2017: Year of Hunger, Sleaze, Terror
At the end of today, Nigerians will join the rest of the world in seeing the end of 2017 and ushering in the New Year, of course hopeful that 2018 will be a much better year. And in keeping with the theme, Sunday Telegraph takes a look at a number of major talking points in 2017…
Buhari’s prolonged overseas medical trip
Perhaps, no other topic captivated the attention of Nigerians more than President Muhammadu Buhari’s lengthy stay abroad. Although the President had told the nation that he would be travelling abroad again after returning from his first trip late last year, not many had expected the 75-year-old leader to stay out of the country for such a length of time. Buhari jetted out of the country on May 7, to treat an undisclosed ailment, but not many suspected that he would be away for more than three months.
In fact, President Buhari did not return until August 22, finally bringing his 103- day medical leave in the UK to a grand end. Incidentally, three days earlier, Buhari made history when he not only become the first incumbent head of state to have spent 100 days outside his domain, his deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, also made history as the first Acting President, globally, to clock 100 days in office. The longer the President stayed away from Aso Rock, the more stringent became the calls for him to either resign or tell the nation what exactly was wrong with him. In the end, he did neither and finally returned after 103 days saying, he is now fully fit and ready to tackle headlong the many problems bedevilling the country.
N43billion Ikoyi Gate
On Wednesday, April 12, 2017, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), discovered the sums of $43, 449, 947, £27,800 and N23, 218 kept in iron cabinets and jute bags, otherwise known as ‘Ghana-must-go’ bags, in an apartment at Flat 7B Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos While there were doubts about the ownership of the apartment, it was revealed that Folashade, wife of former Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayo Oke, owns the apartment. After the initial hoopla that the money belonged to some politicians, Oke was suspended and a Presidential Committee was set up to investigate the sum. A federal High Court sitting in Lagos later ordered forfeiture of the money to the Federal Government.
he re-appearance and re-absorption of former Director, Presidential Pension Reform Task Team, (PRTT), Alhaji Abdurasheed Maina, into the Federal Civil Service, was another issue that dominated the airways in the nation in 2017. Maina disappeared in 2013 after a N2.7billion pension fraud was discovered after being declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. But in February this year, he reappeared and was re-absorbed into the Ministry of Interior.
On Sunday, August 6, 2017, about 13 parishioners of the beautiful St Philip’s Catholic Church, who trooped to attend first Mass of the day at Amakwa Ozubulu, in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State, were shot dead. The gunmen, who stormed the church, which was built by a prominent son of the village residing in South Africa, Chief Aloysius Ikegwuonu, and was dedicated by the Bishop of Nnewi Diocese, Most Reverend Hilary Okeke, also injured dozens of others.
Driven by hunger, insolvency and other reasons, not a few Nigerians either committed suicide or attempted to do so in the out-going year. First was a medical doctor, Allwell Orji, who committed suicide by jumping into the Lagos lagoon on the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos. Also, a 40-year-old man Adekunle Oluseyi John from Ondo State, jumped into the lagoon from the Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge in Lagos in August in an apparent suicide plunge. In Abuja, a 40-year-old man from Okpoma Village in Yala Local Government Area of Cross River State, Dominic Iyayi Ogar, gruesomely murdered his wife and their only daughter. Ogar committed the dastardly act on October 8, 2017 in Mpape, Abuja.
Operation Python Dance
The Nigerian Army carried out Operation Python Dance II in the South-East to quell sundry criminality, a veiled allusion to stopping activities of IPOB led by Nnamdi Kanu. Similarly, Operation Crocodile Smile was launched in the South-South to address activities of militant groups in the region.
Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB
The calls for a re-birth of the idea of an independent state of Biafra as espoused 51 years ago by the late Chief Odumegu Ojukwu reached a crescendo under the youthful Nnamdi Kanu, who galvanised the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement once he was released on bail on April 28, 2017. However, rather than abide by the stringent bail conditions, Kanu became more emboldened and appeared ready to challenge the state with his calls for mass action against the Nigerian state. But matters came to a head in September when the Nigerian military raided his country home in Abia State – since then, the British-Nigerian has neither been seen nor heard from.
Boko Haram releases 82 Chibok girls
The outgoing year was barely five months old when some cheering news filtered in that the militant group, Boko Haram, had released 82 of the almost 300 girls it kidnapped from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State on the night of April 14/15 in 2014. It was then hoped that the months of negotiations that led to this release on May 6, would also see the rest of the girls coming home in the no distant future; but alas, that has not happened and a sizeable number of the girls still remain captives of the militant group, which wants to set up an Islamic Caliphate in Nigeria. It was later learnt that although no money exchanged hands, the Federal Government did release a number of fighters in exchange for the girls.
Boko Haram attacks troops, oil prospectors in Borno
Despite repeated claims by the military, including President Muhammadu Buhari that the dreaded militant group, Boko Haram, had been ‘technically defeated’, in its most high profile attack of the year, the group ambushed a convey conveying oil prospectors to a site in northern Borno State on Tuesday July 24, 2017. According to reports, the attack occurred at the remote village of Eshu in Magumeri Local Government Area of Borno State at about 9:15 a.m., leaving more than 50 people dead. Till date, five abducted staff of the University of Maiduguri, who were part of the oil prospecting team, are yet to be re-united with their families, five months after the incident.
Ex-NNPC GMD Andrew Yakubu and his $10m ‘gift’
Once again, the spotlight fell on the often aspersed Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), when on February 3, 2017, a special operation conducted by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a building belonging to a former Group Managing Director of the Corporation, Dr. Andrew Yakubu, in Kaduna, yielded the recovery of a staggering sum of $9,772,800 and another sum of £74,000 cash. The huge cash was hidden in a fire proof safe. Dr. Yakubu, who held sway as NNPC boss from 2012 to 2014, subsequently reported to the EFCC’s zonal office in Kano to admit ownership of the money, explaining that it was “gifts” from unnamed persons.
However, human beings were not the only things that shaped things in 2017, one of the tinniest organisms known to mankind also left its mark in Nigeria in the year in question. Monkeypox, an infectious disease caused by the monkeypox virus, brought fear to the land when it broke out in September, when the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, received a report of a suspected Monkey pox virus disease from the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital, NDUTH, Okolobiri, Bayelsa State. In less than a month, the Monkey pox affected 43 people in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ekiti, Lagos, Enugu, Nasarawa, Rivers, and the FCT.
Evans the billionaire kidnapper
On Saturday, June 10, 2017, Nigerians woke up to the shocking news that a notorious kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, popularly known as ‘Evans’ had been arrested. Evans was arrested at his Magodo Estate home by the Inspector-General’s Intelligence Response Team (IRT) led by ACP Kyari while preparing to leave the country. More than 20 security operatives stormed his home to affect his arrest. Evans has been tagged the ‘richest and most notorious kidnapper’ in the history of Nigeria. He is believed to have collected several billions of naira as ransom in the last seven years of his reign as kingpin of kidnappers.
Igbonla school boys
Six boys from the Lagos Model College Igbonla, Epe Lagos, were kidnapped on Thursday 25, May 2017, during the early hours of the day while they were preparing for school by armed militants. The kidnappers initially demanded a N100million ransom for the boys – Peter Jonah, Isiaq Rahmon, Adebayo George, Judah Agbausi, Pelumi Philips and Farouq Yusuf. The boys were, however, released to their parents after 65days of being abducted and just four of them returned to Epe and were psychologically ready to continue their education.
Arewa youths’ quit notice to Igbos
Also in the outgoing year, a coalition of Northern groups, including the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, led by Shettima Yerima, on Tuesday, June 6, gave all the Igbos resident in the 19 states of the North a threemonth ultimatum to quit or be forced out after the expiration of the October 1, 2017 deadline. They said that their reason is because the Igbo have consistently insisted that they don’t want to be in Nigeria, “let them therefore, go back to their places.” They added: “They don’t believe in Nigeria, so, we also don’t believe in them.” In the end, high level consultations involving Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo with major stakeholders, including the Arewa group, ensured that the deadline came and passed without any incident.
About five years after flooding devastated large swaths of the country, another round of flooding hit Nigeria leaving sorrow, tears and misery in its wake. In all, about 30 states experienced the deluge with social media platforms awash with pictures of hardship experience by people from the highbrow Lekki Axis in Lagos, to the nation’s capital, Abuja and neighbouring Suleja and even Sokoto in the far north!
FG’s attempt to check churches
2017 was also a year when the Federal Government took a step towards regulating the operation of churches in Nigeria. For the first time, the tenure of a General Overseer was pegged; and this saw one of the most influential God’s General, Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) shedding his responsibilities as the head of the RCCG, in humble compliance.