribadu told the BBC his agency and the government were very serious about tackling fraud.

He refused to name any state governors under investigation, or to indicate how many were suspected of wrongdoing.

Mr Ribadu said that many state governors had failed to grasp that Nigeria, viewed as one of the world's most corrupt countries, was changing.

"Whoever is stealing is definitely being pursued," he told the BBC's Network Africa.

"We believe there are a lot of them out there who are still not getting the message. People are used to stealing with impunity."

Help

Earlier this week, Mr Ribadu said he was seeking international help to return to Nigeria billions of dollars allegedly stolen by governors.

Two of Nigeria's current state governors face legal proceedings in the UK, after being found with large amounts of cash in their possession.

Bayelsa State Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha is currently being held in the UK, charged with laundering £1.8m ($3.2m) found in cash and in bank accounts.

Last year, another Nigerian state governor, Joshua Dariye of Plateau State, skipped bail after being quizzed by police on money laundering allegations involving more than £1m ($1.7m).

President Olusugun Obasanjo set up the EFCC after his election in 1999.

Although a number of senior officials have been put under investigation for alleged corruption, there has not been any significant conviction during his six years in power.


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October 13, 2005

Mystery fog engulfs Nigerian city

Nigeria's main city of Lagos has been enveloped in a thick, white, malodorous fog, which has caused panic.

Lagos' state governor closed all schools in the city and some residents have complained of irritation to their eyes and stomach pains.

Laboratory tests showed the fog had higher than normal levels of sulphuric acid, but was not harmful.

The cause is being investigated - one environmental official attributed it to a broken petroleum pipe.

The BBC's Sola Odunfa in Lagos says visibility in some areas has been reduced to 100m and there are even worse traffic jams than normal in this busy city.

The fog has a strange odour, which caused people to run out of their work places and homes to find out what was going on, he says.

Lagos is one of Africa's largest cities, with a population of an estimated 15m people.


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October 11, 2005

Merkel triumphant - but at a price

As she announced the deal that will make her chancellor, Angela Merkel looked relieved and happy, but there was little sense of triumph. Her reaction was oddly subdued, considering that Mrs Merkel is breaking the mould of German politics.

By Bethany Bell
BBC News, Berlin

Not only will she be the country's first woman chancellor, she will also be the first leader to have grown up in communist East Germany.

But Mrs Merkel had to be pushed by journalists to admit that she was pleased at the agreement with the Social Democrats.

"I'm in a good mood," she said, "but I know that there is a lot of work ahead."

Compromise coalition

Some observers put this down to Mrs Merkel's Protestant work ethic.

But it is more likely a reflection of the intensely difficult negotiations of the past three weeks and the prospect of more to come.

The two parties - which until recently were bitter rivals - don't trust each other.

"Germany needs reform," the CDU MP Michael Fuchs told me. "I hope the SPD understands that too."

Negotiations on the details of future government policy are likely to drag on till mid-November - before the hard business of the grand compromise coalition can begin.

Mrs Merkel may have won the battle for the chancellorship, but it came at a price. The Social Democrats have taken eight of the 14 ministries, including the key posts of finance, labour and foreign affairs.

There are also signs that Mrs Merkel has agreed to water down her reform policies to boost the flagging German economy - such as cuts in payroll costs. That is not likely to go down well with reform-minded CDU MPs.

Speculation

But there is also anger among the Social Democrats. Their outgoing minister for economics Wolfgang Clement accused the leadership of "losing its nerve too soon."

The most painful sacrifice for the SPD is the loss of its charismatic leader Gerhard Schroeder, who stepped aside as chancellor to allow the coalition with the CDU to go ahead.

There is strong speculation that many rank and file Social Democrats will vote against the coalition pact at the forthcoming party conference, which is set for early November.

They argue that while Mr Schroeder didn't win the election, he didn't lose it either; they also point to the fact that the grouping of left-wing parties in parliament is bigger than the right-wing block.

A 'no' vote by the Social Democrats could throw all the cards up into the air.

Even if Mrs Merkel does manage to survive the next few weeks of wrangling before a government is formed, there are fears the coalition could be short-lived.

Dirk Niebel the General Secretary of the opposition Liberals, told me he gave the grand coalition just two years.

"The parties don't like each other really, people in both parties are not able to work together," he said.

But Michael Fuchs of the CDU warned against underestimating Mrs Merkel. "She is a new Mrs Thatcher, just with a smaller handbag."


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October 10, 2005

Martins warns Nigeria

Nigeria striker Obafemi Martins has said their failure to qualify for next year's World Cup should kick-start the reform of football administration in the country.

By Oluwashina Okeleji
BBC Sport, Abuja

"It's terrible [not qualifying for the World Cup] but this [failure] is a lesson," he told BBC Sport on Saturday.

"We failed to take chances during the qualifiers and have paid dearly for it."

Nigeria beat Zimbabwe 5-1 on Saturday but could not pick the World Cup ticket, after Angola became Group Four winners, following their 1-0 win over Rwanda in Kigali.

"We did all we could [to qualify] and finished off our last game perfectly.

"But when destiny plays a cruel one on you, you have to move on and concentrate on the future," Martins advised.

With next year's African Cup of Nations taking place in less than four months, Martins said his colleagues are determined to lift the trophy, as a way to appease Nigerian fans who are bitterly disappointed with their failure to book passage to Germany 2006.

"With the World Cup dream over, we have to concentrate on the Cup of Nations.

"The players have resolved to do well in Egypt [by winning the trophy], that would go a long way in compensating the fans.

"But the Nigeria FA will have to be more organized for us to achieve that."


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Peacekeepers die in Darfur ambush

Two African Union peacekeepers from Nigeria and two civilian contractors have been killed in an ambush in Sudan's Darfur region.
Three other soldiers were wounded in Saturday's attack in southern Darfur.

They are the first deaths among some 6,000 AU troops deployed in Darfur to monitor a truce between pro-government forces and non-Arab rebels.

A civil war in the region since 1993 has left tens of thousands of people dead and some two million homeless.

Last week, the AU accused Sudanese government forces of still carrying out what appeared to be coordinated attacks in Darfur alongside the Janjaweed militia - allegations denied by the Sudanese government.

First deaths

Jean-Baptiste Natama, the acting head of the AU mission, said the attack had occurred while the peacekeepers were on patrol near Kourabishi in southern Darfur.

The two contractors were from a company that has been providing logistical support.

AU spokesman Noureddine Muzni told the AFP news agency that the three wounded soldiers were also Nigeria and were airlifted to an AU hospital in northern Darfur.

African Union efforts to get armoured personnel carriers which provide better protection have been obstructed by the Sudanese government, says the BBC's Jonah Fisher in Khartoum.

Mr Natama did not say who the AU suspected of carrying out the attack.

"We are investigating, but it is serious being the first time our personnel are killed in Sudan," he added.

EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, told reporters in Khartoum that the government was responsible for protecting AU troops in Darfur.

AU forces arrived in Darfur last year, and from an initial force of 500, the contingent has grown to about 6,200 with financial and logistical support from the European Union, the United States and others.

Peace talks between the Darfur rebels and the government in Khartoum have made little progress while violations have shaken the cease-fire in recent weeks.


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October 08, 2005

Weekend of drama

The last round of African qualifiers for next year's World Cup finals in Germany takes place on 8 and 9 October.

Will Togo's Hawks be flying in Germany next year? Can Egypt deny Cameroon another appearance on football's grand stage? And will Ghana break their duck and qualify for their maiden finals?

With the fate of many teams still in the balance, there will no shortage of shredded nerves across the continent.

Here is a group-by-group analysis of who needs to do what as World Cup qualifying comes down to the wire.

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Group One

Group One preview

Togo and Senegal are locked in a fierce struggle for first place and the group's one qualifying ticket. With 20 points, Togo visit Congo needing just a draw to reach the finals for the first time in their history.

Zambia's 5-0 win in Liberia on Saturday pushed them into second place on 19 points from their completed programme, one ahead of Senegal (18).

However, the Chipolopolo cannot make it to Germany 2006 as only the group winner qualifies. Senegal must beat Mali and hope Togo lose in Congo to come up from third to first place and so qualify.

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Group Two

Group Two preview

Ghana (18 points) are another team that can qualify for the finals for the first time in their history, providing they secure a draw in the Cape Verde Islands (10 points), no matter what happens between second-placed DR Congo (15) and third-placed South Africa (15) in Durban.

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Who will qualify?

If Ghana should lose, DR Congo need an emphatic victory against South Africa to swing the goal difference their way.

Bafana Bafana cannot qualify even if they beat DR Congo and Ghana lose because although they would finish with the same number of points as Ghana, they have an inferior head-to-head record against the Black Stars.

Should either South Africa or DR Congo lose in Durban, Burkina Faso will qualify for the Nations Cup if they can beat Uganda in Kampala.

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Group Three

Group Three preview

Either Cameroon (20 points) or the Ivory Coast (19) will qualify from this group. The Indomitable Lions start as favourites after winning 3-2 in Ivory Coast last month.

Cameroon will win the group if they beat Egypt (16) at home while Ivory Coast must win in Sudan (6) and hope Cameroon lose or draw to reach the finals for the first time.

Libya and Benin are the other also-rans in this pool.

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Group Four

Group Four preview

This looks like another straight dash to the line - this time between Angola and Nigeria who both have 18 points.

Angola have the better head-to-head record against the Super Eagles so they will qualify if they win in Rwanda (5), regardless of what Nigeria do at home against Zimbabwe (15).

If Angola should lose or draw and Nigeria win, the Super Eagles will be through to the finals for the fourth successive time.

But Zimbabwe's Warriors have an outside chance of reaching Germany if they can beat Nigeria in Abuja by at least four goals and Angola lose in Rwanda.

Gabon and Algeria have already been eliminated from the World Cup frame.

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Group Five

Group Five preview

Either Tunisia (20 points) or Morocco (19) will go through and as long as Tunisia do not lose at home to the Moroccans in Rades, they will be heading to Germany for their third straight finals.

Morocco, the only team still unbeaten in the entire African qualifying competition, could even suffer the heartbreak of going through all ten matches undefeated should they draw - yet still end up being eliminated.

Guinea, Kenya, Malawi and Botswana have all been left to contemplate what might have been.


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Nigeria conmen repay scam victim

An 86-year-old Chinese woman who lost millions of dollars to Nigerian fraudsters has been repaid, Nigeria's anti-corruption body says.

The perpetrators of the scam wrote to Juliana Ching's daughter asking to pay $25m into her account.

But instead, over a five-year period, the conmen withdrew nearly $4.5m from the family's savings.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission say the thieves were made to repay the money and face prosecution.

"The culprits have confessed to the crime and repaid the entire sum," the EFCC's statement said.

Nigeria's e-mail conmen are notorious and are known as 419er, after a Nigerian anti-fraud law.

They use mass e-mails to trick people into parting with money.


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Obasanjo in Liberian poll talks

Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo has arrived in Liberia to meet the 22 presidential candidates taking part in next week's first post-war election.

He played a key role in brokering a 2003 peace deal and granted asylum to Liberia's ex-President Charles Taylor.

He also ensured the polls take place on time when he persuaded two politicians' who had belatedly been allowed to join the presidential race, to withdraw.

Some 15,000 UN soldiers are in Liberia to ensure peace after 14 years of war.

Ex-footballer George Weah and economist Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf are among the favourites to be the next president.

Mr Taylor's National Patriotic Party is also fielding a candidate, Roland Massaquoi.

A vice-president and members of parliament will also be selected at the polls next Tuesday.

Chaos threat

The BBC's Mark Doyle in the capital, Monrovia, says Nigeria is regarded as Liberia's big brother.

Nigeria sent troops to Liberia as part of a peacekeeping force, both in the early 1990s and again in 2003.

Interim leader Gyude Bryant thanked Nigeria for its role in Liberia's peace process.

"In our recent history, Nigeria has done more for Liberia than any single member state of this global world," Mr Bryant said.

Recently Mr Obasanjo stepped in when a legal hitch threatened the postponement of the elections, our correspondent says.

A Liberian court ruled at the last minute that two presidential candidates who had been barred from standing could in fact stand.

But ballot papers without the two names had already been printed and the court ruling risked throwing the whole election process into chaos.

President Obasanjo summoned the two politicians to Nigeria and somehow persuaded them to withdraw their candidacies.

Since granting Mr Taylor asylum two years ago, Nigeria has come under pressure to hand him over to the UN Court in Sierra Leone where he is wanted on war crimes charges.

Mr Obasanjo has said he will consider an extradition request if asked by Liberia's incoming president.


Posted by Publisher at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2005

Nigeria oil rebel treason charge

Nigerian separatist militia leader Mujahid Dokubo Asari has been charged with treason for which he could face the death penalty.

Mr Asari denied that charge and several others including unlawful assembly and conspiracy in a court in the capital.

He shouted "Freedom to my people!" before being led from the courtroom.

He was detained two weeks ago following a newspaper interview in which he was quoted as calling for the dissolution of Nigeria.

His arrest sparked protests in the oil-producing Niger Delta region in southern Nigeria.

Mr Asari says he is fighting for the self-determination of the Ijaw people and greater local control of the profits from the oil and gas industries.

Threats

The BBC's Mannir Dan Ali in Abuja says that if convicted by the court for treason, Mr Asari could be sentenced to death or face life imprisonment.

It is not clear how his Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force (NDPVF) will react to these charges that carry such steep penalties, our correspondent says.

Hundreds of armed police blocked roads surrounding the Abuja court.

After his detention two weeks ago, Mr Asari's supporters threatened oil production in the Niger Delta if he was not released and at one point US oil company Chevron was forced to shut down one of its facilities in the area.

The NDPVF also told expatriate oil workers to leave the area, but later withdrew the threat.

The Niger Delta remains one of Nigeria's poorest and least developed regions, although it accounts for most of the 2.4 million barrels of oil produced by Nigeria, Africa's largest oil-producer, each year.

Last year, the NDPVF contributed to a sharp rise in world oil prices when it threatened war against oil companies.


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October 05, 2005

Nigerian police clash with troops

Three Nigerians have died in clashes in Lagos as soldiers fought running battles with police.

The dead were civilians caught in the crossfire of a battle that began when a soldier and policeman argued over who had the right to a free ride on a bus.

The police officer hit out at the soldier, who raised the alarm at a nearby barracks, sparking violence.

Soldiers and police then exchanged live fire across the main highway in Lagos, the country's largest city.

Some 60 vehicles, including 20 police cars, were set ablaze during the clashes.

Urban 'warfare'

Troops were reported to have stormed a police station, setting it on fire and freeing scores of prisoners.

"They were shooting at the police and the police were shooting back," local resident Kanayo Azubogo told the Associated Press.

"The soldiers went to the Western Avenue police station and set it on fire."

One police officer described the scene as "like a war".

The BBC's Sola Odunfa in Lagos says that there were several different versions of how the violence began, but the most common account was that the soldier and policeman came to blows after disagreeing over which of them had the right to a free ride in a bus.

The established practice is that one member of the security forces does not have to pay a fare on any bus.

The violence that followed was the worst of its kind in recent years, he said.

Law enforcement throughout Lagos broke down for about five hours, as uniformed policemen deserted streets across the city for fear of being attacked.

Senior officers eventually visited the scene of the clashes and re-asserted control.

The governor of Lagos, Bola Tinubu, and Police Commissioner Ade Ajakaye appealed for calm from all sides.


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October 04, 2005

Direct Darfur talks amid violence

Sudan's government and two rebel groups have met face-to-face for the first time since they resumed talks to end the crisis in Darfur.

The groups have been in Nigeria's capital, Abuja since the middle of September. They are expected to discuss power-sharing.

The army has denied a recent African Union allegation that it attacked civilians in Darfur.

Some 2m Darfuris are homeless, driven from their villages by militia attacks.

On Saturday, the head of the African Union in Sudan told reporters that government forces had engaged in a number of coordinated offensives with Arab militia, which led to scores of casualties.

A Sudanese military spokesman said that as the AU's information had come from aid agencies, it could not be considered reliable.

Helicopters have not flown in Darfur for two weeks, he said, and then they had been used to defend, not attack, civilians.

The BBC's Jonah Fisher in Darfur says the Sudanese government is still reeling from the normally cautious AU's damning statement on the continuing role of the state military in Darfur.

The statement said that in the last two weeks there had been a number of coordinated offensives by the Sudanese army and the Arab militia - known as the Janjaweed.

Refugee camps and villages have been attacked, according to the AU, with government helicopters, heavy weaponry and trucks.

At least 44 people died.

The Janjaweed have been blamed for driving people from their villages in Darfur.

The Sudanese government has admitted arming them, but now says they are bandits, and out of control.

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October 03, 2005

No party cards for Nigeria's VP

Nigeria's Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has been frustrated in his attempts to get a membership card for the ruling party because of a shortage of cards.

Mr Abubakar's name was written in an exercise book in Adamawa State when he went to register, for later processing by the People's Democratic Party (PDP).

The renewal of membership cards has been marred by a party power struggle.

President Olusegun Obasanjo is due to step down in 2007 and Mr Abubakar is one of the candidates to succeed him.

Vice-President Abubakar is reported in the Nigerian press as saying that he could not see how the issue of a membership card could be used to hamper his ambitions to become the president of the country.

But some of his supporters fear that the registration exercise is being rigged to place Mr Obasanjo's allies in key positions throughout the party.

Third term debate

Last month, a leading PDP official called on Mr Abubakar to remain loyal to Mr Obasanjo or resign.

There have been suggestions the constitution might be changed to allow the president a third term in office.

In 1999 and again in 2003 the Obasanjo/Abubakar ticket proved an election winner for the People's Democratic Party, with the vice-president helping deliver the northern, Muslim votes that Mr Obasanjo needed to win.

But according to Nigeria's constitution as it now stands, Mr Obasanjo can only serve two terms so the ruling party will have to pick a new presidential candidate for 2007, and Vice-President Abubakar has never hidden the fact that he would be happy to be that candidate.

Posted by Publisher at 03:14 PM | Comments (0)

Nigerian drug mules 'on the rise'

Drug runners may be targeting Nigerian women as "mules" after a UK government clampdown in Jamaica, warn campaigners.

By Christine Jeavans
BBC News

The number of Nigerian women on drugs charges in UK jails has risen almost sixfold in three years, figures supplied to the BBC News website show.

On 30 June this year, 85 of the 151 Nigerian women in custody in the UK were being held for drugs offences. In 2002 there were just 15 out of 29.

The Home Office data also shows a rise among women from Trinidad and Tobago.

Foreign women make up 18% of the female prison population and about 60% of them are held on drugs offences.

These include swallowing or "stuffing" packages of cocaine, and carrying drugs in luggage or concealed in clothing.

The apparent shift to Nigeria comes two years after an outcry over the number of Jamaican female drugs mules in British jails, which climbed to more than 440 in 2002.

That number has now fallen to 136 following changes to policy regarding the early release of foreign prisoners and Operation Airbridge, a joint UK and Jamaican scheme that saw people-scanners installed at airports in Jamaica.

The UK Foreign Office also backed an educational programme on the island, aimed at women who may be approached by drug traffickers.


Graph: How the numbers have changed
However Olga Heaven, director of the foreign prisoner support charity Hibiscus which led the educational programme in Jamaica, says drugs barons have probably simply moved their trade to elsewhere in the Caribbean and west Africa.

"I believe since the campaign started in Jamaica there has been a direct shift to Trinidad and also Nigeria - Nigeria even more so," she said.

"Guys who organise these people always try to stay one step ahead of the people who are deterring them so they will look and see what is going on and move accordingly."

HM Revenue and Customs said the number of Jamaicans trying to smuggle drugs to the UK by swallowing them had reduced by over 90% thanks to Operation Airbridge.

"We remain vigilant as the drugs organisers look for new ways to get round our operations," a spokeswoman said.

She added that Customs could not prove a link between the decline in Jamaica and the rise in Nigeria, but the successful operation in Jamaica had freed up resources to tackle the problem in "other risk areas such as west Africa".

'Mothers targeted'

Hibiscus is looking into doing educational work in Nigeria in 2006 and the charity is about to launch in Trinidad the same campaign it has been running in Jamaica.

Its centrepiece is a three-minute TV animation showing the cautionary tale of Eva - a Jamaican woman with young children who is duped and bribed into carrying drugs and then gets caught on arrival in Britain.

Unlike the teenage lead character in Maria Full of Grace, the recent film about drugs mules, the women who Olga Heaven sees tend to be single mothers in their 30s with several children depending on them.

"Women with children get caught up in a situation where they begin to borrow money for schooling, or for paying rent, and they are not employable because of lack of training.

"They don't have another way out of their situation, carrying drugs is their last resort."

12-year sentence

Denise Iwenofu*, a 31-year-old mother of two from Lagos, admits that she smuggled drugs for financial gain but says she did not realise at first what she was getting into.

"I don't want my children to be like me because I didn't go to school and in my country if you don't go to school it is not easy to get a job," she said.

"[Some men] said to me they would give me £2,000 to send my kids to school. They said I would be sponsored to London and I would get a job there and send the money back."

But when she followed up the offer, she was taken to a hotel and told she would be paid according to how many cocaine packages she swallowed.

The man said that when she arrived in London she would be met by another man who would give her a laxative, retrieve the drugs and pay her.

"He said if I tell anybody I would be killed. I had to do a vow to him that I would not tell anybody," she said.

Caught on arrival into the country, Denise was sentenced to six years of which she has served 16 months so far.

But some women like Elizabeth Oshodi,* 41, also from Lagos are serving much longer sentences. She was sentenced to 12-years after customs officials found 4kg of cocaine in her baggage when she landed in Britain.

Elizabeth says she was deeply in debt after the death of her husband and her mother, whose breast cancer had required years of hospital fees.

She accepted an offer of work in the UK from one of her creditors, in order to repay him, and was given two cases of hair-pieces and extensions to bring into the country.

She says she did not know that one of the boxes also contained drugs as she had not packed them herself.

Elizabeth has not told her children the length of her sentence. "I just tell my son I hope to see him soon," she says.

Poverty

Alice Ukoko, director of campaign group Women of Nigeria International warns there will be more and more women like these in British jails if poverty in Nigeria remains unaddressed.

"All this is happening because there is a low level of awareness, economic hardship and hopelessness on the ground," she said.

"Nigerians have reached a situation where we don't know what law and order means. You just do things that you think will bring you money, whether it's in the law or not.

She added: "England is like heaven so people want to come to England. When you tell them people are suffering over here they say 'How can it be? Nigeria is the place where people suffer.'"

*Names of the prisoners have been changed for this article.

Posted by Publisher at 03:06 PM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2005

Nigeria governor 'laundered' cash

The governor of an oil-rich Nigerian state has appeared in a UK court charged with laundering £1.8m ($3.2m) found in cash and in bank accounts.

The magistrate denied bail to Bayelsa State Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, because of fears he might leave the UK, as another governor did last year.

The governor has accused the UK authorities of acting in a bigoted and neo-colonialist manner.

Mr Alamieyeseigha says he is innocent. He is due in court again next month.

He was originally arrested on 15 September as he passed through Heathrow Airport in London. Detectives found almost £1m in cash in his west London home.

Nigeria's anti-corruption body has been investigating the governor for more than three years.

Under Nigerian law he enjoys immunity from prosecution while in office.

However, such immunity does not extend beyond Nigeria's shores, our correspondent says.

Last year, another Nigerian state governor was arrested in London.

Joshua Dariye from Plateau state was quizzed by police on money laundering allegations involving more than £1m.

He was freed on bail and returned to Nigeria, and is still wanted for questioning by British police.

Nigeria is considered one of the most corrupt countries, but President Olusegun Obasanjo has vowed to fight the problem.

He set up the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after his election in 1999.

Although a number of senior officials have been put under investigation for alleged corruption in recent months, there has not been any significant conviction during his six years in power.

Posted by Publisher at 11:20 AM | Comments (0)

September 28, 2005

Nigeria regains more Abacha cash

Nigeria says it has recovered $458m (£257m) found in Swiss bank accounts linked to the country's late military ruler Sani Abacha.

Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz and senior Swiss officials broke the news on Tuesday.

So far, $290m has been returned and the remainder is set to follow.

Mr Abacha was in power from 1993 to 1998 and is thought to have embezzled billions of dollars.

"We appreciate the willingness of the Swiss government to act on this issue," said Mrs Okanjo-Iweala.

"It is just a first step. We are committed to ensuring that all the funds stolen from Nigeria are returned."

Slow process

Once the payments are made, Switzerland will have returned all the money linked to Mr Abacha that has been found in its banks.

Following Mr Abacha's death in 1998, Nigeria started trying to claw back money that had been deposited outside the country.

Nigeria says it is still searching for funds he may have sent to other countries, but has not named them.

As well as Switzerland, money has been found in the UK, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Austria.

But it has not been a quick process. Although Swiss authorities froze the funds in 1999, they refused to return them until they were given guarantees about how the money would be used.


Posted by Publisher at 01:47 PM | Comments (0)

Ivory Coast's leader snubs summit

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo will not go to a regional summit on Ivory Coast to be held in Nigeria on Friday.

By James Copnall
BBC News, Abidjan

The talks are a fresh attempt to find a solution to the three-year old Ivorian crisis but South Africa's role as the mediator is coming under scrutiny.

South Africa says Mr Gbagbo has done everything asked of him, in contrast to the armed and unarmed opposition.

The New Forces rebels, who seized the north of the country in September 2002, are refusing to work with South Africa.

Row

Mr Gbagbo's spokesman did not explain why Mr Gbagbo would not show his face in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, but the reasons are not hard to guess.

The summit has been called, on the wishes of President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and it is possible that South Africa, the current mediator, will be asked to withdraw from the role, or at least take a back seat.


The Ivorian head of state has - unsurprisingly - expressed his full support for President Thabo Mbeki's mediation.

He also said last week that he would reject any mediation in Ivory Coast's problems by the West African regional body, Ecowas.

Mr Gbagbo accused Ecowas countries of interfering in the Ivorian crisis.

This was a reference to Mali and Burkina Faso, who the presidential camp accuses of supporting the New Forces rebels.

If Ecowas takes a more active role in mediating in Ivory Coast, it is likely to be to Mr Gbagbo's disadvantage.

It remains to be seen if Mr Gbagbo will also boycott the African Union security council meeting on Ivory Coast, which will be held on 6 October.

Another unknown is the effect Mr Gbagbo's no-show will have on the way he is viewed in the sub-region.

Back in Ivory Coast, Mr Gbagbo's image has been poor in the eyes of many, starting with the opposition.

On Monday, the opposition Le Patriote newspaper printed an unflattering photo of him with his tongue hanging out.

The National Press Council reacted by condemning this photo, which lacked respect according to the regulatory body.

The National Press Council also banned any future photos of Mr Gbagbo - or other prominent personalities - which show them in an unflattering light.

Posted by Publisher at 01:46 PM | Comments (0)

September 27, 2005

Nigeria acts on police sex abuse

Eleven Nigerian policemen, including a senior officer, have been suspended after they were accused of sexual abuse in Democratic Republic of Congo.

The entire unit of 120 officers was sent home from its peacekeeping mission earlier this month.

Nigeria's police chief said the punishment would serve as an example to other police officers.

The UN mission in DR Congo has been hit by repeated accusations of sexual abuse against local girls and women.

As a result, a new code of conduct was introduced for the peacekeepers, which banned any sexual relations with Congolese women.

"Investigations so far conducted have established corroborated cases against 11 officers, including your commander who breached the UN Code of Conduct," said Nigerian police chief Sunday Ehindero.

"You all have brought shame to this country," he said in a speech to the entire unit.

Explaining the decision to pull out the whole group two weeks ago, Nigerian police spokesman Haz Iwendi said: "When one is contaminated, the whole bunch is contaminated."

The UN mission in DR Congo is the world's largest peacekeeping operation with some 19,000 staff trying to shore up a fragile peace deal.

Implementing a peace deal since the end of a five-year civil war, in which an estimated three million people were killed, has proved difficult.

Posted by Publisher at 11:32 AM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2005

Army reopens Nigeria oil stations

The Chevron oil company has reopened two oil stations in Nigeria's Niger Delta region under army protection.

They were closed last week after attempts by a local militia group to sabotage oil facilities.

The Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force had issued the threats in protest at the detention on Tuesday of their leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari.

The group seeks self-determination for the oil-producing region, which remains poor and under-developed.

On Sunday, Mr Asari's lawyer, Uche Okwukwu, said the militia leader had called for calm.

Sedition charges

"Asari gave me the instruction to tell them that nobody should harm any foreigner or do anything criminal," Mr Okwukwu told Reuters news agency.

"They shouldn't do anything that could put his case in jeopardy. It's not in the interest of the movement," Mr Okwukwu added.

The lawyer was released on Friday after being arrested when he went to defend Mr Asari.

Alali Horsfall, deputy leader of the militia group, told the AP news agency that the group had "suspended action".

Mr Asari was arrested on Tuesday, and on Thursday was remanded in custody for two weeks by a judge in the capital, Abuja.

Police are investigating charges of sedition in connection with a newspaper interview in which Mr Asari allegedly called for the break-up of Nigeria.

On Thursday, more than 100 armed men in boats stormed the Idama flow-station, sources close to the Chevron oil company said.

The Robertkiri station was later closed following threats. Together, they account for less than 1% of Nigeria oil production of 2.5m barrels a day.

The Niger Delta remains one of Nigeria's poorest and least developed regions, although it accounts for most of the oil produced by Nigeria, Africa's largest oil-producer.

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Nigerian lynched for witchcraft

A mob in northern Nigeria has beaten to death a man who police say confessed to involvement in ritual murders.

The incident came after three women were found murdered and mutilated in Bakori town in Katsina state.

Their body parts are thought to have been removed for use in rituals.

A police spokesman said that on Thursday, passers-by apprehended a man who appeared to be attacking another woman, who was screaming for help.

"They took him to the office of the traditional chief of the town where he confessed to taking part in the ritual murders of three women in the town in the last two weeks," police spokesman Salisu Sirajo told the AFP news agency.

"But when news of the arrest went round, a mob besieged the chief's office demanding for the man to be surrendered to them.

"The chief had no option but to oblige the mob, which burnt a part of his office. The man was killed on the spot," Mr Sirajo said.

While Islam is the dominant faith in northern Nigeria, some people also believe in traditional practices - for example that magic charms made from human body parts can bring success.


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September 23, 2005

Threats close Nigeria oil station

A second oil pumping station has been closed in Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta region, following threats by militant groups.

On Thursday, more than 100 armed men in boats stormed a flow-station, sources close to the Chevron oil company said.

The unrest follows the arrest of militia leader Mujahid Dokubu-Asari, who has been remanded in custody for two weeks by a judge in Abuja.

He wants more control of oil resources for the Ijaw people of the Niger Delta.

A Chevron spokeswoman said the Robertkiri station had been shut "based on our assessment that it was under imminent threat".

The spokeswoman said that the Idama station, which was stormed on Thursday, had now been vacated.

Together, the two stations account for less than 1% of Nigeria's normal output of 2.5m barrels a day.

'Dictatorship'

The deputy leader of the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force, Alali Horsefall, has threatened to blow up the stations they occupy unless Mr Asari is released.

The militia has warned all foreign oil-workers to leave the area.

At his first appearance in court since being arrested on Tuesday, Mr Asari said the government was acting like a "high dictatorship" after his lawyer, Uche Okoko, was also detained.

Justice Minister Bayo Ojo said Mr Asari would be charged with "treason and unlawful assembly".

Mr Okoko, the lawyer, is expected to face similar charges - he was outraged at his treatment.

"I came from Port Harcourt to bail him out and I've been arrested for treason," he shouted to reporters as he was led off.

A police spokesman said Mr Asari was being held over a newspaper interview, in which he allegedly said he would continue his fight until Nigeria dissolves.

Last year, the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force contributed to a sharp rise in world oil prices when it threatened war against oil companies.

The Niger Delta remains one of Nigeria's poorest and least developed regions, although it accounts for most of the oil produced by Nigeria, Africa's largest oil-producer.

Posted by Publisher at 03:47 PM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2005

Nigeria militia lawyer arrested

A lawyer representing a separatist leader from Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta region has been arrested in court in the capital, Abuja.

Mujahid Dokubu-Asari angrily denounced the government as a "dictatorship" after his lawyer, Uche Okoko, was detained when he arrived at the court.

Mr Asari's group had threatened to sabotage oil installations unless he were freed on Wednesday.

They seek more control of oil resources for the Ijaw people of the Niger Delta.

Mr Asari was arrested on Tuesday in Port Harcourt, the centre of Nigeria's oil industry.

A judge ruled that the authorities could keep him in custody for a further two weeks.

Justice Minister Bayo Ojo said Mr Asari would be charged with "treason and unlawful assembly".

Mr Okoko, the lawyer, is expected to face similar charges - but he was outraged at his treatment.

"I came from Port Harcourt to bail him out and I've been arrested for treason," he shouted to reporters as he was led off.

Interview

A police spokesman said Mr Asari was being held over a newspaper interview, in which he allegedly said he would continue his fight until Nigeria dissolves.

A statement issued by the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force on Wednesday warned of "grave mayhem" if Mr Asari were not released by early afternoon.

More than 150 of Mr Asari's supporters, armed with machetes, demonstrated in Port Harcourt on Wednesday.

But there have been no reports of violence since the deadline passed.

Hundreds of soldiers and riot police are manning checkpoints in Nigeria's oil capital, Port Harcourt, reports Reuters news agency.

Last year, the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force contributed to a sharp rise in world oil prices when it threatened war against oil companies.

The Niger Delta remains one of Nigeria's poorest and least developed regions, although it accounts for most of the 2.4 million barrels of oil produced by Nigeria, Africa's largest oil-producer, each year.

Posted by Publisher at 03:58 PM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2005

Nigeria militia violence threat

Separatists in Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta region have threatened to sabotage oil installations as they call for the release of their leader.

Mujahid Dokubu-Asari, head of the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force, was arrested in Port Harcourt on Tuesday.

Mr Asari's group seeks more control of oil resources for the Ijaws, the biggest group in the Niger Delta.

Last year the group contributed to a sharp rise in world oil prices when it threatened war against oil companies.

The Niger Delta remains one of Nigeria's poorest and least developed regions, although it accounts for most of the 2.4 million barrels of oil produced by Nigeria, Africa's largest oil-producer, each year.

'Mayhem'

A statement issued by the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force on Wednesday warned of "grave mayhem" if Mr Asari were not released by early afternoon.

A BBC correspondent in Port Harcourt says at least 150 of Mr Asari's supporters, all armed with machetes, were demonstrating on Wednesday, following an overnight protest. Gunshots were heard in the area.

"If word has not been received from our leader, all state agencies, oil companies and their agents should cease functioning in their Niger Delta flowstations and related facilities must be shut down," the statement read.

Mr Asari's group warned all oil company staff to leave the Delta region.

The Nigerian arm of Shell later told Reuters that staff were being sent home from its Port Harcourt offices because of "general insecurity", but that the oil multinational's other operations in the Delta were continuing.

Sensitive issue

Nigerian Oil Minister Edmund Daukoru told Reuters in London it was too early to tell whether the threat to oil production was serious.

"It is premature to say if the threats are unfounded or frivolous," he said.

"It is a sensitive security issue. We have lived through this threat for 10 years or so."

Police told the BBC that Mr Asari was being taken to the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

A police statement said he could face prosecution over comments which according to the police may be seditious and treasonable.

There has been no word on this from Mr Asari himself.

Posted by Publisher at 04:01 PM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2005

Nigerian governor arrested in UK

The governor of Nigeria's oil-rich Bayelsa state, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, has been arrested in the UK, the British Embassy in Lagos has confirmed.

London police say a 53-year-old man was picked by their special Economic Crimes Unit at Heathrow Airport on Thursday.

He was later released on bail for a period of two months.

Nigeria's anti-corruption body say Mr Alamieyeseigha was detained in connection with an investigation into allegations of money laundering.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) say they were informed of the governor's detention by London's Metropolitan Police.

"The arrest was in connection with an investigation of allegations of money laundering being carried out by the Metropolitan Police," EFCC spokesman Osita Nwajah said in a statement.

Immunity

The BBC's Sola Odunfa says the EFCC has been investigating the governor for more than three years.

Under Nigerian law he enjoys immunity from prosecution while in office.

However, such immunity does not extend beyond Nigeria's shores, our correspondent says.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the man they detained was taken to a London police station.

"He was released on bail to return on 15 November pending further enquiries," he said.

Last year, another Nigerian state governor was arrested in London.

Joshua Dariye from Plateau state was quizzed by police on money laundering allegations involving more than £1m ($1.7m).

He was freed on bail and returned to Nigeria and is still wanted for questioning by British police.

Nigeria is considered one of the most corrupt countries, but President Olusugun Obasanjo has vowed to fight the problem.

As a result, he set up the EFCC after his election in 1999.

Although a number of senior officials have been put under investigation for alleged corruption in recent months, there has not been any significant conviction during his six years in power.


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Darfur talks start despite split

Government and rebel leaders from Sudan have begun the latest round of talks on the Darfur conflict.

Representatives of the Sudanese government and the two main rebel groups are present in Abuja, Nigeria.

However, one faction of the main SLM group is boycotting the talks, raising fears over their prospects of success.

Talks to try to resolve the conflict, in which 200,000 people have been killed and at least two million displaced, have had limited success.

"The inter-Sudanese talks have been extremely difficult and at times seem to have been conducted with complete disregard to the imperative of the situation on the ground in Darfur," said Baba Gana Kingibe, a top African Union official, at the opening session of the talks on Thursday.

But he remained optimistic, saying: "This round may turn out to be a turning point for the long suffering people of Darfur."

Rebel dispute

Members of one SLM faction, led by Abdul Wahid Nur, arrived in Abuja for the talks, but another, headed by Minni Minawi, stayed away.

Members of the dissenting group said they wanted the SLM's differences settled before it participates in talks.


The BBC's Yusuf Sarki Mohamed in Abuja says there is also another splinter group which sprang up last year which has not been invited.

It says it will not recognise anything agreed at the talks, our reporter says.

Attacks

The AU-mediated negotiations had originally been due to begin last month, but were delayed to allow the rebels time to agree their positions.

Proposals include disarmament and increased autonomy for the people of Darfur.

Aid agencies say large-scale bloodshed seems to have been curbed in the region in recent months, and supplies to refugees are improving.

But the United Nations mission in Sudan says there have been a number of attacks on humanitarian workers in the past four weeks.

Posted by Publisher at 12:48 PM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2005

Nigerian march against fuel hikes

Thousands of demonstrators are marching through Nigeria's main city of Lagos in protest at a 30% rise in fuel costs after subsidies were cut last month.

It is the beginning of two weeks of peaceful protests to take place across Nigeria organised by trade unions.

At one point, the noisy and colourful gathering stretched for more than 3km through the city's streets.

Police have been ordered not to carry firearms in the first sanctioned anti-government protest in 40 years.

Nigeria is Africa's largest oil exporter, but is dependent on imports of fuel because it does not have enough refining capacity to meet its own needs.

"Stop fuel importations, make our refineries work," some placards read.

Strike not ruled out

The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, and Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka are due to address the marchers, the organisers say.

Two-thirds of Nigeria's population is still living on less than $1 a day, and the unions say the fuel price increases will badly affect all Nigerian workers.

Last month, President Olusegun Obasanjo said that the government had financed more than $1bn in fuel subsidies in the past six month as a result of high prices of refined petrol on the international markets.

"Petrol is God's gift to Nigeria. Why can't Obasanjo allow us to enjoy it?" asked a 24-year-old demonstrator.

After two week, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) will meet to decide if further action is needed, depending on the government's reactions.

The BBC's Sola Odunfa in Lagos says a general strike in October has not been ruled out.

Last year, the NLC called three crippling general strikes against fuel prices rises.

Under legislation passed in March, umbrella unions, such as the NLC, are not allowed to call a strike.

Posted by Publisher at 02:46 PM | Comments (0)

September 13, 2005

Nigerians free European sailors

A court in Nigeria has granted bail to 15 east European sailors almost two years after they were arrested on suspicion of smuggling crude oil.

The sailors - from Russia, Romania and Georgia - were freed after agreeing to be supervised by their diplomatic missions until the end of their trial.

They were the crew of a Greek-owned ship which was allegedly found with some 10,000 tonnes of stolen crude oil.

Russia has put strong pressure on Nigeria to speed up the trial.

Earlier this year, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the delays as "inhumane" and a delegation of Russian MPs and the detainees' wives travelled to Nigeria last month to protest at their treatment.

If convicted, the sailors could face life in jail.

Two Nigerian admirals were dismissed over the incident.

The tanker - the MT African Pride - mysteriously disappeared from custody last year, causing embarrassment in Nigeria's political circles.

Some 30,000 barrels of oil are believed to be lost to fuel thieves each day in Nigeria, which is Africa's largest oil exporter.

Posted by Publisher at 02:51 PM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2005

Nigeria police hit by sex scandal

Nigeria is withdrawing its 120-strong police contingent serving with the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital, Kinshasa.

The UN launched an investigation into sexual harassment allegations three weeks ago and the entire unit were withdrawn from their duties.

Nigerian police spokesman Haz Iwendi said 10 officers were accused of sexually harassing local women.

"When one is contaminated, the whole bunch is contaminated," he said.

Speaking from Nigeria, he said a senior police officer had already been sent to DR Congo to bring them home.

"We have contingents in about 19 countries right now and we want to send a message to all other contingents that if one finger collects oil, the whole hand is stained," he said.

Fragile peace deal

A spokesperson in Kinshasa for the UN force, known as Monuc, said the group had only arrived in June and had primarily been there guarding UN locations in the capital.

"Since the allegations emerged on 27 August they have been confined to barracks," Rachel Eklou told the BBC News website.

Monuc has been plagued by allegations of sexual abuse, with peacekeepers and other UN staff being accused of rape and giving food or money in exchange for sex.

It is the world's largest peacekeeping operation with some 19,000 staff trying to shore up a fragile peace deal.

It has just announced that a further 800 police officers are being sent to help with elections expected next year.

Poll delay

The UN Security Council voted for the temporary expansion to ensure the smooth running of the polls.

Elections were due before the end of June under the terms of the 2002 peace deal, but MPs backed a six-month delay.

Implementing a peace deal since the end of a five-year civil war, in which an estimated three million people were killed, has proved difficult.

The planned elections will be the first since independence from Belgium in 1960.

Registration for the election is under way and an estimated 28 million Congolese will be eligible to vote.

Posted by Publisher at 07:35 PM | Comments (0)

August 30, 2005

Nigeria unions to fight fuel hike

Nigeria's two biggest labour unions have agreed to fight the 30% increase in fuel in defiance of a new law banning unilateral strike action.

Last year the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) called three crippling general strikes against fuel prices rises.

The NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) said they are meeting to decide when to strike and will not back down until the prices are reversed.

But the president said the subsidies on imported fuel could not be maintained.

Poverty eradication

President Olusegun Obasanjo said on Saturday that the government had financed more than $1bn in fuel subsidies in the past six month as a result of high prices of refined petrol on the international markets.

Money raised from the price increase, which too effect last weekend, would be used to develop other sectors of the economy to promote poverty eradication, he said.

Nigeria is sub-Saharan Africa's largest producer of crude oil, but is then forced to buy back petrol, diesel and other refined fuels from non-oil-producing countries at a far higher price.

Two-thirds of Nigeria's population is still living on less than $1 a day, and the unions say the fuel price increases will badly affect all Nigerian workers.

The NLC is the umbrella organisation representing unions for junior employees, and the TUC represents senior employees' unions.

Under legislation passed in March, these umbrella unions are not allowed to call a strike, and each individual union must ballot its members before embarking on industrial action, our correspondent Sola Odunfa says.

The NLC is meeting on Wednesday to decide when to strike.

Posted by Publisher at 04:29 PM | Comments (0)

US probes Nigeria vice-president

The US government says federal agents have raided the Maryland home of Nigerian Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.

The search took place on 3 August, but officials refused to confirm reports that it was linked to raids on homes belonging to a Louisiana congressman.

There has been no comment on the case from Mr Abubakar.

The announcement coincides with remarks by Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo accusing his deputy, formerly his close ally, of doubtful loyalty.

US congressman William Jefferson's properties were searched on the same day.

A Democrat who has served eight terms in the House of Representatives, Mr Jefferson has come under scrutiny as the FBI looks into an international telecommunications deal.

Investigators are interested in Mr Jefferson's links with Mr Abubakar and the vice-president of Ghana, Aliu Mahama, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

According to the newspaper, Mr Jefferson visited Ghana in mid-July.

Low profile

Although he is technically the second most powerful man in Nigeria, Mr Abubakar has kept a low profile in recent months, says the BBC's Grant Ferrett.

Political manoeuvres within the governing party have undermined his ambitions to stand for the presidency in elections scheduled to take place in two years' time.

On national television and radio, Mr Obasanjo said he had questioned Mr Abubakar's loyalty to his face.

"I brought out a Bible and a Koran and I said... we should not have a house divided. He refused to swear because he obviously knew that the proven cases [of disloyalty] are proven."

Mr Obasanjo denied swearing an oath to his deputy pledging that he would not stand for re-election in two years' time.

He said he had publicly sworn to defend the Nigerian constitution, which prevents him standing for a third term in office, and so did not need to make such promises in private.

These comments have prompted some observers to question whether the FBI investigations are linked to such disagreements.

Mr Abubakar reportedly only uses his home in Potomac, Maryland for a few months each year.

His wife, Jennifer, is a doctoral student in international relations at the American University in Washington.

Posted by Publisher at 03:17 PM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2005

US probes Nigeria vice-president

The US government says federal agents have raided the Maryland home of Nigerian Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.

The search took place on 3 August, but officials refused to confirm reports that it was linked to raids on homes belonging to a Lousianian congressman.

William Jefferson is being investigated over the financing of a high-tech company and his properties were searched on the same day.

There has been no comment on the case from Mr Abubakar.

Mr Jefferson, a Democrat who has served eight terms in the House of Representatives, has come under scrutiny as the FBI looks into an international telecommunications deal.

Investigators are interested in Mr Jefferson's links with Mr Abubakar and vice-president of Ghana, Aliu Mahama, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

According to the newspaper, Mr Jefferson visited Ghana in mid-July.

Mr Abubakar reportedly only uses his home in Potomac, Maryland for a couple of months each year.

His wife, Jennifer, is a doctoral student in international relations at American University in Washington.


Posted by Publisher at 12:54 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria set for crude oil auction

Nigeria is expected to announce the winners of dozens of new oil exploration contracts on Friday.

Hundreds of oil firms from Asia, the US and Europe are taking part in Nigeria's first fully open oil rights auction.

The plots stretch from Lake Chad in the north-east of the country to the Gulf of Guinea in its south-western corner.

Firms are excited about the prospects in Nigeria - Africa's top producer and a member of oil exporter group, Opec.

They will have to pay "signature bonuses" of between $500,000 (£277,000) and $50m per land parcel should they be chosen. One corporate official described the plots as "virgin territory" with the potential for surprises.

Adding to the interest is the fact that the price of crude has surged to record levels.

Many economists are predicting that the cost of a barrel could go even higher and may even break the $100 mark.

The cost has driven petrol prices up sharply in Nigeria itself, sparking calls for strikes and long queues at those filling stations which remained open.

'Hurry to develop'

According to the Reuters news agency, Nigeria has already awarded two firms preferential rights over five plots after they promised to invest in the country's infrastructure.

Foreign oil companies have been criticised for failing to improve the lot of Nigerians living near their operations.

There have also been clashes with disgruntled locals and a number of kidnappings in the Niger Delta, where most of Nigeria's oilfields lie.

Minister of State for Petroleum Edmund Daukoru was robust in his defence of the decision to award the contracts to Korea National Petroleum and Chinese Petroleum of Taiwan ahead of Friday's auction,

"The best bidders have not helped with our national aspirations," Mr Daukoru told Reuters in an interview.

"No operator has talked railway to me, no operator has talked shipyard, no operator has talked about so much generation, apart from these toy things of 250 megawatts," he said.

"We are in a hurry to develop. The oil industry has been an enclave industry. We want to break out of the enclave and merge with the greater economy."

However, correspondents say it would be unfair to lay all the blame for Nigeria's slow pace of development at the door of multinational oil companies.

The country has been wrestling with high levels of corruption which, coupled with mismanagement of resources and the cost of repaying debts, mean that some 60% of Nigerians live in poverty.

Posted by Publisher at 12:53 PM | Comments (0)

August 25, 2005

New plan targets illegal fishing

A coalition of environmental and development agencies has launched a new programme which aims to stem the loss of fish stocks worldwide.

By Richard Black
BBC News website environment correspondent

The Profish programme will compile a global list of illegal fishing vessels, promote sustainable aquaculture and help protect marine reserves.

It could also reduce the extent of legal fishing by European boats in African waters.

Profish was launched at the Fish for All Summit in Abuja, Nigeria.

Costly haul

There are no reliable global estimates either for the economic value of illegal fishing, or for the amount of environmental damage it does.

But there is general agreement at government level that it is a serious issue, which is why the Council of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) adopted in 2001 the International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing.

The logic behind Profish is that information is key to reducing the impact and extent of illegal activities.

"There has been considerable work over the last few years to track illegal fishing," the World Bank's Director of Environment Warren Evans told the BBC News website.

"Although large vessels receive a lot of attention, in fact small-scale operations at local level are causing extensive ecological damage, by harming coral reefs, spawning grounds and so on; basically these boats exploit every stock they can."

Illegal list

The process of compiling the rogues' register will be led by IUCN, the World Conservation Union, which joins the World Bank, FAO, and other conservation bodies in launching Profish, with an initial investment of just over US$1m from Iceland, France, Norway, Finland and the World Bank's development facility.

Profish will also develop a "small-scale fisheries toolkit", which will show fishing communities how to manage stocks in a sustainable yet profitable way.

It also aims to develop estimates of "resource rent loss" for developing countries - the amounts of money they are losing by not managing fisheries for sustained production.

Dwindling resource

Fish is a vital food in many parts of Africa, and in other developing countries, supplying protein and micronutrients such as zinc, calcium and vitamin A.

But at the opening of the Abuja conference, held under the auspices of the New Partnership for African Development (Nepad), the research organisation WorldFish Center warned that stocks in Africa are being depleted rapidly, with the availability of fish as a food within the continent declining.

A 20% increase in fish farming, it said, would be needed to maintain consumption at current levels.

Challenging subsidies?

Among environment and development groups, there is concern at the quantities of fish which vessels from developed nations, especially those belonging to the European Union, are catching legally in African coastal waters.

Off the coast of west Africa, the annual catch of EU boats increased 20-fold between 1950 and 2001, alongside rising levels of subsidy from European governments.

"Profish may be relevant to this issue," acknowledged Warren Evans.

"It may be that European nations will have to look at their levels of subsidy."

The first tranche of Profish activities, including the database of illegal vessels, should be up and running within three years.

Posted by Publisher at 01:53 PM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2005

Dozens missing in Nigeria floods

Dozens of people are feared dead after a river ferry capsized in the eastern Nigerian state of Taraba.

Some 25 people were rescued alive on Monday, while seven bodies were recovered on Tuesday.

Some reports said the boat was overcrowded, but the number of passengers is unclear.

Heavy rain caused the Lamurde river to break its banks last week. A bridge collapsed, killing more than 30 people who were marvelling at the floodwaters.

Both incidents took place near Jalingo, the capital of the Taraba state, some 400km (250 miles) east of Nigeria's capital, Abuja.

A spokesman for the Taraba state government told AFP news agency that 102 people were on board the capsized boat, but survivors and locals said they thought there might have been some 70 passengers.

The locally-made, wooden ferry was reportedly put into service after the collapse of the bridge to allow people cross the river.


Posted by Publisher at 04:45 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2005

Settlers protest at Gaza pullout

Israeli troops handing out eviction notices to Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip have encountered defiant, but non-violent, resistance.

At Neve Dekalim, the largest outpost, settlers, joined by Jewish hardliners from elsewhere, blocked the main gates, trying to keep the troops out.

About 9,000 people now have two days to leave all Gaza settlements and some in the West Bank or be forcibly removed.

More than 40,000 Israeli soldiers and police are part of the operation.

Compensation cut

This is the first time that Israel has agreed to dismantle settlements built on Palestinian land seized in the Six-Day War in 1967.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas hailed the move as "historic" but said Israel should also pull out of the West Bank.

Those living in Gaza's 21 Jewish settlements, and those in four of the West Bank's 120 settlements, have until midnight on Tuesday to leave.

Settlers who ignore the final deadline are to be forcibly removed and could lose up to a third of their compensation.

About half of Gaza's 8,500 settlers have already left. But those remaining have been joined by about 5,000 hardliners from Israel and the West Bank.

At Neve Dekalim the unarmed soldiers delivering the notices were confronted by protesters calling on them to disobey their orders.

The BBC's Richard Miron at Neve Dekalim says this is a highly emotional moment for both sides. Many protesters were in tears, along with a few soldiers.

In an apparent attempt to avoid violence, the army has said it will not deliver notices to settlements where residents have threatened resistance. Instead the notices are being sent by post.

Palestinian celebrations

The settlements have been sealed off to prevent any more protesters joining those resisting eviction.

The Israeli cabinet on Monday gave final approval for the evacuation of the Gush Katif group of settlements - which includes Neve Dekalim.

There were scuffles with soldiers at several sites early on Monday. Some settlers burnt their belongings.

"I don't want to leave anything for the Palestinians, anything I own they could enjoy," Yaakov Mazal-Tari, a farmer at Rafiah Yam, told Reuters news agency.

Although the pullout as a whole has already been approved by the cabinet and parliament, ministers agreed last year to hold a final vote on the evacuation of each settlement or group of settlements.

Last week they gave approval for the three isolated Gaza settlements of Kfar Darom, Morag and Netzarim.

Celebrations

Mahmoud Abbas told the BBC that he believed the pullout would help to promote security and stability in the region.

"We see this as a historical moment, as Israel is leaving the settlements for the first time since the beginning of the Arab-Israeli conflict."

Some 7,500 Palestinian security forces have been deployed on the outskirts of the settlements themselves.

Their role is to forestall militant attacks on settlers, and prevent attempts by Palestinians to rush into the settlements.

Palestinians have been celebrating overnight as Israel's withdrawal from Gaza began.

Many Palestinians headed for mosques to give thanks in a mass prayer meeting called by the militant group Hamas.

Posted by Publisher at 04:27 PM | Comments (0)

August 08, 2005

Huge strike shuts SA gold mines

Some 100,000 South African gold miners have remained on strike for the second day of the country's first national stoppage in 18 years.

The strikers, members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), are protesting about both pay and living conditions in the industry.

Management is offering about 5-6% rises, but the union says this fails to take into account rising gold prices.

The stoppage could cost about $12m in lost revenue a day, analysts estimate.

While the NUM is so far the only union to have downed tools, the Solidarity union is to join the strike just before midnight (2200 GMT).

Most Solidarity members are white and it is rare for it to take industrial action alongside the mainly black NUM.

South Africa is the world's biggest producer of bullion - accounting for around 15% gold output - and the sector accounts for approximately 8% of the country's gross domestic product.

Negotiations

The strike action began on Sunday at 1600 GMT after the NUM terminated talks with the Chamber of Mines, representing the employers.

The meeting that day had produced a higher pay offer, up from the previous 4.5%-5%, as well as the promise of bonuses to the union paid as the price of gold rose.

But that was "not good enough", NUM negotiators said. The union is calling for a 12% pay rise.

Chamber of Mines head negotiator Frans Barker had warned after the meeting that a strike would mean all new offers would be "off the table".

Hostels

A key part of the union's dissatisfaction is that it says the big mining firms - AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and South Deep - have yet to address long-standing problems with miners' living conditions.

Under apartheid laws miners were forced to live in barracks, leaving their families in townships far away.

Even though the racial zoning laws were struck down by 1991, ahead of 1994's landmark multi-racial elections, about three out of four of South Africa's 200,000 miners still live in hostels.

AngloGold Ashanti says there is an average of six men per room in its hostels, down from 12 a decade ago. Harmony says its hostels average 4.2 men per room.

The union now wants the "living-out allowance" for finding family accommodation to be doubled, whereas the mining firms are offering only a 10% rise.

The employers say they are working to improve hostels, but cannot move faster without jeopardising jobs.

"It's a tremendously expensive exercise," Mr Barker told Reuters.

The NUM says the crowded hostels are a breeding ground for tuberculosis.

It also warns that South Africa's Aids pandemic is worsened by the system, since miners far from home are more likely to visit prostitutes.

Posted by Publisher at 01:27 PM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2005

Sudan crash cause is 'not clear'

The cause of the helicopter crash which killed veteran southern Sudanese leader John Garang is "not clear", Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has said.

All previous official comments have insisted that the crash was an accident. Mr Garang was travelling in Mr Museveni's helicopter when he died.

Mr Garang's death sparked three days of riots in Sudan, in which at least 130 people were killed.

Mr Museveni was speaking to thousands of mourners in southern Sudan.

Mausoleum

"Some people say accident, it may be an accident, it may be something else," he said in Yei, one of the southern towns where Mr Garang's body is being taken before the funeral on Saturday.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] "The [helicopter] was very well equipped, this was my [helicopter] the one I am flying all the time, I am not ruling anything out," Mr Museveni said.

The official investigation into the causes of the crash has not yet started but the helicopter's voice recorder has been found.

Mr Garang died three weeks after being named vice-president as part of a deal to end 21 years of civil war.

Hundreds of people - many in tears - have been turning out to see Mr Garang's coffin when the plane arrives in each town.

'Garang's promise'

In Juba, where the funeral is due to take place, thousands of volunteers are helping to build a mausoleum to house Mr Garang's remains.

Mr Garang's son, Chol, started the work and a cow was slaughtered, in keeping with the traditions of the Dinka community.

A huge crowd is expected for the funeral, including the presidents of Sudan, Uganda and South Africa.

Saturday has been declared a national holiday.

Juba is recovering from communal clashes, sparked by Mr Garang's death.

Northern Arab traders were attacked and their goods looted by angry southerners, leaving at least 19 dead.

Mr Garang's widow and his children are accompanying the body from New Site, near where the helicopter crashed.

"We have to keep his [Garang's] promise. We have to implement the peace agreement," Riak Machar, one of Mr Garang's former colleagues told the crowd in Kurmuk on Thursday.

After Yei, the one-time base of Mr Garang's rebel SPLA, the funeral procession goes to Bor, where the rebellion started in 1983 and his birthplace of Panyagol near Bor, before reaching Juba.

'Preach peace'

The capital, Khartoum, is reported to be calm, with no more of the clashes between southerners and Arabs sparked by Mr Garang's death.

More than 130 people were killed in three days of violence.

An overnight curfew has been imposed and heavily-armed police and soldiers are on patrol.

A Sudanese minister has urged Muslim preachers not to further inflame tensions - most northerners are Muslims, while southerners are generally Christians or animists.

The US has expressed deep concern over the situation.

Leaders of both sides earlier urged calm, agreeing to set up a joint inquiry into what caused the crash of Mr Garang's helicopter.

But correspondents say there is a real danger that a much-vaunted peace deal ending 21 years of civil war could be shattered by the sudden violence.

Posted by Publisher at 03:01 PM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2005

Nigeria 'regrets' Martins mix-up

The head of Nigerian football Ibrahim Galadima says he regrets "the administrative lapse" which has raised doubts about Obafemi Martins age.

By Osasu Obayiuwana

According to the NFA website, the Inter Milan striker was born on 1 May 1978 but the player's passport states his date of birth as 28 October 1984.

"I can understand why the player is angry and frustrated with us," Galadima, NFA chairman, told BBC Sport on Thursday.

"But the date of 28 October 1984 is what we have in our official records. We have tried to reach him but we haven't been able to speak to him yet.

"The NFA has its shortcomings and lapses but that's not to say people should not go deeper to see what's happening," he said without elaborating.

In what some will interpret as a classic case of passing the buck, Galadima claimed that his administration has nothing to do with the NFA website.

"The website was commissioned by the former NFA secretary general Taiwo Ogunjobi. But it has not been handed over to us."

Galadima said the website's password is still with the person who built it because he has not been paid for his work.

But when contacted by BBC Sport, Ogunjobi described Galadima's comments as "unfortunate".

He said: "I cannot make any categorical statement on the whole affair until Friday."

Posted by Publisher at 04:51 PM | Comments (0)

August 01, 2005

Riots after Sudan VP Garang dies

Sudanese police have quelled riots and imposed a curfew in Khartoum after anger at the death of ex-rebel leader John Garang spilled onto the streets.

Several people were reported dead in the clashes in the capital. There were also reports of unrest elsewhere.

Mr Garang, Sudan's newly appointed vice-president, died in a helicopter crash as he was returning from Uganda.

He signed a deal to end 21 years of civil war in January and was sworn in as deputy leader three weeks ago.

His death was announced just before 0800 (0500 GMT) on Monday, though he had been reported missing over the weekend.

Eerie calm

The BBC's Jonah Fisher in Khartoum says gangs of youths from southern Sudan, like Mr Garang, appeared on the streets, looting cars, throwing stones and smashing office windows.

Gunfire could be heard and there were clashes with security forces as they tried to seal off the city centre.

However, shortly after an overnight curfew was imposed at 1800 (1500 GMT), there was an eerie calm on the streets, our correspondent reports.

A number of bodies were reported to have been taken to a morgue in Khartoum. "Some of the bodies are policemen," a police official told Reuters news agency.

Mr Garang steered the SPLM rebels from the Christian and animist south through a war against the Islamic government in the north which left some 1.5m people dead.

Our correspondent says many of the 4m southern Sudanese living in Khartoum hoped Mr Garang would change their lives and they are now venting their frustration at his death.

Peacemaker

Mr Garang's death leaves a gaping hole in Sudan's political landscape, our correspondent says.

Three days of national mourning have been declared.

The Ugandan presidential Mi-72 helicopter carrying Mr Garang back from a meeting with President Yoweri Museveni at his ranch in Rwakitura crashed in mountains near Mr Garang's base in New Site, southern Sudan.

Six of his associates and the seven-member crew also died in the crash, which is being blamed on bad weather.

Officials say Mr Garang's body has been taken to his former home in New Site.

Mr Garang's deputy in the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, Salva Kiir Mayardit, will take control of the former rebel group, the SPLM said.

Mr Mayardit said the SPLM remained committed to the peace agreement Mr Garang signed in January and urged all Sudanese to remain calm.

SPLM officials stressed that Mr Garang's death had been an accident.

Iron hand

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir said he was confident the peace agreement would remain on course.

The mediator in the long-running Sudanese peace talks, Kenyan General Lazaro Sumbeiywo, said it was clear from the peace agreement that whoever became SPLM leader would also take over as Sudan's vice-president.

Mr Garang ruled the disparate SPLM with an iron hand, and managed to keep it together.

The conflict in Sudan ended with the signing of a peace agreement in January and Mr Garang became vice-president in a new government of national unity.

With his death the future of peace in Sudan is once more in the balance, correspondents say.

Posted by Publisher at 05:37 PM | Comments (0)

July 27, 2005

Nigeria state segregates travel

The authorities in the northern Nigerian state of Kano have imposed a ban on Muslim men and women travelling together on public transport.

They say the ban is in accordance with Sharia law.

Men and women-only buses and motorcycle taxis were paraded in a mass rally at a stadium in the city of Kano.

Kano is one of several Muslim majority states that adopted Sharia law in 2000, a move which led to inter-religious riots that left thousands dead.

Under the ban, commercial motorcylists seen carrying women could be fined.

Correspondents say the scheme has been quite well-received by all communities as Christians will still be able to use existing non-segregated vehicles.

'Obey your leaders'

The governor of Kano state said a new force of 9,000 uniformed police would enforce the law.

"Our aim is to be at the forefront of conducting our activities decently and to protect Allah's Sharia," Ibrahim Shekerau told the rally.

Muslim cleric Ibrahim Kaliel had a warning for taxi drivers.

"You have no excuse to carry a woman who is neither your wife nor your mother on a motorcycle," he said. "The Holy Prophet Mohammed says you should obey your leaders in all circumstances."

But some drivers said they got most of their revenue from women.

"The government intends to put us out of business by this new law because we can't feed our family by relying on male customers who do not pay as much as women," moped operator Sahabi Malam told AFP news agency.

For and against

Kano is one of 12 northern states which have implemented Sharia law since 2000.

The move initially heightened tensions between Muslims and Christians and led to clashes which left thousands dead.

Human rights groups have condemned abuses sanctioned under the law including amputations and flogging, and say it discriminates against women.

Sharia law appears to have retained popular support in the north.

But there is significant opposition to the law, especially among the Christian minority.

While officially it does not apply to them, many say that in practice they are forced to comply.

Posted by Publisher at 07:39 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria police accused of torture

Six years after a return to civilian rule, Nigeria's police still routinely torture detainees, a new report says.

By Anna Borzello
BBC News, Lagos

The study, carried out by the Human Rights Watch group, is entitled "Rest in Pieces - Police Torture and Deaths in Custody in Nigeria".

It is the first comprehensive documentation of alleged torture in the West African country.

Based on interviews with 50 victims, it argues that rape and mutilation are commonly used to extract confessions.

The Nigerian police have a poor reputation but the 74-page document still has the power to shock.

Suspects are suspended from the ceiling by their hands, beaten with metal objects, sprayed with tear gas in their eyes or shot in the feet, the report says.

The injuries sometimes result in death, it adds.

The report's title, "Rest in Pieces", comes from a phrase Human Rights Watch says is used by the Nigerian police to describe detainees who are killed in their custody.

The police have yet to respond to the report but it is likely to come as a blow to President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has been campaigning since the start of the year to convince creditor nations that the government is committed to political and economic reforms.

Posted by Publisher at 07:35 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria FA boss slams Troussier

The chairman of the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) has accused French coach Philippe Troussier of being unprofessional, after turning down a chance to manage the national team.

"By rejecting a job he had previously accepted is unprofessional and it only shows he is afraid of what is ahead," said Ibrahim Galadima.

"No one dragged him into it because he attended an interview with our panel in London and was given all assurances on his terms of working with us."

Troussier declined the job, telling BBC Sport that he wanted to have a knee operation in September which would rule him out of the job.

He also gave Nigeria's Super Eagles only a 10 percent chance of qualifying for the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany.

Galadima said the NFA had begun the search for another foreign coach.

"Life has to continue and we'd like to hire another foreigner to coach our national team.

"We have World Cup qualifying matches against Algeria and Zimbabwe left and we need a coach to take charge of the situation."

Nigeria trail Angola in their qualifying Group Four from which only the top team will go through to Germany.

It is not the first time that a coach selected to manage Nigeria has had a dramatic encounter with the country's football authorities.

In 1995, Carlos Alberto Torres, Brazil's 1970 World Cup winning captain, signed a contract to coach Nigeria at a public ceremony in Lagos.

He then asked for a one-week holiday to travel to Brazil before taking up the job. But he never returned to Nigeria.

Posted by Publisher at 07:26 PM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2005

Troussier turns Nigeria down

Philippe Troussier has told BBC Sport that he will not be returning to Nigeria to manage the country's national team.

By Osasu Obayiuwana

Troussier, who was the choice of a panel that interviewed him in London between 16-17 July, said that a nagging health problem will not allow him to sign a contract with the Nigeria Football Association (NFA).

"I have decided to stop negotiations with the NFA," Troussier, who previously managed Nigeria in 1997, told BBC Sport on Tuesday.

"After my last meeting with officials of the NFA, I travelled over the last three days to see my surgeon in Paris.

"After the meeting with his medical staff, we have decided to operate on my knee at the beginning of September.

"It would be exactly like the last one I had on my other knee, for a cartilage problem.

"I will need three months of rehabilitation after the surgery.

"[As a result] I will not be in a position to take up the responsibility of helping the team qualify for the next World Cup," he told BBC Sport.

But the former Olympique Marseille coach was also worried about Nigeria's precarious position in the ongoing World Cup qualifiers.

Trailing behind Angola in Group Four, the Super Eagles could fail to qualify for Germany 2006 even if they win their remaining two matches against Algeria and Zimbabwe.

Should Angola win their remaining games against Gabon and Rwanda, the Southern Africans will qualify ahead of Nigeria, who would then miss out on the World Cup finals for the first time in twelve years.

"Football is unpredictable but I think Nigeria has a less than ten per cent chance of going to Germany," Troussier told BBC Sport.

"I have no interest to take this risk. Even if they win the remaining two matches, there is no guarantee of going to the World Cup.

"If a new coach comes in now and they fail to qualify for Germany, there will be a big problem for him," he argued.

"I am not interested to develop a long-term policy because a failure to reach the World Cup could even threaten Nigeria's preparation for the Cup of Nations."

Troussier, who has also managed the national teams of Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Qatar and Japan, said the NFA should allow caretaker manager Austin Eguavoen and assistant Samson Siasia prove their worth by taking charge of the last two games.

"I think they should take charge of this situation. It is a big challenge they would want to manage."

NFA chairman Ibrahim Galadima told BBC Sport that he will take a personal position on the latest development by the end of the week.

Posted by Publisher at 02:49 PM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2005

Nigeria's Oliseh joins Genk

Former Nigeria captain Sunday Oliseh has signed a two-year contract with Belgian first division side RC Genk.

Oliseh joins the club after his contract ran out at Germany's Borussia Dortmund.

The 31-year-old midfielder has already played in the Belgian first division with Standard Liege, between 1990 and 1994, before going to Italian Serie A club Reggiana.

He subsequently signed for German outfit FC Cologne and moved to Dutch giants Ajax, before having a second stint in Italian football with Juventus.

Oliseh, who has over 40 appearances for Nigeria, also has Belgian nationality.

Posted by Publisher at 03:50 PM | Comments (0)

Nigeria bus crash kills 56 people

A packed bus has fallen from a bridge into a river in northern Nigeria killing 56 passengers, officials say.

The crash took place at Tanburwa bridge about 20km (12.5 miles) south of the city of Kano.

Five survivors are being treated in hospital, said Ibrahim Ahmed Ibrahim, from the federal road safety authority.

The bus was travelling from the commercial city of Lagos 1,100km (684 miles) away and the driver - who died - "may have dozed off", said Mr Ibrahim.

'Flying coffins'

The bus plunged into the Gadar Tamburawa river in the early hours of the morning. Its destination the city of Maiduguri, capital of north-eastern Borno State.

An eyewitness told AFP news agency he had seen the driver with his neck stuck out of the window.

"At first, I thought he was trying to examine the front wheel of the bus. But soon after, the bus veered off the bridge and plunged into the river," the man said.

"We have taken 56 bodies to the Murtala Mohammed specialist hospital mortuary in Kano and five are on admission in the same hospital," Mr Ibrahim said.

"I understand the driver may have dozed off out of fatigue and plunged into the river," he said.

Correspondents say Nigeria's commercial bus drivers are notorious for reckless driving.

In Lagos, the regular involvement of the buses in accidents has made commuters label the yellow buses "morgues" and the minibuses "flying coffins".

Speeding, overloading and poorly maintained vehicles are blamed by the authorities for the frequent accidents.


Posted by Publisher at 03:47 PM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2005

Urgent hunt for London attackers

A massive hunt is under way for four would-be suicide bombers who tried to set off four explosive devices on three London Tube trains and a bus.

Streets were cordoned off, parts of the transport network closed and stations evacuated, but no-one was badly hurt.

Three of the devices are the same size and weight as those used for the 7 July London bombings. The same chemicals also appear to have been used.

Analysts say evidence from the scenes may hold clues to the previous attacks.

Rucksacks

Thursday's attacks began at about 1230 BST, with bombs at Warren Street station, central London, Shepherd's Bush station in the west, Oval in the south and on a bus in Shoreditch, east London.

As on 7 July, the bombs are believed to have been carried in rucksacks. Three are thought to have been of a similar size to the previous bombs, while the fourth was smaller and appeared to have been contained in a plastic box.

It is thought the detonators went off, causing small blasts, but failed to detonate the bombs themselves. The bombers managed to flee.

Police will focus on forensic evidence from the scenes as well as CCTV footage.

A wealth of witnesses have also come forward with first hand accounts of events, descriptions of the bombers and photographs of scenes.

Some said the attackers seemed "scared" or "surprised" when their bombs failed to explode properly.

Oval attack witness Kate Reid describe hearing a "pop" as if a big balloon had burst before seeing a young, dark-skinned man with a bag at his feet looking "really scared".

'Forensic bingo'

CCTV pictures from the scenes are expected to be released soon.

Met Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said the fact devices remained unexploded at the scenes would "very helpful".

"Clearly the intention must have been to kill. You don't do this with any other intention," he told a press conference on Thursday.

Sir Ian said there was a "resonance" with the 7 July attacks but it was too early to tell if they were linked.

Former government intelligence analyst Crispin Black said the chance to examine the bombs themselves was "forensic bingo", saying: "This is as good as it gets."

BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the devices were so similar there was speculation they could have been part of the same batch.

"The explosive might have degraded over time or had not been put together right in this case, or it could have been a completely different batch of explosives - homemade - that had not been cooked up properly."

The bombers' plan might have been disrupted by the investigation into the 7 July attacks, forcing them to act before they had been fully prepared, Corera added.

It would now be "very difficult" to "get the balance right" between increasing police powers to improve surveillance and detain suspects for longer and building relations with communities so the security services could win their cooperation and recruit new staff, he told Today.

Roads closed

As investigators swung into action, Prime Minister Tony Blair urged Londoners to go about their business as normal, saying: "We have just got to react calmly."

World leaders joined in condemning the attacks and urging unity in the face of terrorism.

Meanwhile, commuters face difficult journeys to work with some roads still closed early on Friday.

Transport for London service director Nigel Holness told BBC Radio 4's Today programme good services were running on all Tube lines except where they remained suspended after the 7 July bombings.

"We have the maximum deployment possible of the British Transport Police," he added.

"We have started to use sniffer dogs around the Underground.

"And we are looking at deploying staff in different ways."

Mr Holness told Today it would be impossible to "search and scan" all Tube passengers.

"We have three million journeys on the Tube every day and half a million people using the Tube during peak periods."

"We have to keep moving."

Two men, one arrested in Whitehall, close to Downing Street, and another around Tottenham Court Road, have been released without charge.

Details started emerging on Thursday afternoon about the events at each of the attack scenes:


Warren Street: Witnesses hear a bang at the front of a train and some passengers panic. Armed police are deployed at nearby University College Hospital after a man was seen running there from the station.
Two people are arrested nearby but are later released. A third man arrested in Tottenham Court Road is also released without charge.

Warren Street Tube attack

Oval: 20 or 30 passengers evacuated from a train after reports of a bang and some smoke. There is one report of a suspect trying to use a handgun to detonate explosives in a rucksack. Several witnesses report bystanders trying to tackle a man as he flees the station.
Oval station attack

Shepherd's Bush: A man reportedly flees after an attack on a Hammersmith and City Line train.
Shepherd's Bush attack

Shoreditch: An explosion blows out the windows of a number 26 bus on Hackney Road but causes no structural damage.
Shoreditch bus bomb
Police have asked that any images of the attacks are sent to www.police.uk. The hotline number for anybody with information is 0800 789 321. Witness reception points have been set up near the four scenes.

Posted by Publisher at 08:37 AM | Comments (0)

Soyinka urges Zimbabwe sanctions

Soyinka wants the end of African solidarity with Mugabe.
One of Africa's best-known authors, Wole Soyinka, has called for sanctions to be imposed on Zimbabwe, calling the situation there "a disgrace" to Africa.

The Nigerian writer said President Mugabe was typical of "rogues and monsters" clinging to power in Africa.

African leaders have been reluctant to criticise human rights abuses in Zimbabwe; many see Mr Mugabe as a hero of the struggle against colonialism.

Mr Soyinka said this kind of solidarity was wrong and should be ended.

He was speaking in South Africa, where he is due to give a lecture on Friday as part of the celebration of former President Nelson Mandela's 87th birthday.

He said that South Africa should not give Zimbabwe the emergency economic assistance it had asked for.

It is not clear what other sanctions Mr Soyinka called for.

Mr Mugabe and dozens of his officials are banned from travelling to the European Union and the United States because of their alleged involvement in rigging elections and human rights abuses.

Shortages

Mr Soyinka said that many African leaders oppressed their people just as much as colonial rulers.

"I don't care about the colour of the foot pressing on my neck - I just want to remove it," the Nobel laureate said.

He strongly criticised the demolition of shantytowns in Zimbabwe's cities, which the United Nations says has left some 200,000 people homeless in the past two months.

"Bulldozers have been turned into an instrument of governance and it is the ordinary people who are suffering... it is a disgrace on the continent," he said.

UN special envoy Anna Tibaijuka, who visited Zimbabwe to investigate the demolitions, has presented her report to the Zimbabwe government.

It will be made public on Friday or Monday, UN officials say.

Mr Soyinka is also a strong critic of the Nigerian government.

Zimbabwe is suffering from acute shortage of goods from fuel to foreign currency and basic foods, such as sugar.

Mr Mugabe blames the problems on a Western plot to bring down his government.

His critics say he has mismanaged the economy - in particular by seizing productive white-owned farms, which were the foundation of much of the economy.

Posted by Publisher at 08:35 AM | Comments (0)

Many Nigerians still wary of police

Nigeria's police have a history of violence
A judicial panel set up by the Nigerian government is investigating the killing in Abuja by police of six traders from the nearby village of Apo.

By Yusuf Sarki Muhammad
BBC News, Abuja

One of the accused, deputy police commissioner Danjuma Ibrahim, said that police plotted to ensure a suspect escaped so that he could be "indicted and killed".

As the panel hears testimony from suspects and families of the dead, the newly appointed inspector-general of police, Sunday Ehindero, has been assessing his first six months in office.

He says that in that time, the police have arrested 600 armed robbery suspects and killed another 114 suspects who engaged them in battle. The police have also recovered more than 400 firearms.

However, few people outside the service believe this is a commendable accomplishment.

Even the police's new slogan, "to serve and protect with integrity", has failed to win over the public.

'Disgrace'

Ojobo Atuluku, a human rights campaigner, said the police are the same as they ever were.

"The police don't seem to have changed anything else about their nature, their practices or their processes," she said.

"They seem to be doing good by their own indicators. There's a lot of human rights abuses, there's a lot of extortion still going on.

"The Apo tragedy is still very, very recent in our minds... for them to be celebrating, I think it is a national disgrace."

Although the Apo incident has been well publicised, there are many other cases that have not received similar attention, as Clement Wasa from Community Action for Popular Participation, an Abuja-based NGO, pointed out.

He gave as an example the case of Issa Adams, who he said was a victim of police brutality just a few days before the Apo killings.

"Issa Adams and his brother and a cousin were arrested along the airport road on the pretext that they were armed robbery suspects, and kept in police custody for over three days," he said.

"At the time they were arrested, their houses were seized and they were kept incommunicado for three days."

No action?

But police spokesperson Emma Ighodalo said there is now transparency in the service.

"When the Apo killings happened, the Abuja police set up an internal panel to investigate the matter and they came up with their findings. Their findings indicted some police officers," he said.

"I think it is of much credit to the force. There was no cover-up at all."

Pressed on the question of better training for police officers, Mr Ighodalo said measures were being put in place.

"The 143,000 constables who undergo courses are going to be trained in weapons handling, because we want to minimise incidences of misuse of firearms, and we want to minimise incidences of extrajudicial killings," he said.

But people in Abuja are not optimistic.

"Things are going to back to the way they were, if not worse, what with the Apo killings," one man said.

"The news we get around from other states, it's pretty much been the same story everywhere. So nothing has improved."

"Nigerian police need a total re-orientation," said another.

"[Their new motto is] 'to serve with integrity', but I haven't seen it in action," a third man said.

Mr Ehindero may be trying to improve things, it seems there is still a long way to go.


Posted by Publisher at 08:30 AM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2005

London blasts cause chaos on Tube

London's Tube network has been plunged into chaos with stations cleared after minor blasts on two trains and a bus.

Met Police chief Sir Ian Blair said three Tube lines were suspended but it was time London returned to normal.

The minor explosions - two weeks after blasts killed 56 - involved detonators only, a BBC reporter said. There was one injury.

Police sources say the blasts may have been near simultaneous and that they are being linked with the 7 July bombs.

They say a number of fugitives are being sought. Two people have been arrested in Whitehall.

Detectives are recovering a lot of evidence from the sites, and believe the latest events may either be a repetition of the 7 July attacks or may help with a breakthrough in the investigation.

Eyewitnesses heard bangs and saw abandoned rucksacks at the sites of the incidents at Warren Street and Oval tube stations as well as the number 26 bus in Bethnal Green.

There was an attempt to cause an explosion at Shepherd's Bush Hammersmith and City line, police said.

Police told reporters that a man had threatened to blow himself up and then ran off.

At Warren Street and Oval a man was seen running away from the scene.

On the bus, there were no injuries and the bus suffered no structural damage.

Large areas around all four sites were cordoned off. Tests for chemical, biological and radiological weapons proved negative.

One person was injured at Warren Street. There were reports the injured person may have been holding a rucksack containing the detonator.

In other developments:-


The whole of the Northern Line has been suspended, along with the Hammersmith and City line.

University College Hospital was cordoned off twice, with armed police entering the building. There were reports they were searching for a suspect from the Warren Street incident.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Sir Ian Blair, Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer, Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, Immigration Minister Des Browne and Transport Secretary Alistair Darling attended Downing Street for a meeting with the prime minister.

There were also alerts at Wood Lane in Shepherd's Bush, around St Paul's and, outside London, at St Albans station.

A number of other stations were closed during the alert, including Great Portland Street, Westminster, Waterloo, St Paul's and Oxford Circus tube stations, as well as Waterloo tube station and King's Cross Thameslink.

Sir Ian appealed for witnesses with mobile phone pictures of any of the incidents to visit the www.police.uk website.


Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "We can't minimise incidents such as this because they obviously have been serious in the four different places as we know.

"I think all I'd like to say is this that we know why these things are done, they're done to scare people and to frighten them, to make them anxious and worried."

Sofiane Mohellebi, 35, was travelling from Oxford Circus to Walthamstow when she was evacuated from a train at Warren Street.

"I was in the carriage and we smelt smoke - it was like something was burning. "Everyone was panicked and people were screaming. We had to pull the alarm. I am still shaking."

Posted by Publisher at 07:09 PM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2005

Landmark police trial in Nigeria

The trial of six police officers in Nigeria charged with the murder in June of six traders has open in the capital, Abuja, amidst heavy security.

It is the first time that senior officers have faced trial and they could face the death penalty.

The police say they killed the traders in self defence when they failed to stop at a check point.

But riots in the traders' home village of Apo, near Abuja, led to a public outcry and a government investigation.

The BBC's Hindu Waziri in Abuja says Nigeria's police have a history of violence and extra judicial killings - but none have gone to trial due to a lack of evidence.

Disappearances while in police detention are not uncommon, she says.

Five of the six accused police officers were in court on Monday and include an assistant police commissioner who is the most senior official to be charged with such a crime.

The men pleaded not guilty.

The sixth accused is still at large.

The trial has been adjourned until Wednesday.

Posted by Publisher at 04:08 PM | Comments (0)

July 11, 2005

Mother makes plea for missing son

The mother of a man missing since Thursday's London bombings has condemned the attackers.

Anthony Fatayi-William's mother, Marie, said: "I am his mother. I need to know what happened to Anthony."

She said it was time to stop "this vicious cycle of killing". "How many mothers' hearts shall be maimed?"

It is thought he took the Number 30 bus after stopping to help Tube passengers. The bus was blown up in Tavistock Square.


'Hopes and dreams'

Surrounded by family and friends of her son at the scene of the bus bombing, Mrs Fatayi-William said: "Five days on and we are waiting to know what has happened to him."

"My son Anthony is my first son, my only son, 26, the head of my family.

"African society, they hold on to sons. He has dreams and hopes and I his mother must fight to protect them".

"I want to protect him, I am his mother. I want to protect him, his values, his memory."

She said anyone who believed they were acting in the name of God or Allah by committing such atrocities had been misled.

"Terrorism is not the way. We cannot deliver peace by killing people," she said.

'Rivers of blood'

Mrs Fatayi-William, who has flown to the UK from Nigeria, continued: "It is time to stop and think because we cannot live in fear because we are surrounded by hatred".

She condemned "death by faceless people" and said there had been "streams of tears, rivers of blood."

She provided a stark contrast with the perpetrators of the bombings and Nelson Mandela who offered inspiration to many.

"What inspiration does senseless slaughter provide?" she said.

Her son, an oil executive, was on his way to work at Amec Offshore Services, near Liverpool Street station, but is thought to have taken an alternative route to work, via King's Cross, because of delays on the Northern Line.

The family believe witnesses later saw Anthony in Euston amid the confusion following the Tube attacks, helping passengers find buses.

His mobile phone records show he contacted his employer at 9.41am on the morning of the terror attack to tell them he would not get to work by Tube but would find another way.

The bus bomb exploded at 0947 BST.

His best friend Amrit Walia had contacted the BBC News website after he went missing following Thursday's bombings.

Posted by Publisher at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)

Mother makes plea for missing son

The mother of a man missing since Thursday's London bombings has condemned the attackers.

Anthony Fatayi-William's mother, Marie, said: "I am his mother. I need to know what happened to Anthony."

She said it was time to stop "this vicious cycle of killing". "How many mothers' hearts shall be maimed?"

It is thought he took the Number 30 bus after stopping to help Tube passengers. The bus was blown up in Tavistock Square.


'Hopes and dreams'

Surrounded by family and friends of her son at the scene of the bus bombing, Mrs Fatayi-William said: "Five days on and we are waiting to know what has happened to him."

"My son Anthony is my first son, my only son, 26, the head of my family.

"African society, they hold on to sons. He has dreams and hopes and I his mother must fight to protect them".

"I want to protect him, I am his mother. I want to protect him, his values, his memory."

She said anyone who believed they were acting in the name of God or Allah by committing such atrocities had been misled.

"Terrorism is not the way. We cannot deliver peace by killing people," she said.

'Rivers of blood'

Mrs Fatayi-William, who has flown to the UK from Nigeria, continued: "It is time to stop and think because we cannot live in fear because we are surrounded by hatred".

She condemned "death by faceless people" and said there had been "streams of tears, rivers of blood."

She provided a stark contrast with the perpetrators of the bombings and Nelson Mandela who offered inspiration to many.

"What inspiration does senseless slaughter provide?" she said.

Her son, an oil executive, was on his way to work at Amec Offshore Services, near Liverpool Street station, but is thought to have taken an alternative route to work, via King's Cross, because of delays on the Northern Line.

The family believe witnesses later saw Anthony in Euston amid the confusion following the Tube attacks, helping passengers find buses.

His mobile phone records show he contacted his employer at 9.41am on the morning of the terror attack to tell them he would not get to work by Tube but would find another way.

The bus bomb exploded at 0947 BST.

His best friend Amrit Walia had contacted the BBC News website after he went missing following Thursday's bombings.

Posted by Publisher at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)

Stuttgart chase Nigeria's Makinwa

Nigeria striker Ayodele Makinwa has told BBC Sport that he will make a decision on his next move in European club football in the next 48 hours.

Osasu Obayiuwana
BBC Sport

The 21-year-old, who made his debut for Nigeria's Super Eagles in the 2006 World Cup qualifier against Rwanda, is the subject of a US$9.8 million bid from German clubside Stuttgart.

But Makinwa, who had an impressive season with Atalanta, is keen to remain in Italian club football.


"I will wait for two more days before I make a final decision [on where I will play next season]," he told BBC Sport on Monday.

"I can't say that I will leave for Germany because I have to weigh all my options before taking a decision."

Former Italy manager Giovanni Trapattoni, in charge at Stuttgart, is behind the move to get Makinwa, who is also being chased by Inter Milan and Palermo.

"Trapattoni is a highly-respected coach and I am happy that he wants me because it shows that I am doing things right," Makinwa went on.

"But if one of the other two teams can meet Atalanta's transfer valuation, there is no need for me to leave Italy."

"Going to Germany will be like starting afresh, as the language and environment will be different.

"I may go there at the end of the day but I'll have to choose carefully," Makinwa said.

The striker said that his next career choice could make or mar his European football career.

"Making the right choice could really help my career to grow, so I do not want to make a mistake.

"It is is really not easy making the choice but if only one club is ready to meet Atalanta's transfer valuation, it may help to decide the situation.

"Whichever club I join, I want to be sure that I am in their pre-season camp and not joining them at a late stage."

Posted by Publisher at 01:29 PM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2005

London bombs killed 'at least 50'

The final death toll for the London bombs will be at least 50, the head of the Metropolitan Police says. Sir Ian Blair said there were a number of bodies still in the Tube train at Russell Square but that the final figure was unlikely to top 100.

It is proving difficult to determine the death toll from the bus bomb

Sir Ian said the police had an "implacable resolve" to track do