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Secretive US Spy Court Says NSA to Keep Collecting Phone Records

Fri, 01/03/2014 - 23:26

Thousands demonstrated against the National Security Agency and spying by the United States government in Washington, D.C. The event was held on Sat., October 26, 2013, a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

US Spy Court: NSA to Keep Collecting Phone Records

WASHINGTON January 3, 2014 (AP)
By STEPHEN BRAUN and KIMBERLY DOZIER Associated Press

A secretive U.S. spy court has ruled again that the National Security Agency can keep collecting every American's telephone records every day, in the midst of dueling decisions in two other federal courts about whether the surveillance program is constitutional.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Friday renewed the NSA phone collection program, said Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Such periodic requests are somewhat formulaic but required since the program started in 2006.

The latest approval was the first since two conflicting court decisions about whether the program is lawful and since a presidential advisory panel recommended that the NSA no longer be allowed to collect and store the phone records and search them without obtaining separate court approval for each search.

In a statement, Turner said that 15 judges on the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on 36 occasions over the past seven years have approved the NSA's collection of U.S. phone records as lawful.

Also Friday, government lawyers turned to U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to block one federal judge's decision that threatens the NSA phone records program.

The opposing lawyer who spearheaded the effort that led to the ruling said he hopes to take the issue directly to the Supreme Court.

The Justice Department filed a one-page notice of appeal asking the appeals court to overturn U.S. District Judge Richard Leon's ruling last month that the program was likely unconstitutional. The government's move had been expected.

Larry Klayman, who filed the class-action suit against President Barack Obama and top administration national security officials, said he intends to petition the federal appeals court next week to send the case directly to the Supreme Court. Klayman said the move was justified because the NSA case was a matter of great public importance.

"There are exigent circumstances here," Klayman said. "We can't allow this situation to continue. The NSA's continuing to spy on everybody."

Turner said U.S. intelligence agencies would be willing to modify the phone records surveillance program to provide additional privacy and civil liberties protections as long as it was still operationally beneficial. He said the Obama administration was carefully evaluating the advisory panel's recent recommendations.

Judges sitting on the secretive spy court have repeatedly approved the program for 90-day periods. They also have repeatedly upheld the constitutionality of the program — a judicial bulwark that held strong until Leon's surprise decision last month.

Leon said the NSA's program was "almost Orwellian," a reference to writer George Orwell's futuristic novel "1984," and that there was little evidence the operation had prevented terrorist attacks. He ruled against the government but agreed to postpone shutting down the program until the government could appeal.

In a separate case involving the same NSA phone records program, a district judge in New York last month upheld the government's data collection as lawful. The American Civil Liberties Union, which lost that case, said this week it will appeal to a federal appeals court in New York.

Bank-Imposed Emergency Manager Renews Plans to Cut Detroit Retirees Health Benefits

Fri, 01/03/2014 - 23:14

People in Detroit took over the streets in front of the federal courthouse demanding an end to the state-imposed bankruptcy of the city. "Make the Banks Pay" they chanted., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

January 3, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Detroit retirees: Orr renews plan to cut health benefits

Darren A. Nichols
The Detroit News

Detroit— A city retiree committee charged with negotiating health care and pension cuts is “frustrated” that Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has renewed a plan to reduce benefits as much as 82 percent starting March 1.

But the emergency manager’s spokesman said Friday the city is forced to let retirees know what plan might take effect in less than two months if mediation talks don’t result in an agreement.

Committee Chair Terri Renshaw said in a Friday statement the city began mailing plan changes that mirror alterations that were unilaterally imposed on retirees late last year.

The plan was withdrawn after several retiree groups, including the Official Committee of Retirees, filed a lawsuit to prevent it from being implemented.

By rolling out the plan, the city ignored alternative proposals that would have saved money while giving retirees and their families better coverage, the retiree group argues. It is considering its next steps, which could include reinstating the lawsuit.

“The Retiree Committee is frustrated that the City renewed its effort to fundamentally and unilaterally alter health care coverage for retirees on the eve of continued mediation aimed at resolving all retiree issues, including health care,” Renshaw said in a statement.

“Such actions would be shocking but for the city’s track record of acting unilaterally and failing to negotiate in good faith. One would think that the City would have learned that such tactics do not constituent good faith or engender consensual results.”

Emergency manager spokesman Bill Nowling said mediation continues, and the notices the retirees received is to inform them what the new benefits would be should a new plan be implemented on March 1.

“This notification is something the city must do regardless of the progress being made in mediation,” Nowling said in a Friday statement. “This delay in implementing a new health care system for retirees is costing the city about $15 million a month.”

In early November, Orr’s proposed health care initiative for retirees was postponed until Feb. 28 under an agreement with the city and the retiree committee as they sought to negotiate an alternative arrangement.

Detroit officials sought to ax the city-paid $605-per-month retiree health insurance coverage ($1,834 for families). Instead those younger than 65 would receive a monthly $125 payment to use toward a private plan on the federal exchanges.

Disabled retirees younger than 65 were to get a $200 monthly payment for their health insurance needs.

More than 10,500 retirees older than 65 were offered a Medicare Advantage plan with city-funded premiums, but will be responsible for paying their deductibles and secondary insurance coverage, according to the plan.

Detroit’s 10,000 active city workers still are set to see their individual deductibles nearly quadruple to $750 from $200 annually, while employees with families on the city’s insurance will experience a 50 percent rise in their maximum annual out-of-pocket costs to $4,500 from $3,000.

In total, the retirees committee says the city’s current plan seeks to reduce annual health care spending for retirees to $30 million from more than $160 million a year.

The current proposal calls for an overall 82 percent reduction in health care benefits. It also requires a 15 percent share of costs covered for non-Medicare eligible retirees — down from 72 percent, retiree officials said.

It also causes $58,000 to $180,000 in additional costs for Medicare-eligible retires during a 15-year lifetime, according to the retiree committee statement.

dnichols@detroitnews.com
(313) 222-2072


From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140103/METRO01/301030076#ixzz2pOaj1FrM

The Struggle Freed Lynne Stewart

Fri, 01/03/2014 - 22:10

People's Attorney Lynne Stewart of New York City was taken into custody on November 19, 2009. Stewart was convicted of providing information to her client who was falsely accused of terrorism., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

The struggle freed Lynne Stewart!

By Dolores Cox on January 3, 2014

New York, Jan. 1 — There she was standing, then walking slowly towards us, unshackled, without handcuffs or belly chain, and with a gigantic smile on her face. She was a sight for sore eyes, her inner and outer beauty reflected. Lynne Stewart’s family — her two children, who are attorneys; a daughter, who is a hospice doctor; grandchildren and great-grandchildren — along with her many supporters and attorneys were there. WBAI radio producers, independent photographers and videographers, Prison Radio’s Noelle Hanrahan, and Amy Goodman of “Democracy NOW!” had also gathered inside LaGuardia Airport, waiting for what seemed like forever, to welcome Lynne home. There were 75 to 100 supporters there.

We had been waiting anxiously to see for ourselves what seemed to be too good to be true. Our Lynne, the people’s lawyer, woman warrior and courageous freedom fighter, finally was coming home.

And then, she emerged. It was a day that many feared would never come.

We had been admonished several times by airport personnel not to block the elevator, staircase or passageway. But at the sight of Lynne and her spouse, Ralph Poynter, we could no longer contain ourselves. We rushed towards her, carrying cameras, signs and flowers as we chanted. With our big smiles and crying tears of joy, we surrounded her. Many hugs, kisses, “congratulations” and “thanks” were exchanged. Passersby whispered, “I wonder who that celebrity is they’re all greeting.”

When asked how she felt, Lynne said, “There ain’t nothing like freedom.” She talked about being very tired, and said that she was surprised about her release, and that she was getting to the point of giving up hope. She was notified of her approved release on the morning of Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve, by a phone call from her lawyer, in France, and by prison officials. Everything happened quickly at that point.

Lynne laughed and stated, “When the warden told me I was leaving that day, he literally threw me out of prison.”

What had occurred during the previous 24 hours seemed unbelievable. First, we, her supporters, heard on the morning of Dec. 31 that the U.S. Justice Department had ordered that 74-year-old Lynne Stewart be granted a compassionate release due to her terminal illness. Her 10-year sentence for “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization” was also reduced to time served.

Since 2012, breast cancer has metastasized throughout Lynne’s body, due in part to delayed medical care in prison. Lynne had filed a written request for medical release at the beginning of 2013. Her doctors now say she has approximately 12 months to live.

During the course of one day, we witnessed what the Justice Department, the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Manhattan federal judge could have done a year ago or at least six months ago — namely, freed Lynne Stewart. They may have just decided that they didn’t want her to die in prison. That might incur some bad publicity for a so-called “democratic” country.

Former slave and activist Frederick Douglass described this oppressive state in his 1852 Fourth of July speech: “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim … your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; … your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; … to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes. … There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than … the United States, at this very hour.”

Lynne Stewart’s case part of global struggle

Lynne’s case is known internationally; it’s part of a global movement for social justice. We know that expecting the heartless to have a heart or evildoers to have a conscience is beyond reason and logic. The powers-that-be are utterly shameless.

As Dec. 31 unfolded, we learned that Lynne’s release from prison was imminent. Meanwhile, Ralph was airborne and on his way to Fort Worth, Texas, to visit Lynne as he had done routinely since her imprisonment there. It was not until after his plane landed, when he was on his way to the car rental desk, that he got the call informing him of Lynne’s fully approved compassionate release. One can only imagine how shocked he was when he got to the prison and saw Lynne sitting in a car in the parking lot.

By 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, Ralph walked into his hotel room with Lynne at his side. This moment was captured by fellow activist and producer Bob Lederer on the air at WBAI radio, when he telephoned Ralph to interview him about the day’s events. Unknown to him and the listeners was that he would also be speaking on the air with Lynne herself.

We were fortunate enough to see how Lynne’s release impacted Ralph the next day, when the plane carrying him and Lynne landed in New York City. Ralph was standing tall with Lynne, grinning from ear to ear. Lynne described her freedom and coming home as “sunlight bursting on me. Yesterday at this time I was deep in the dungeons. Prisons are loveless,” she said.

Lynne repeatedly expressed her gratitude for “the tremendous support from tens of thousands of people in New York, in the country and worldwide.”

Safe at home with her son in Brooklyn, where she will live, surrounded by a loving family and friends, Lynne described her four years in prison as horrible. She told of how she barely survived the life-threatening chemotherapy treatments. She stressed that she won’t forget the women that she left behind in the prison, and that she’ll fight for criminal justice system reforms.

We also reflect back to this past summer and the many weeks that Ralph stood in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., in the rain and sweltering heat, with his signs, banner and leaflets; speaking to anyone who would listen about Lynne’s plight. He and a group of supporters protested in front of the U.S. Justice Department against the director’s refusal to approve Lynne’s request for compassionate release.

Ralph said he saw no acceptable alternative other than to fight like hell for Lynne’s release. His unwavering love, spirit, strength and determination were contagious. How could anyone knowing him or Lynne not join in the struggle? Or not give up?

Jan. 1 began a new year. What better way to start the year than to see the fruits of our labor realized? To have achieved a tortuous, long-fought-for victory? To see our hopes become a reality?

We dreamed what seemed the impossible dream, and saw it come true. The day seemed surreal. But we were believers once again.

Ralph joked about renting Yankee Stadium to celebrate Lynne’s return home. That idea notwithstanding, Lynne says we will definitely have a celebration party.

On Jan. 2, Lynne reported in person to the Office of Probation, which was mandatory within 72 hours of her release. All of the conditions of her release are not yet known, yet their ramifications may put her in the position of walking a tightrope. When Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio arranged for Mumia Abu-Jamal to speak to Lynne by phone, she could not speak to him for fear of violating conditions of her release. To paraphrase a saying, “freedom ain’t necessarily free.”

Lynne’s courage and principled stand have been inspirational. Ralph and Lynne took a firm stand against the government and the powers that be. Their position allowed us to stand, too, and fight back with and for them.

The road ahead will be anything but smooth. Lynne faces more medical treatment as she literally fights for her life. She will have to make appointments with Sloan-Kettering, the leading cancer center in New York City, and submit her medical records to them.

She says she “looks forward to beating the odds. I’ve fought lions and tigers, and I won’t let cancer get me.”

As we celebrate a victory over a tragic injustice, there are so many more victories to achieve. We must free all our political prisoners. Lynne urges us to take action on their behalf. She states, “Fight on, resist, resist. It makes life worth living. Power from the people made [my] release happen.” She adds that she’s “skeptical, but hopeful of better future changes.”

A better world is possible and we must make it happen. La lucha continua!

Cox is a long-time activist with the International Action Center, which has fought for Lynne Stewart’s freedom.

Madiba: Man Of The Year

Thu, 01/02/2014 - 23:28

Madiba Nelson Mandela turned 91 on July 18, 2009. The former President of the Republic of South Africa and ANC leader, was honored in Africa and throughout the world. Mandela was a political prisoner for over 27 years., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Man Of The Year, Madiba

Written by Eluem Emeka Izeze
Nigerian Guardian

ONCE in a long while, a bright star shines through the gloom and despondency of our world. It points us to the inevitable fact that all of humanity is not lost to the bad, the ugly and the terrible. It shows us that life is more than the pursuit of unedifying, if temporarily satisfying pandering to power, wealth and fame. Suddenly, we see virtues of service, sacrifice, self-denial, that are now much in decline. We are thrust into the full glow of exemplary living, of having nothing and yet possessing everything. And we quickly embrace and own the moment.

Quite fittingly, the whole world scrambled to own, in death, the man Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. His funeral the other day, became the biggest congregation ever of the high and mighty, the good and great, friends and foes, and numerous ordinary folks. In death as in life, he towered above all. He who conquered hatred, brought malicious enemies to a warm handshake. He who disavowed power, commanded the widest acclaim in the world’s recent history.

For once, the world genuinely seemed to be mourning a true giant of a man. The world saw cherished virtues in an otherwise imperfect man. His voice of reason, temperance and gentle rebuke resonated far and wide. But now it is gone. In the end, Africa’s most famous son had inadvertently adopted sons and daughters of all colours, and races and dispositions. No wonder the whole world mourned as one that has lost a father.

It was sufficient to alter traditions. And Mandela, the one affectionately called Madiba, altered traditions for this newspaper. For the first time, The Guardian is today, posthumously conferring the Man of the Year 2013 on Nelson Mandela, a man who dominated the world even as an ordinary citizen, who spoke truth to power across board, who did not simply set Azania free, but taught the world that man, any man, still has redeeming features. His enchanting story is told by Dr. Tony Okeregbe, a member of our editorial board.

Eluem Emeka Izeze
Managing Director


Mandela: The ideal lives on

By Tony Okeregbe

IN his lifetime Nelson Mandela knew how to take a walk. From the scenic and bucolic pastures of Thembuland in Cape province to the Union Building in Pretoria, Mandela’s walk to freedom must have indeed been very long. But death chose another path: as in Greek mythology, it gave him a leap to immortality – turning him into an irreducible abstract entity for posterity to contemplate.

For Desmond Tutu, Mandela represented tolerance; in the contemplation of United States’ Barak Obama, he was a giant of history; a personification of forgiveness in the mind of Ghana’s Dramani Mahama. And for the whole world, he was an all-knowing father, the wisest presence in a world in search of reconciliation, unification and freedom. These attributes and more make up the idea called Mandela. For being such an uncommon person for becoming an idea that now lives and an ideal that humanity now aspires to live by, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela remains immortal and is The Guardian’s Person of the Year.

Towering larger than life even in death, Mandela left behind maxims and ways of life that have become a philosophy uniting people of diverse views, cultures, beliefs and religions. Notwithstanding his middle name, Rolihlahla, which in his native Xhosa tongue colloquially translates as ‘trouble maker’, Mandela was a racial and ideological bridge-builder, who found welcome in the multifarious divides of the human community. In an effortless and meek manner, he united opposites, reiterating man’s ancestral commonness and existential predicament as the prime factors in understanding our shared world.

An outstanding virtue that brought this to life was Mandela’s exemplification of forgiveness. Despite the dehumanization and personal hurt he endured from his oppressors, a balanced state of affairs would have necessitated a revenge of equal brutality and racial rage against the white minority. But Mandela’s prison of purgation entailed a never-ending chastisement of his anger, so much so that he shocked the world with these words: “To go to prison because of your convictions and be prepared to suffer for what you believe in, is something worthwhile. It is an achievement for a man to do his duty on earth irrespective of the consequences.”

By this heroic gesture Mandela became an icon of hope and healing, who demonstrated that peace could be a vehicle of reconciliation, unification and true liberation of not only the African people, but also of any community that had been constrained to existential periphery by colonialism, hate and internal strife.

Just as in forgiveness, Mandela represented a godliness devoid of the bigotry and parochialism evident in today’s partisan religiosity. The Dalai Lama, was once quoted to have said that tolerance is a virtue you learn from your enemies. Amidst the purifying furnace of racial subjugation, political disenfranchisement, economic deprivation, systemic dehumanization, all culminating in the 27 years of incarceration, Mandela became a new meaning of tolerance. In an age burdened by heightened relativism and celebration of difference, Mandela as tolerance, is no longer a patient or painful forbearance of the other, but rather a catholicity of spirit, whereby the heart and mind reach out to the other in psychic exchange, through open-mindedness, sharing, genuine willingness to learn.

Such a spirit is unbridled by religious partisanship; it is ideologically non-divisive and socio-economically fair-minded. In existential terms, this Mandelan spirit is an idea cast by what some scholars have termed colour-blindness vision. Politically, this depicts an ideology of the state belonging equally to different people, nations, and tribes – Afrikaans, English, Zulu, Mandela elevated this political category into a philosophy that envisions consistent habituation of openness to the enemy.

This Mandelan idea is a veritable pointer to the possibility of a just and genuinely humane world, where a person’s inalienable rights, intrinsic worth and inviolability are respected. At the twilight of his life, when time had purified his experiences into an embodiment of noble qualities, words were no longer necessary for him to pass on any message. To the forlorn and hopeless, the toothy smile emblazoned on his placid weather-beaten face radiated hope; to the confused and searching soul, his life was a Holy Writ. In a terrorized world, when bombs, bullets and hate-words form the instruments of proselytization, Mandela typifies the idea preaching truth without words.

While the totality of Mandela’s being has crystallized into an idea, Mandela himself did not relish the air-splitting pedanticism of professional ideologues; neither was he an armchair theoretician that reveled in sophistry and grandiloquence. Every idea was given life in words, materializing through a dialectical process of argumentation and counter-argumentation. Every word, in turn, was matched with action. In a world ruled by inefficacious knowledge-power, Mandela showed and demonstrated the power of ideas and action, by carving action into the state superstructure. By this, he verily relived the words of social theorist Ludwig Feuerbach: “Do not wish to be a philosopher in contrast to being a man… do not think as a thinker … think as a living, real being … think in existence”.

It was by thinking in existence that Mandela redeems the freedom of the African. If the African has to be, he has to do that in a shared world. And to live freely in a shared world, he has to forgive, reconcile, unify with and tolerate the other. To nurture the ANC’s political ideology of African nationalism, Mandela opened his mind and heart to the edifying influences of great philosophers and social exemplars of left-wing persuasion, even though he prided himself a democrat. From Karl Marx’s dialectical materialism and scientific socialism he drew insights that fanned his sympathy for nationalization of state assets and equal distribution of wealth, as well as opposition to capitalism, private land-ownership and money- power. In the anti-colonialist thinking of former Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mandela saw a motivation for his march of struggle. From Mohandas Gandhi, a man for whom Mandela had profound respect, Mandela adopted the non-violent resistance as a pragmatic approach to protest mobilization.

This existential philosophy of being-with-others is also instructive in understanding Mandela’s economic philosophy. Both during his Apartheid and post-Apartheid leadership, Mandela was completely pragmatic in its views of material means, and accepted succour and aid wherever it came from including Libya (as an aside, in line with the unifying philosophy one of Mandela’s grandchild was baptized Gadaffi). Amazing that though the ANC (Mandela’s party) financial dependence grew, their ideology was totally independent.

Again, this existentialist and humanist streak comes to relief in his interrogation of rationality. What is rationality? How can man justify his rationality? Should rationality conjure ideas of acrimony, division and lopsided power relations? Rationality does not exist as an instrument of subjugation and oppression in the hands of professional thinkers; it is not a faculty to be deployed for the service of the powerful in society against the weak and disadvantaged. Just as it has facilitated advances in science and technology, Mandela was paraphrased to have said, rationality should orientate man towards eliminating conflict and suffering, especially of the disadvantaged in society. In this way his life was an open book on humanism.

There is a trend in these maxims of forgiveness, reconciliation, tolerance and economic liberation (accepting aid wherever it came from). This last maxim depicts the Africanness of the Mandelan Idea as captured by the ancient Bantu adage Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu, meaning ‘We are people through other people’. This maxim was often said to be a guiding principle close to Mandela’s heart as seen in this quote: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

The reasoning here is that, if one forgave the other, he should be able to reconcile with him. If he reconciled with the other, he should be able to tolerate him. And if he could tolerate him he should be able to accept his gift, and share from his bounty. This principle of wholesome acceptability is devoid of the bickering or animosity that characterizes the global ‘aid economy’. In the same vein, it does not foist the political or ideological whims of the donor on the aid seeker. And this is what freedom means; this is what Mandela’s life in totality stands for.

• Tony Okeregbe, PhD,

member, Editorial Board.

Nigerian Aviation Ministry to Spend N32.3 Billion This Year

Thu, 01/02/2014 - 23:22

Federal Republic of Nigeria Minister of Aviation Stella Oduah-Ogiewonyi. The ministry is slated to spend over Nbillion in approvements., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Aviation ministry to spend N32.3 billion this year

Written by By Wole Shadare
Nigerian Guardian

THE Ministry of Aviation has planned to spend N32.3b to be spent this year, comprising N26b capital projects and over N6b on recurrent expenditure.

There were also minor shake up in the top hierarchy for the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) as the Ministry has relieved Group Capt Adetu (rtd), Technical Assistant to the Director-General of the authority his post.

Also affected are the Regional Manager (Abuja), A. Adeyemi who was said to have been transferred to Calabar, while U. Ugene from Port-Harcourt is to take over from him, all on the order of the Minister.

The breakdown of the budget shows that the Ministry of Aviation will spend at least N800 million on vehicles in 2014, after reportedly splashing N643 million on 54 cars in 2013.

This is coming as the Ministry of Aviation is alleged to have re-introduced the monthly N150 million deductions from the authority; an action that allegedly affected the operations of the agency last year.

The deduction reportedly budgeted for under heading ‘Safety and security’ has now been put under ‘publicity’.

Besides, the Ministry allegedly deducted N15O million from the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency and N300m from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) but all the deductions were stopped in the wake of bulletproof cars scandals, but now resurfaced under another name.

The budget proposal, obtained by The Guardian, shows that the ministry will spend N250 million on eight operational vehicles for the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and another N500 million to buy some trucks for the agency. Also N50 million will also be spent on staff buses at the ministry.

The budget proposal shows that the Ministry of Aviation will spend over N137 million on trips.

Oduah will also N100 million on consultants for the controversial Aerotropolis, the city-airports some said Nigeria desperately needs.

The ministry, in the proposal, is expected to spend another N20 million on other types of consultancies and another N425 million on consultancy of institutional reforms, legal services and commercial.

General consulting and professional services for the Nigerian Meteorological Agency will gulp over N8 million.

On airport internal access roads, the ministry would spend N200 million, N100 million on Bilateral Air Services Agreements and another N100 million on security gateways on express roads.

The budget proposal also shows that the supervising ministry will spend N100 million on airport toll gates and another N100 million to paint and repair runways.

For the total radar coverage of Nigeria, otherwise known as TRACON, N820 million would be spent on the maintenance agreement for the project’s support services.

Not a few believed that the 54 million Euros radar system has refused to function optimally since it was commissioned few years ago, as its function has become very epileptic with pilots and air traffic controllers complaining about the faulty system.

But NAMA had denied the allegation, stressing that the system was a state of the art capable of aiding seamless air navigation and ensure safety of Nigeria’s airspace.

The Ministry of Aviation will also spend over N13 million on refreshment and meals and another N9 million on publicity.

Practice of Federalism in Africa: Nigeria's Experience and Way Forward

Thu, 01/02/2014 - 23:02

The Nigerian Independent National Electoral Commission may de-register a number of political parties inside Africa's most populous state. The action may spark a constitutional debate., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Practice of federalism in Africa: Nigeria’s experience and way forward

Written by Jonah Isawa Elaigwu

Text of the lecture delivered by Prof Jonah Isawa Elaigwu on Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Kofo Abayomi Street, Victoria Island, Lagos. The first part was published on Tuesday, December 31, 2013.

Thirdly, while the federal solution is attractive, the political economy of federalism has made it expensive and administratively cumbersome. The cost of maintaining federal and state legislatures, the executive and in some cases, local government councils and staff, is prohibitive. In addition, the need for bureaucratic outfits for these sub-national units not only put additional strain on the purse-strings of the State, but calls for the training of skilled workers to do the job. With problems of welfare services, economic development and other demands on the public treasury, the federal solution was seen by many African rulers as expensive. This was part of Kenyatta’s reason for the retreat from federalism as “rigid, expensive, and unworkable”. For many African leaders, therefore the federal solution while attractive, is by far too expensive to adopt.

To what extent is the federal solution still relevant for Africa? Given the current pattern of events, it does seem the compromises offered by the federal-type solution to conflicts, may still be relevant in managing conflicts in The Sudan, Southern Sudan, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The future will tell. Let us now turn to the Nigeria’s experience in federalism.

The Dynamics Of Nigeria’s Federalism
From Unitarism to Federalism

As the late James Coleman once observed, the “present unity of Nigeria as well as its disunity, is in part a reflection of the form and character of colonial government - the British superstructure - and changes it had undergone since 1900”. By 1900, what later came to be known as Nigeria comprised three colonial territories under the umbrella of
British colonialism, but administered separately, receiving orders direct from the metropolis: London. These were the Colony of Lagos and what came to be known as the Protectorates of Southern Nigeria and Northern Nigeria. In 1906 the Colony of Lagos and the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria were unified under a single administrator. In 1914 the Colony of Lagos and Protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria were brought together. In 1939, Nigeria was divided into the Colony of Lagos, the Northern, Eastern and Western Groups of provinces, with each province having a Chief Commissioner who was responsible to the Governor in Lagos.

It is our contention that the period 1914 to 1946 witnessed the mere co-existence of Nigerian groups who hardly knew of one another nor interacted in any substantial way horizontally. Like most colonial authorities, the British administration encouraged vertical relations between the individual communities and their administrators. Close horizontal relations among Nigerian groups would have nailed the colonial coffin earlier than the British would have wished, assuming they had any intentions of leaving. It was the Richards Constitution of 1946 which formalized the division of Nigeria into three regions within a unitary colonial state. If the year 1914 marked the birth of colonial Nigeria, 1947 was the beginning of effective horizontal relations among Nigerian groups. Thus, within this period, there was no concept of colonial Nigeria as a State. Nor had Britain consciously created Nigeria. Nigeria evolved in the context of British colonial policies in West Africa, in piecemeal fashion.

In 1947 Nigerians began to interact with one another in the Legislative Council. In response to global trends, the wave of nationalism had begun to sweep across the Southern part of the country. The aggressiveness with which the Richards Constitution was attacked illustrated the upsurge in the political awareness of the emerging Nigerian political elites. Among the serious critics was Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe operating under the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC). Dr. Azikiwe’s NCNC had criticized the imposition of the Constitution without due consultation with the Nigerian people. The NCNC also opposed the role given to the Chiefs and the number of regional units. Actually, in 1943, Dr. Azikiwe had recommended the creation of eight political units in Nigeria within the framework of federalism.

Chief Awolowo, bitterly criticizing the 1946 Constitution, called for a federation to allow the various groups to develop at their own pace, and opposed the unitary elements in the Constitution, which according to him, did not reflect Nigeria’s multi-ethnicity. In 1947 Chief Awolowo suggested the division of Nigeria into ten units, along ethnic and linguistic lines.

It had become evident that the colonial administration would soon go, in response to a combination of international and national events. This realization came as Nigerians had begun to establish contacts with one another. No sooner had they started to interact than they realized that they were strange bedfellows in the same polity. They had not interacted long enough with one another to work out an acceptable mechanism of conflict resolution. Given the competitive setting in which they found themselves.

Nigerian politicians withdrew into their ethnoregional or geo-ethnic cocoons in order to mobilize their followers effectively for competition. The new parochialism was not the old one (based on ignorance of one another) but parochialism based on the awareness of others in a competitivesetting, after various group had established contacts. As Mallam Aminu Kano told this writer in an interview, I think regional grouping was a result of sudden awakening. I think there was a period of sudden awakening in Nigeria, but the awakening was misdirected.... The sudden realization of we can take power’ resulted in ethnic grouping and therefore regionalism If the very process of decolonization had spurred regionalism, regionalism also determined the form of government Nigeria was to have - one based on the mutual fears and suspicions among Nigerian groups.

Perhaps the situation was lucidly captured by Clifford Geertz when he wrote of Nigeria’s terminal period of colonialism: Whereas in most of the other new states the final phase of the pursuit of independence saw a progressive unification of diverse elements into an intensely solidary opposition to the colonial rule, open dissidence emerging only after the waning of revolutionary comradeship in Nigeria, tension between the various primordial groups increased in the last decade of dependency.

The sense of distrust among Nigerian leaders and the prevalence of centrifugal forces in the country were amply demonstrated at the constitutional conferences between 1951 and 1958. If the McPherson Constitution of 1951 had initiated the gradual political decentralization of the colonial central government, the Lyttleton Constitution of 1954 confirmed the direction of constitutional reforms in favour of federalism. Regional legislatures had not only sprung up, the central marketing boards had been decentralized. Regional governments became effectively established with nigerianized executives and legislatures. Political parties that had followed the regional pattern had also grafted themselves in regional governments. By 1957 a central government under the leadership of Balewa as Prime Minister had emerged. Regional leaders operated a federal constitution in the context of the Westminster model of government. The 1960 Independence Constitution only ratified what had started in 1954 - Nigeria as a federation.

Our argument is that the pattern of colonial administration had encouraged the emergence of federal government in Nigeria. Even though the British (with a unitary government at home) was noted for including federalism in their political will to their new states, we argue that federalism emerged as a political compromise formula to assuage the fears and suspicions of domination among Nigeria’s heterogeneous population. The social forces at work in Nigeria forced Nigerians to accept federalism as a form of compromise. Thus the foundations of Nigerian federalism are to be found in the pattern of colonial administration and in the responses of Nigerians themselves as they opted for federalism as a compromise formula in inter-group relations.

While it may not be useful to beat the colonial dead horse any longer for the ailments of Nigeria, it may be argued that ambivalent integration under colonial rule was partially responsible for generating fears and suspicions among Nigerians. After the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914, the colonial authorities made no effort to encourage horizontal interaction among the various groups. As mentioned earlier such encouragement would have heralded the good riddance of the colonial masters from the scene as groups developed confidence and an anti-colonial psychology. Colonial rule encouraged a vertical relationship between the local administrative units and the colonial centres of power.

The resulting parochial nationalism in the terminal colonial period was born out of mutual fears and suspicions among the Nigerian groups. Related to this are two factors which heightened the fears: the structural imbalance in the federal system, and the differential spread in the pattern of Western education. It was John Stuart Mill who once said that in a federal system, “there should not be any one state so much more powerful than the rest as to be capable of vying in strength with many of them combined”.

We suggest that in the First Republic, the lopsided federal structure generated fears and suspicions among groups. The Northern Region was in a position to hold the whole country to ransom, as shown by the following figures: the Northern region had 79% of the country’s total area as compared to the Eastern region’s 8.3%, the Western region’s 8.5% and the Mid-western region’s 4.2%. According to the 1963 census figures, the regions accounted for 53.5%, 22.3%, 18.4% and 4.6% of the total population, respectively. It was not surprising that in the Southern part of the country there was always the fear of domination by virtue of the Northern Region’s large population - the tyranny of population in the context of a democratic polity. The federal structure as it existed made it virtually impossible for the South to control political power at the centre, given the ethnoregional politics of the country.

Similarly, given the Southern headstart in Western education (which had become a passport to occupational roles in the modern sector of the Nigerian political system), the Northern region feared Southern domination in the economic and public service sectors of society. The fear of the tyranny of skills from the South was fresh in the minds of Northern leaders. The North thus sought to protect its civil service from being swamped by the South. It may be suggested that there was a relative division of functions between the North and the South which maintained some delicate balance in the political system. The Northern control of political power was counterbalanced by the South’s monopoly of economic power in the country.

We may even go further to argue that, contrary to Sklar’s contention, the military coup in January 1966 tilted what had been a delicate balance on which Nigeria had been able to survive since independence. The concentration of both political and economic power in the hands of Southern leaders altered the delicate Nigerian balance.
Political power had been the North’s safeguard against the South’s economic and educational advantages. The South’s advantage in the bureaucracy, which if anything was strengthened by the coup, was greatly augmented. The North reacted violently as it saw its last card - the political card - suddenly taken away or rendered ineffective.

These imbalances created problems for the federal system. Centrifugal forces continued to haunt Nigeria’s federal balance. Threats of secession by various regions in 1950, 1953 and 1964 climaxed in the abortive secession of Eastern Nigeria in 1967. This was a manifestation of extreme centrifugalism, and a challenge to the process of state- building. It took a civil war to return Nigeria to a position of relative balance between centrifugal and centripetal pulls. This balance was, however, not to last for long as more recent experiences have shown. We will return to this point later.

The first military coup of 1966, and other events it triggered, culminating in the civil war, soon planted the military firmly in the Nigerian political soil. We shall now turn to a discussion of this crucial factor in the evolution of both the Nigerian state and federation.

Federalism Under Military Rule

In much of Western Political Science literature, federalism is regarded as incompatible with military rule. Reasons adduced for this include the fact that military rule does not provide for popular participation in plebiscitary forms. Military rulers are not elected and, therefore, are not accountable to the electorate. We would like to suggest that participation through plebiscitary mechanism is not the only form of participation. As Henry Bienen showed clearly in his study of Kenya, the Kenya African National Union (KANU) did not offer as much opportunity for participation as the regional administrative structures. The political party was moribund between elections.

There are many dimensions of participation. It may be suggested that political participation takes at least two forms. It can be political access, an input into the decision-making unit from below. People come to participate in decisions which affect their lives through representation, expression of opinions, and involvement in community programmes. This may even involve anomic forms of participation, such as riots and rebellions. Participation in this respect is essentially access to decision-making units from below. Participation also has an output form. This is the mobilization of the people by government for specific activities. Thus, when the military government mobilized people for such activities as Operation Feed the Nation and the census exercise, it was mobilizing people for participation. The point of initiation was at the top.

Our argument is that military rule is not absolutely incompatible with federalism. The nature of military regimes may be hierarchial and the constitution may be so amended that one may not have a strictly federal constitution, but that does not mean one cannot have a federal government. As Wheare wrote: “If we are looking for examples of federal government, it is not sufficient to look at constitutions only. What matters just as much is the practice of government.” The crucial issue is the “working of the system.” However, in its form, federalism thrives best in a democratic setting.

In State-building, the impression is often created that the centre can penetrate the periphery with the little regard for heterogeneity at the subnational level. According to David Apter, a “mobilization system” is typified by a hierarchical authority structure emphasizing organization with “minimum accountability.” On the other hand, a “reconciliation system” emphasizes pluralism and a desire to reconcile diverse interests; it “mediates, integrates and above all, coordinates rather than organizes and mobilizes.”

In Nigeria the military leaders found that a model of government that provided for mobilization or politically induced change from the centre without regard for the interest of subnational units was unsatisfactory in its operation (the reaction to Decree No. 34, 1966 illustrated this). As Nigeria’sfather of military federalism, General Gowon, put the issue:

Our variety is such that you could not get the best out of people under a unitary system of government. You probably could, but at the expense of one group or the other or by being dictatorial and by forcing certain issues. I did appreciate that you could not do that in Nigeria and get away with it.

Hence, the military leaders adopted a compromise solution between Apter’s “mobilization” and “reconciliation” models. The disadvantage of the mobilization system, with its emphasis on coercion and non-accountability, is compensated for by the reconciling elements of the reconciliation system. The weakness of the reconciliation system is compensated for by the mobilizing aspects of the mobilization system. Under military rule, therefore, except for the brief periods mentioned before, Nigeria has always practised some form of federalism, (no matter how warped). General Gowon emphasized this after the creation of 12 states: “I believe in a federation with a strong centre, but with states having enough powers to manage their own affairs.”

Let us therefore turn to the legal or constitutional provisions under military rule in Nigeria’s military federalism. By the terms of the Constitution (Suspension and Modification) Decree No. 1, 17 January 1966, the federal government was given the “power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Nigeria or any part thereof with respect to any matter whatsoever.” All military administrations in Nigeria maintained this provision, except for the brief period under the Constitution (Suspension and Modification) Decree No. 8, March 17, 1967.

Technically, this provision made the Federal Military Government (FMG) the sole repository of power in the state. This violates the federal principle of non-centralization of powers among component federal units. Legally, Nigeria was unitary under military rule. One expects therefore that in this context, the FMG would merely delegate or devolve its powers to subnational units. However, these decrees also state that the Governor of a region or state could not make laws with regard to all matters in the exclusive legislative list, and is precluded from making any laws with regard to the concurrent legislative list without the consent of the FMG. Yet the Governor of a region or state can “make laws for the peace, order, and good government” of the region or state.

There is a deference to federal principles here. The federal military government had dual roles under these decrees. The FMG could make laws for the whole country and had specific responsibility for the running of the Federal Government. This will become clearer when we deal with the structures.

The state governments were restricted to a residual list. In essence, Nigeria’s military government never suspended the constitutions of 1963 and subsequent ones. Only sections of the constitutions were suspended and/or amended. The legislative powers of the FMG and the regions/states were expressed in the form of decrees and edicts respectively. Interestingly decrees suspending sections of the constitution, for example, Decree No.1, 1966, Section 6, and Decree No.1, 1984, Section 5, state clearly that: “No question as to the validity of this or any other Decree or any Edict shall be entertained by any court of law in Nigeria.” In a way, this negates a cardinal federal principle of the role of courts, but the nature of military legislation and administration make this understandable.

The structure of government decision-making was also provided for by the decrees. Military regimes increased the political visibility and power of the executive branch. The actors in the executive branch had both executive and legislative powers. Under Decree No. 1, 1966, the Governors of the regions were members of the country’s supreme

legislative organ, the Supreme Military Council (SMC). The Supreme Military Council made legislation for the whole country and considered administrative issues involving both federal and state governments. It was usually chaired by the Head of Federal Military Government (HFMG). The Federal Executive Council (FEC) exercised general “direction and control” over affairs of the federal government as contained in the exclusive legislative list. While General Ironsi did not appoint political executives to head the various ministries, General Gowon did in 1967. This trend continued and also changed the composition of the FEC. Most military governments in Nigeria had been run by both military and civilians, with the military having the veto.

The judiciary was left to operate in so far as it did not treat existing decrees with levity. The Nigerian military administration before 1984 did not blatantly tamper with the judiciary except on a few occasions. An illustration of this was the Federal Government’s reaction to a decision of the court on the confiscation of the properties of an ex- politician. By the Federal Military Government (Supremacy and Enforcement of Powers) Decree No. 28 of 9 May, 1970, the FMG reminded Nigerians that the government had no mandate from anyone and that the judiciary and all unabrogated parts of the constitution existed by its grace. It then stated that for “the efficacy and stability of government.”

Any decision whether made before or after the commencement of this Decree, by any court of law in the exercise or purported exercise of any powers under the constitution or any enactment or law of the Federation or any state shall be null and void and no effect whatsoever as from the date of the making thereof.

This position was reinforced in 1984 after some ex-politicians (i.e. Governors) went to court to seek orders to prevent their having to face military tribunals. On many occasions the military did not obey court orders and often relied on retrospective laws, which grossly violated the rights of citizens.

In terms of federal-state relations under military federalism, two conscious features must be identified. The first is the military superstructure; a military regime in which institutions of popular participation were suspended. In the military hierarchy of authority, the HFMG and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces appointed all Military Governors, and they were responsible to him. This negated the traditional principle of federalism and fits into Apter’s model of mobilization with a hierarchical chain of command and “minimum accountability” to the people.

Unlike a civilian Governor of a state who was elected or ousted from office through the ballot box, the Military Governor was appointed from the centre and only removable by Commander-In-Chief who appointed him. This is typical of the hierarchical nature of military rule. One negative impact of this in military administrations was that lapses of the Governors, unlike under civilian rule, reflected on the HFMG or Federal Government. The experience of General Gowon, whose Governors eroded his credibility, is still very fresh in the minds of Nigerians. Similarly, under Generals Babangida and Abacha, Governors were reputed to have committed many acts of gross misconduct about which the people could do nothing. Often, they blamed the Federal Government which had appointed them.

On the other hand, these governors were autonomous in the running of the affairs of their various states. They had substantial powers over the affairs of the state. The degree of supervision of these Governors depended partly on the personality of the HFMG. While Gowon gave the states much autonomy and the Governors much latitude in the performance of their duties, General Murtala was more centralizing in his administrative technique. It was partly to cut the Governors down to size that the Murtala regime established the National Council of States (NCS), thus removing the Governors from the highest ruling body.

The National Council of States under General Babangida and General Abacha was under the supervision of the PRC [or the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC)] through the office of the Chief of General Staff. The Council brought together all State Governors, the Head of State, and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for deliberation over state issues. This body dealt with “policy guidelines on financial and economic matters” as they affected states, national development plans, such constitutional matters concerning states, and any other matters assigned to it by the PRC. The NCS under military rule was part of a functioning government structure and not a mere advisory body as was the case under the 1979 Constitution. It is pertinent to note that there were few changes in the names of these military political structures under the Babangida and Abacha administrations. The HFMG was called the “President” in the Babangida era but General Abacha preferred the use of “Head of State”. The SMC became the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) under General Babangida and the PRC under General Abacha; the FEC became the Council of Ministers (COM) under Babangida, and under Abacha, was called the FEC, while the Council of States remained the same.

Besides all of the above, other institutions of federalism existed, which were mainly civilian in terms of their incumbents. These included the federal and state bureaucracies and local government structures, the federal and state judicial institutions, and federal and state corporations - which retained autonomy in their respective spheres of operation, as contained in the Constitution. Each state had a Civil Service Commission as distinct from the Federal Civil Service Commission which took care of recruitment, promotion, discipline and welfare of their staff. Even the membership of the federal and state executive council was often dominantly civilian. The above fits into Apter’s reconciliation model - especially when one takes cognizance of the near absolute powers wielded by the Governors. It is a reflection of Nigeria’s past experiences, a

recognition that there are “social limits to politically induced change from the centre” and that penetration and control of subnational units “carried forward with disregard for local integrity, amount to no more than experiments in violence."

In terms of the degree of autonomy wielded by the old regions, it is to the credit of military regimes that the new (even if highly centralized) federalism evident in Nigeria was effectively created by the military. The autonomy of the old regions under Ironsi and the early Gowon administration was indisputable. The Gowon-Ojukwu tussle in the process of state-building illustrated some of the problems of adjustment of federal pendulum even under a military regime. After May 1967, however, General Gowon, upon creating 12 states took a number of legislative and administrative actions that tilted the federal scale very much in favour of the centre.

Nigerian President Jonathan Seeks to Avoid Health Sector Strike

Thu, 01/02/2014 - 22:42

Federal Republic of Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan is facing an internal crisis inside his ruling PDP. He is also attempting to head off further labor unrest., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Jonathan, NMA meet to avert industrial action in health sector

Written by From Mohammed Abubakar (Abuja) and Joseph Okoghenun (Lagos)
Nigerian Guardian

Jonathan-Goodluck• Patients desert LUTH as strike bites harder

• We’ve met workers’ demands, says CMD

TO avert complete breakdown of the health sector through indefinite strike being threatened by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), President Goodluck Jonathan Thursday summoned a meeting of critical stakeholders to discuss issues of contention.

Meanwhile, patients in the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos, have started facing hard times following the indefinite strike embarked upon on Monday by the hospital’s health workers under the aegis of the Joint House Unions and Association (JOHUA).

The President’s meeting with NMA which held at his office at the State House had in attendance the Ministers of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, his Labour and Productivity counterpart, Emeka Wogu and the Delta State Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan.

Also present at the meeting were the Director-General of the National Salaries and Income Wages Commission, Chief Richard Onwuka Egbule and his counterpart in the Budget Office, Dr. Bright Okongwu.

The meeting, which lasted more than five hours, was a prelude to an enlarged one which took place in location outside the State House. The latter meeting was conveyed to deliberate on the details of the demands by NMA leadership, which gave the Federal Government up till January 6, 2014 to address all its demands, failure of which the association will mobilise its members to embark on a full and indefinite strike.

Speaking to State House correspondents after the meeting, Uduaghan, who is also a medical doctor, said: “There are issues that have been raised by the Nigerian Medical Association over which they have threatened to go on strike. They had a warning strike for about five days, so the President called a stakeholders meeting to look at the issues.

“We are going for a meeting now at 5 p.m. (yesterday) with the NMA, at least, there are some things the President has consented to and I believe by the time we finish the meeting this evening (yesterday), there will be some resolutions. Our determination is to ensure that the planned strike of January 6 is averted.”

He said having come out of the over five-month strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Nigeria could not afford to allow any other strike by any industrial union in the country, not in the foreseeable future.

“Of course we cannot afford another strike in the medical sector. One minute of strike in the health sector by whatever body can be very disastrous,” Uduaghan added.

Commenting on the incidence of oil theft in the Niger Delta region, Uduaghan, who is the Chairman of the National Executive Council (NEC) sub-committee on oil theft, said the volume of crude oil being stolen is going down drastically as a result of the activities of the joint security agencies policing the area.

“Again, I must explain that at a time, oil theft was at its peak, there was a shut down of about 300 barrel of oil as a result of damage to two major pipelines, and at that time, between 80,000 and 100,000 barrels were being stolen. That was the time we took some measures to ensure that the volume that is being stolen is reduced. Today, I can tell you that the crude that is being stolen has reduced to about 40,000 barrels per day.

“Those two pipelines are now functioning. So the 300 barrels that were shut down as a result of the damage to the pipelines have now been opened. Stealing 40,000 barrels per day is still on the high side, but as we go further in putting a lot of measures in place, especially in areas of prosecution, I believe that the quantity that is being stolen will gradually reduce, if possibly bring it to zero level. Apart from prosecution, we are also talking of technology and monitoring to deal with the oil theft.”

JOHUA in LUTH is made up of four health unions: National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNW), Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU), Medical and Health Workers Union (MHWU) and the Senior Staff Association of Universities Teaching Hospital, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAL). And the health workers involved in the industrial action include nurses, pharmacists, radiographers, physiotherapists, medical laboratory scientists, information and health record officers.

When The Guardian visited the LUTH yesterday, patients have not only deserted the always bubbling hospital, only doctors and some senior health workers were seen rendering skeletal services to some patients who were already admitted before the strike commenced on Monday.

In Ward B2, most of the beds were seen deserted. The ward is being manned by a student nurse. A patient, who craved anonymity, told The Guardian that several patients with critical cases and who were already admitted before the strike began on Monday have moved to other hospitals.

There are serious apprehension around the LUTH that the strike may worsen healthcare in the hospital in particular and in Lagos in general as doctors under the aegis of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) planned to begin nationwide indefinite strike next week Monday.

JOHUA executive members told The Guardian yesterday that the ongoing strike borders on staff welfare and lack of facilities in the teaching hospital. The Chairman of NANNW in LUTH, Mr. Ajala Olugbenga, who spoke on behalf of the union, said the members have endured enough to see that the issues, which he said are carryover from 2012, are resolved amicably until the union was forced to embark on the strike.

But LUTH’s Chief Medical Director (CMD), Prof. Akin Osibogun, told The Guardian that the union’s demands have been met, adding that money meant to take care of their demands have been paid into their individual accounts since Monday when they began the strike. Osibogun appealed to the striking health workers to be considerate of the patients’ welfare and end the strike.

Olugbenga said: “The ongoing strike was called by the JOHUA, which comprises four unions: NANNW, MHWU, SSAUTHRIAL and NASU. The strike is a result of culminated issues which we have thrown at the table of management well over six months now. Some of the issues border on inadequate manpower in virtually all the departments. We lack basic materials to work with; you can imagine in an hospital like this, we lack common things like modern thermometers, machines to check blood pressure, adequate laboratory investigation forms and continuation sheets. We lack adequate electricity so that we have to work in the dark both day and night. And we have issue with non-payment for over time; the management is owing our members three months over-time arrears. Management is owing us uniform allowance; it is an annual payment which is supposed to have been paid before the first quarter of the year. But we are now in January 2014 and the allowance for 2013 has not been paid. Do you expect LUTH health workers to be on tattered uniform? No.

“We have issues of stagnation. We have members who have worked for this hospital for 10 years but are stagnated and they are still on the same level, and people have been attending interviews. I am sure their stagnation is not because they have been failing. We have a lot of them that have done excellently well but management has refused to promote them. Promotion list that was released in 2013 is the worst of all, where management invited 94 people in a particular cadre in a particular department but only promoted 10 of them. Over 10 people retired in that same year. We are not taking that promotion. Over the years, there has been abnormality. There are members of staff that skip to CONHESS 11 from 9, which is very legal. But because of tussle here and there, there was a circular that stagnated these workers on grade level 10, instead of them to move to grade level 11 since three years ago.

“You are aware of the struggle between the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) and the Federal Government and which culminated in a strike. The Federal Government later released a circular to legalise skipping of levels. We called on the management, based on the circular, to ‘unskip’ those they stagnated in 2011 and 2012. Till now, the management has not done anything to that effect. Furthermore, the management has stagnated some category of workers on CONHESS 12 when they should have moved to CONHESS 13.”

No Plan to Raise Price of Petrol in Nigeria, Says Government

Thu, 01/02/2014 - 22:29

Nigerian Minister of Petroleum Resources Diezani Alison-Madueke is the subject of controversy resulting from a probe into the fuel subsidy crisis in the oil-producing West African state. Protests over the cancellation of subsidies erupted in 2012., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

No plan to raise price of petrol, says govt

Written by From Kelvin Ebiri (Port Harcourt) Collins Olayinka (Abuja) and Roseline Okere (Lagos)
Nigerian Guardian

pump• ‘NNPC has sufficient petroleum products’

• Isoko demand turbines, others from oil firms

• Amaechi decries non-implementation of UNEP report

GOVERNMENT Thursday allayed fears that it would increase the pump price of petrol from the current N97 a litre.

It equally debunked insinuations to that effect in two statements by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).

Meanwhile, products worth about N100 billion are currently kept as strategic reserve for the nation by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

The NNPC’s spokesman, Dr. Omar Farouk Ibrahim, said the corporation has the mandate to keep at least 32 days of fuel reserve in case of any unforeseen circumstance.

In a statement in Abuja by the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Mr. Danladi Kifasi, the Federal Government dismissed growing fears in some quarters about an alleged impending price hike, which it said was unfounded.

“We would like to appeal to oil marketers to refrain from hoarding petroleum products and the general public from panic buying in anticipation of any increase in pump price. It is equally important to state that neither the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources nor any of its parastatals is under any instruction to activate a new pump price regime as being speculated,” he said.

He further warned marketers to desist from creating any scarcity so as to induce panic in the system in order to exploit unsuspecting members of the public.

“The relevant agencies of government including the DPR and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have been directed to deal with offenders,” Kifasi stated.

He assured that the NNPC and its downstream company - the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC) - have made enough arrangements to ensure that the entire nation had enough fuel “round the clock in 2014 just, as it has been the practice in the last three years.”

Ibrahim said the 32-days reserve when multiplied by 35 million litres daily consumption of the country, at the rate of N97 a litre, valued at N108 billion, is what the corporation is keeping for the nation but is not being captured as part of what the corporation is saving for the nation.

He said the law stated that not all of these products should be kept on the land some part of it should be on the high sea. “So we have to keep these ships on top of the sea, as well as pay demurrage on them. All these are part of our operational cost.”

He said: “NNPC has not been receiving subsidy reimbursement for the last two years and the government has not captured that in the unremitted revenue.

“In 2012, almost single-handedly NNPC imported fuel into the country without any intervention from the marketers but not a penny is given to NNPC as subsidy.”

He said the same people that are accusing the NNPC are aware that the corporation has not been receiving its subsidy and they didn’t say anything about that.

“On the $10.8 billion that is said to be missing, our position is this, since January 2012, we have been importing fuel, but up to today, we have not been paid subsidy.”

He said billions of naira were going down the drain from the corporation account due to the incessant vandalism of the pipelines and are repaired by the NNPC.

He said: “Since the subsidy crisis, we kept the country with fuel. Secondly, pipeline vandalism is another issue. Technically, it is a responsibility of government to provide enabling environment for businesses to strive, unfortunately our 6,000 kilometres of pipelines are always hacked. We are losing so much from theft, from repair and from the idle time, all these are not taken into consideration.”

DPR, which also assured that there was no intention of increasing the prices, therefore, cautioned marketers against selling fuel above the government-approved pump prices.

It said: “All petroleum product marketers are hereby advised to sell at government approved prices and desist from hoarding thereby causing artificial scarcity and hardship to consumers. The DPR wishes to reiterate that there is adequate supply of petroleum products nationwide.”

According to the DPR, it has stepped up surveillance and monitoring of all outlets to enforce compliance with the Federal Government directives on sale of products.

The agency said that it would not hesitate to sanction defaulters.

Meanwhile, participants at the first Isoko Economic Summit consultative forum have unanimously demanded power turbines from oil companies operating in the area to ensure constant power supply for the people. The forum was organised by Isoko Action Group (ISAG) in Oleh, Delta State.

According to them, Isoko land as the biggest contributor of onshore production of crude oil in Nigeria will not be asking for too much if it gets power turbines from companies in the area as a compensation for ensuring peaceful coexistence over the years.

In a communiqué, they said: “There are communities in Nigeria enjoying 24 hours free power supply from oil companies, So Isoko as a great contributor to Nigeria’s oil wealth should not be left out. Constant power supply in the area will enhance job creation for the people.”

Also, the forum advocated for the urgent industrialisation of the area lamenting that “more than 50 years after oil exploration began in Isoko land, there is no single industry to create employment for the teeming population.”

In a speech, ISAG’s President, Esanerovo Agbodo, an engineer, enjoined Isoko people to “look within” to find ways of improving the economy of the land. He noted that the level of unemployment and underemployment was very high in the land and that the summit was meant to “devise strategies to harness the economic potentials of the region to create jobs and other economic activities for the people.”

He stated that “local and international investors are expected to attend the summit proper within the first quarter of 2014.”

Agbodo added: “Isoko sons and daughters should be their brothers and sisters’ keeper. It is regrettable that there have been cases of some pupils at even the secondary education level dropping out from school due to lack of funds to pay fees.

“We must resist anything that will make Isoko disadvantaged in any sector in these modern times and if it means establishing an Isoko Educational Trust Fund, we will do it to ensure that every Isoko son and daughter is educated to the highest level.”

The participants also stressed the need for Isoko communities to harness the agricultural opportunities in the area, stating that every indigene at home or in the Diaspora should rally round and support the forthcoming economic summit in other to move oil-rich forward. Participants also urged Isoko people to embrace mechanised agriculture as a way of boosting the economy.

In Rivers State, Governor Chibuike Amaechi has urged the Ogoni to vote out the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015 over the failure of the Federal Government to implement the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland.

The governor who recently decamped to the All Progressive Congress (APC) asked his supporters in Ogoniland to prepare for mobilisation and registration of party members in order to vote out the PDP.

Amaechi spoke at Tai Local Council where he had gone to launch 100 motorcyles to kick-start registration of APC members in Sime, Nonwa, Koroma and Botem communities.

The governor told the teeming APC supporters that the non-implementation of the UNEP report by the Federal Government was one of the reasons for his decamping from the PDP to APC. He said it was wrong for the Federal Government to deprive the people of Ogoni from receiving their compensation, and to enjoy a habitable environment, as well as provision of potable water.

“When I was in PDP, UNEP report said $1 billion should be spent to clean-up the oil spill in Ogoni land and further pay compensation and also provide potable drinking water for the Ogoni people. We can’t have a South-South president and allow the UNEP report die a natural death.

“It shows that the Federal Government do not care about us. As a governor of the state, I played a vital role in ensuring that potable water was provided for Eleme and Gokana people. Why must our people continue to suffer this neglect and deprivation despite several attempts to remind the Federal Government to effect the immediate implementation of the UNEP report.

“PDP has the police to intimidate us, but, I tell you as a people, in a democracy, power belongs to the people to chose their leaders, so, you must protect the Rivers interest because, we have suffered much in the hands of PDP. We all must therefore, defend the interest of APC”, he said.

Amaechi promised to continue effective development in the rural areas and ensuring better life for the people, if the APC was voted to power in 2015.

Amaechi had on Wednesday described as betrayal of his people the position taken by an Abonnema traditional ruler, King Disrael Gbobo Bob-Manuel, on the disputed Soku oil wells in Rivers State.

Bobmanuel, the Amayanabo of Abonnema, had allegedly expressed satisfaction with the way President Goodluck Jonathan was handling the Soku oil wells’ dispute between Rivers and Bayelsa states.

He allegedly expressed this position when Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson visited him in Abonnema.

But Amaechi said he was disappointed with King Gbobo Bob-Manuel’s comments.

He said the response by the Abonnema monarch conflicted with his government’s efforts and Kalabari people desire to ensure that resources of the state were not given away to other states.

He went on: “There is an attempt by the Federal Government to undermine the development of Rivers State. I did enumerate the fact that, everybody is talking about Soku oil wells but, there’s also Etche where they took 41 oil wells from Rivers State and passed onto Abia. They want to impoverish Rivers State and I can’t be governor and you expect me to keep quiet. So not just Soku alone, it is also the fact that they have taken the oil wells in Etche.

“I hear my colleague, the Governor of Bayelsa State came to Abonnema the other day and the Amanyanabo of Abonnema received him and said he was satisfied with the way the president is handling the oil wells (dispute). For me, that is a betrayal of his people and he is suppose to be a king in Kalabari Kingdom and he said he is satisfied that the Federal Government has taken the oil wells and that Bayelsa is receiving the money. And a king in Abonnema is saying he is satisfied. It is not about me, it is about the Kalabari people. It is about the Rivers people.”

“Instead of the king to tell him (Bayelsa Governor) ‘look, our people are not happy that the oil wells have been taken, return it’... and I have told the president if you return the oil wells, I will support you, but he can’t. I even told them that if you think it would empower me as a governor, keep the money in an escrow account because the money was first and foremost in an escrow account, because they became president they went to the escrow account and took the money. Keep the money in escrow account, after my tenure let them give the money to the next government but what I want to see done is the fact that our resources are returned to us.”

He recalled that he held several meetings with the president on resolving the Soku oil wells’ dispute, but that the president’s alleged unwillingness to act on the issue without bias collapsed the negotiations.

He vowed to protect and defend the interests of the people in Soku as well as those in other parts of the state.

Thousands Block Central African Republic Flights in Plea for Help

Thu, 01/02/2014 - 22:13

Central African Republic crowd protesting French intervention. Paris has occupied the country with 1,600 troops backed by the United States., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Thousands block Central African Republic flights in plea for help

Tue, Dec 31 2013
By Paul-Marin Ngoupana and Serge Leger Kokpakpa

BANGUI (Reuters) - Thousands of people caught up in fighting in Central African Republic blocked the runway of its international airport on Tuesday, demanding more aid and the resignation of the president.

Families and other refugees chanted anti-government slogans near a makeshift camp where they have taken shelter since clashes erupted between mostly Muslim Seleka fighters and Christian militias early in December.

Many had arrived in the morning, still loaded with luggage, fleeing a second night of heavy shelling in the capital Bangui.

"We are going to stop the takeoff and landing of planes to draw more attention from the international community," said camp resident Rene Kaimba.

An Air France flight was cancelled on Tuesday while aid and U.N. flights were also affected, said aid workers. French troops, sent in to try and control the violence in their former colony, surrounded the crowd.

Some called for the country's interim President Michel Djotodia to step down. He seized power in March alongside Seleka, a loose coalition of rebel forces.

Central African Republic remains one of Africa's poorest states for all its mineral resources. It has seen five coups and several rebellions since independence from France in 1960.

"The Central Africans have suffered too much and been here almost a month without a solution," said M. Igor Kamdom, another displaced person at the camp.

"That's why we invaded the runway, so that the President Djotodia resigns."

RISKS TO POPULATION

French and African troops have struggled to stop the violence that has killed more than 1,000 people this month after Christians, who have long complained of abuses by Seleka forces, launched reprisal attacks.

Humanitarian workers say that ongoing violence is making it difficult to protect the more than 800,000 that have fled their homes across the country.

Milan-based aid group Emergency said a children's clinic had run out of blood and appealed for donations.

"Doctors are struggling to treat people with serious wounds, or children with anemia - a consequence of malaria," Ombretta Pasotti, Medical Coordinator at Emergency's Paediatric Centre in Bangui, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The U.N.'s World Food Programme said it was scaling up deliveries to up to 1.25 million people.

International Rescue Committee country director Sarah Terlouw said water shortages and a lack of toilet facilities in camps had increased the risk of disease.

"At one camp we had just one water point for 12,000 people. The people are very vulnerable to outbreaks of cholera and typhoid," she told Reuters on Tuesday.

(Additional reporting by Misha Hussain; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Former U.S. Secretary of State Calls for Deeper Pentagon Intervention in the CAR

Thu, 01/02/2014 - 22:09

Central African Republic citizens demonstrating against French imperialist intervention in their country. France and allied states are occupying the mineral-rich state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Madeleine Albright
10:06 AM ET

Why the Central African Republic Crisis Is a Security Problem for the U.S.

Americans can take a measure of pride this holiday season in the recent trip undertaken by their United Nations representative, Ambassador Samantha Power, to the strife-torn Central African Republic, a country wracked by violence directed against civilians by Muslim and Christian mobs.

During her time on the ground in the CAR, Ambassador Power conveyed three core messages. To the country’s transitional authorities, she insisted that they do everything possible to heal the wounds that have opened and to protect their citizens from attack. The responsibility for peace and stability, she argued, begins with them.

To religious leaders, her message was one of support for those seeking to restore the country’s tradition of inter-communal respect; CAR does not have a history of inter-religious fighting, which makes the recent outbreaks doubly alarming. Among those with whom the ambassador conferred was Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, who just a few days earlier had told a group of Christians gathered for protection at a community center: “We are here because we are brothers first and foremost. Today, we are listening to the young to see what they propose because our house is burning down and we need to put out the fire.”

More generally, Ambassador Power’s message to the people of CAR was that they must cooperate with the African Union and French peacekeepers who are in the country to disarm the competing militias and cool the passions of the many who – out of desperation, anger, criminality, or fear – have taken up arms against their neighbors.

Some Americans may ask why Ambassador Power bothered to travel so far and why any of us should care, much less commit our resources, to assist the Africans and French in responding to this crisis. After all, the people of the CAR do not supply us with oil or buy many of our manufactured goods; they do not host an important U.S. military base, or lend vital diplomatic support to our position on international political questions. The country is poor and landlocked, with a political system that has broken down. What has their fate to do with us?

Today, an estimated 500,000 people in CAR – equal to more than ten percent of the population – have been displaced by violence. Virtually none of the fighting has been between armed groups; instead it has consisted of thugs attacking civilians in anger and other thugs attacking civilians in revenge. This is not civil war; it is anarchy. While in the capital city of Bangui, Ambassador Power was approached by a Muslim woman who described the death of her husband: he was hacked with a machete, then seized by a mob, doused with gasoline and set afire. A young Christian, more teenager than grown man, told her that he was tempted, after the death of many friends, to join a militia to attack his Muslim neighbors. He said that, on a road near his village, he had counted 22 bodies, including several cousins, who had been slaughtered. Near the Bangui airport, Ambassador Power visited a makeshift camp that has sprung up, drawn by the proximity of French peacekeepers; this is a mini-city of 40,000 men, women and children, with no infrastructure except a freshly-dug latrine.

There is shelter from neither the sun nor the rain, and the people have only the possessions they were able to carry with them when they fled their homes. A single tent serves as a medical clinic. The night before Ambassador Power arrived, eight babies were delivered; two died. Why was she there? Why does America care? If you are still asking that question, I cannot help you with the answer.

A decade ago, in the wake of the Rwanda genocide, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, and vicious internal conflicts in such places as Liberia and Sierra Leone, the world agreed on a principle known as the “responsibility to protect.” This doctrine emphasizes, first, the responsibility of every government to protect its own people from mass atrocities and war crimes. But it also stipulates that the world has a duty, when governments fail to meet their obligations, to assist endangered populations to the extent it can. It is an emerging concept that bridges political divides. We recently mourned the passing of Ambassador Rich Williamson, President George H.W. Bush's Special Envoy for Sudan. He and I recently co-authored a report under the auspices of the U.S. Holocaust Museum, the Brookings Institution, and the U.S. Institute for Peace on the responsibility to protect. He had seen for himself the tragedy and brutality of man's violence against his neighbor, and knew the international community needed a better framework to respond to future atrocities.

I do not suggest that the United States should act merely because this doctrine exists. The more powerful argument is that the doctrine exists because we have finally – after too many episodes of mass bloodshed – recognized our responsibility to act.

It is encouraging, therefore, that Ambassador Power’s visit was not just a case of “parachute in, parachute out” diplomacy. Backed by President Barack Obama, and by leaders from both parties in Congress, the United States has authorized $100 million to assist the African and French peacekeepers; this is in addition to direct help in transporting troops. By year’s end, we will also have contributed $83 million in humanitarian aid. Meanwhile, other U.S. government agencies are gearing up to assist in promoting reconciliation, investigating human rights crimes, and reaching out to the victims of gender-based violence.

Although the streets of Bangui were calm during Ambassador Power’s visit, some skirmishes broke out in the hours after her plane was in the air. There are no guarantees that the international community can prevent the crisis in CAR from worsening. Much depends on the country’s leadership which is fragile, divided and – some believe – implicated in the violence. It is possible that the AU and French peacekeeping force will need to be transformed into a larger mission under the direct auspices of the UN. It is also possible that an even more devastating crisis might erupt in nearby South Sudan, further diluting global attention and resources. These cautions notwithstanding, it was encouraging to see a high-level American diplomat carrying a message of healing, hope, and help to a beleaguered population at a critical time. As we settle down to celebrate our own holidays, let us offer a prayer that her message is heard and acted on in the weeks to come.

Madeleine Albright is Chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group. She served as the 64th Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

Fighting Intensifies in Central African Republic

Thu, 01/02/2014 - 22:03

Chadian troops opened fire on demonstrators in the Central African Republic capital city of Bangui killing on person and wounding others. The Chad troops are working with France in occupying the country., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Last updated: January 2, 2014 4:35 pm

Fighting intensifies in Central African Republic

By Javier Blas, Africa Editor, and Hugh Carnegy in Paris

Intensifying fighting in the Central African Republic is posing a serious challenge to thousands of French and African troops struggling to restore stability in the lawless country.

Paris deployed 1,600 troops to its former colony in early December with UN Security Council approval to help a 4,500-strong African force. But they appear unable to stop the fighting, with aid organisations pointing to increasing levels of violence.

The situation is causing deep concern in Paris. Two French soldiers have been killed to date and nine soldiers from the Republic of Congo and Chad were killed over the past month.

“It is a very bad situation and it is not clear how it is going to end,” says François Heisbourg, special adviser at the Foundation for Strategic Studies in Paris.

The number of civilians fleeing their homes has increased sharply, aid groups and the UN have said. The UN said that roughly 800,000 people had been forcibly displaced so far, equal to almost 20 per cent of the country’s population. Tens of thousands are seeking shelter in Bangui, the capital, with more than 100,000 people camped out at the city’s airport, crowding there to seek the protection of French forces securing the airfield.

The situation in Bangui, where most foreign troops are based, appears “to be out of control”, Médecins Sans Frontières, the medical charity, said this week. In spite of the presence of international armed forces in the capital, violent attacks and lynchings were still a daily occurrence, it added.

Souleymane Diabate, the head of Unicef, the UN children’s agency, in the Central African Republic said the organisation was “witnessing unprecedented levels of violence”, particularly against children.

“Attacks against children have sunk to a vicious new low, with at least two children beheaded,” he said.

The Central African Republic, a landlocked country in the centre of the continent, has been beset by nine months of near anarchy since the Seleka group, a mainly Muslim alliance of five rebel movements, seized Bangui in March and ousted François Bozizé, a Christian, as president. The rebels propelled into power President Michel Djotodia, the first Muslim president of the majority Christian country.

However, Mr Djotodia has lost control of the Seleka and their widespread acts of banditry have provoked reprisals from Christians militias, known as anti-balaka – literally, “anti-machete” – and launched a cycle of tit-for-tat attacks with Muslim fighters.

By December, concern that a power vacuum in the country could attract organised Islamist groups to set up and destabilise neighbouring states prompted François Hollande, the French president, to launch his second military intervention in Africa within a year.

The operation is on a smaller scale than the January 2013 intervention in Mali to oust Islamist groups threatening to take over the country, also a former French colony.

Mr Hollande last month said France’s short-term aim was to end the violence to allow humanitarian agencies to get food and medical aid to the population. But he added that the longer-term aim was to replace Mr Djotodia and his regime through elections intended to be held by February 2015.

French officials say this remains the intention. But they acknowledge that the situation on the ground is fraught. “A climate of fear reigns in Bangui,” said one.

Mr Heisbourg says Paris underestimated the scale of the task, only the latest of multiple French interventions since the chronically unstable country gained independence in 1960.

“In the past 1,600 French soldiers was sufficient to deal with anything in the Central African Republic. That calculation was badly wrong this time,” he said.

He said a foreign force, ideally under a European flag, of some 5,000-6,000 was needed to restore order.

EU foreign ministers are due to meet on January 20 to discuss stepping up backing for the French action. French officials are seeking more logistical and financial support. Laurent Fabius, foreign minister, has talked of other European countries contributing some troops on the ground. But there seems little prospect of any significant such contribution.

Edward Snowden: The Case For a Pardon

Thu, 01/02/2014 - 21:05

Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) contract employee, meeting in Moscow with activists., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.

Snowden affair: the case for a pardon

Snowden gave classified information to journalists, even though he knew the likely consequences. That was an act of courage

The Guardian, Wednesday 1 January 2014 18.16 EST

In an interview with the Washington Post just before Christmas, Edward Snowden declared his mission accomplished. At first sight it seemed a grandiose, even hubristic, statement. In fact, it betrayed a kind of modesty about the intentions of the former NSA analyst. "I didn't want to change society," he explained. "I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself."

Mr Snowden – through journalists, in the absence of meaningful, reliable democratic oversight – had given people enough knowledge about the nature of modern intelligence-gathering to allow an informed debate. Voters might, in fact, decide they were prepared to put privacy above security – but at least they could make that choice on the basis of information.

That debate is now actively happening. In a remarkable week before Christmas, a US judge found that the "almost Orwellian" techniques revealed by Mr Snowden were probably unconstitutional. A review panel of security experts convened by President Obama himself made more than 40 recommendations for change. The leaders of the eight major US tech companies met the president to express their alarm.

Parliamentarians, presidents, digital engineers, academics, lawyers and civil rights activists around the world have begun a wide-ranging and intense discussion. Even the more reasonable western security chiefs acknowledge a debate was necessary.

Man does civic duty, and is warmly thanked? Of course not. Should Mr Snowden return to his homeland he can confidently expect to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act and, if convicted – like Chelsea Manning before him – locked away for a very long time. For all his background in constitutional law and human rights, Mr Obama has shown little patience for whistleblowers: his administration has used the Espionage Act against leakers of classified information far more than any of his predecessors. It is difficult to imagine Mr Obama giving Mr Snowden the pardon he deserves. There has been some talk of an amnesty – with NSA officials reportedly prepared to consider a deal allowing Mr Snowden to return to the US in exchange for any documents to which he may still have access. The former head of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller recently predicted such an outcome, though Mr Obama's own security adviser, Susan Rice, thought he didn't "deserve" it. A former CIA director, James Woolsey, suggested he "should be hanged by his neck until he is dead".

The first world war vintage Espionage Act is, like its British counterpart, the Official Secrets Act, a clumsy and crude law to use against government officials communicating with journalists on matters where there is a clear public interest – if only because it does not allow a defendant to argue such a public interest in court. It is at least possible that, should he ever face trial, there could be a "jury nullification", where a defendant's peers acquit him even though technically guilty – as in the UK in the 1985 case of Clive Ponting, a civil servant who leaked defence information. Such an outcome would be a humiliating rebuke to those bringing a prosecution.

Mr Snowden gave classified information to journalists, even though he knew the likely consequences. That was an act of some moral courage. Presidents – from Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan – have issued pardons. The debate that Mr Snowden has facilitated will no doubt be argued over in the US supreme court. If those justices agree with Mr Obama's own review panel and Judge Richard Leon in finding that Mr Snowden did, indeed, raise serious matters of public importance which were previously hidden (or, worse, dishonestly concealed), is it then conceivable that he could be treated as a traitor or common felon? We hope that calm heads within the present administration are working on a strategy to allow Mr Snowden to return to the US with dignity, and the president to use his executive powers to treat him humanely and in a manner that would be a shining example about the value of whistleblowers and of free speech itself.


January 1, 2014

Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
New York Times

Seven months ago, the world began to learn the vast scope of the National Security Agency’s reach into the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the globe, as it collects information about their phone calls, their email messages, their friends and contacts, how they spend their days and where they spend their nights. The public learned in great detail how the agency has exceeded its mandate and abused its authority, prompting outrage at kitchen tables and at the desks of Congress, which may finally begin to limit these practices.

The revelations have already prompted two federal judges to accuse the N.S.A. of violating the Constitution (although a third, unfortunately, found the dragnet surveillance to be legal). A panel appointed by President Obama issued a powerful indictment of the agency’s invasions of privacy and called for a major overhaul of its operations.

All of this is entirely because of information provided to journalists by Edward Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor who stole a trove of highly classified documents after he became disillusioned with the agency’s voraciousness. Mr. Snowden is now living in Russia, on the run from American charges of espionage and theft, and he faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life looking over his shoulder.

Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community.

Mr. Snowden is currently charged in a criminal complaint with two violations of the Espionage Act involving unauthorized communication of classified information, and a charge of theft of government property.

Those three charges carry prison sentences of 10 years each, and when the case is presented to a grand jury for indictment, the government is virtually certain to add more charges, probably adding up to a life sentence that Mr. Snowden is understandably trying to avoid.

The president said in August that Mr. Snowden should come home to face those charges in court and suggested that if Mr. Snowden had wanted to avoid criminal charges he could have simply told his superiors about the abuses, acting, in other words, as a whistle-blower.

“If the concern was that somehow this was the only way to get this information out to the public, I signed an executive order well before Mr. Snowden leaked this information that provided whistle-blower protection to the intelligence community for the first time,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference. “So there were other avenues available for somebody whose conscience was stirred and thought that they needed to question government actions.”

In fact, that executive order did not apply to contractors, only to intelligence employees, rendering its protections useless to Mr. Snowden. More important, Mr. Snowden told The Washington Post earlier this month that he did report his misgivings to two superiors at the agency, showing them the volume of data collected by the N.S.A., and that they took no action. (The N.S.A. says there is no evidence of this.) That’s almost certainly because the agency and its leaders don’t consider these collection programs to be an abuse and would never have acted on Mr. Snowden’s concerns.

In retrospect, Mr. Snowden was clearly justified in believing that the only way to blow the whistle on this kind of intelligence-gathering was to expose it to the public and let the resulting furor do the work his superiors would not. Beyond the mass collection of phone and Internet data, consider just a few of the violations he revealed or the legal actions he provoked:

■ The N.S.A. broke federal privacy laws, or exceeded its authority, thousands of times per year, according to the agency’s own internal auditor.

■ The agency broke into the communications links of major data centers around the world, allowing it to spy on hundreds of millions of user accounts and infuriating the Internet companies that own the centers. Many of those companies are now scrambling to install systems that the N.S.A. cannot yet penetrate.

■ The N.S.A. systematically undermined the basic encryption systems of the Internet, making it impossible to know if sensitive banking or medical data is truly private, damaging businesses that depended on this trust.

■ His leaks revealed that James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, lied to Congress when testifying in March that the N.S.A. was not collecting data on millions of Americans. (There has been no discussion of punishment for that lie.)

■ The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court rebuked the N.S.A. for repeatedly providing misleading information about its surveillance practices, according to a ruling made public because of the Snowden documents. One of the practices violated the Constitution, according to the chief judge of the court.

■ A federal district judge ruled earlier this month that the phone-records-collection program probably violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. He called the program “almost Orwellian” and said there was no evidence that it stopped any imminent act of terror.

The shrill brigade of his critics say Mr. Snowden has done profound damage to intelligence operations of the United States, but none has presented the slightest proof that his disclosures really hurt the nation’s security. Many of the mass-collection programs Mr. Snowden exposed would work just as well if they were reduced in scope and brought under strict outside oversight, as the presidential panel recommended.

When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government. That’s why Rick Ledgett, who leads the N.S.A.’s task force on the Snowden leaks, recently told CBS News that he would consider amnesty if Mr. Snowden would stop any additional leaks. And it’s why President Obama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to end Mr. Snowden’s vilification and give him an incentive to return home.


New York Times pushes clemency for Edward Snowden. Justified?

The case for some sort of clemency for Edward Snowden also involves a judgment on the National Security Agency's activities. If NSA phone metadata collections are held to be unconstitutional, the chance of a deal might rise.

By Peter Grier, Staff writer / January 2, 2014

“Yes," says The New York Times editorial board, in perhaps the most high-profile defense yet of the famous fugitive. On Jan. 1, the Times published an editorial that argues that the information revealed by Mr. Snowden has had “enormous value” and launched a nationwide debate on government surveillance.

Snowden couldn’t just go to his superiors and work through channels to reveal NSA abuses, claims the Times, because legal protections for whistle-blower activities don’t apply to government contractors such as him. Meanwhile, there’s no proof his leaks have actually damaged US security, according to the paper’s editorial board.

“When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government,” writes the Times.

The British paper The Guardian has published an editorial with a similar point. This New Year’s push for mercy is likely to drive official Washington’s arguments over Snowden and his legacy, already heated, to new levels.

For instance, Business Insider political editor Josh Barro immediately fired back at the NYT’s logic, tweeting that it would be "terrible" to give Snowden a break along the lines laid out in the editorial, because to do would establish a dangerous precedent:

But the Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf, a longtime critic of the Obama administration’s surveillance and drone policies, fired right back at Mr. Barro, saying that pardons by definition deal with legal cases to which normal rules don’t seem to apply.

“They are meant to be used judiciously, on an ad hoc basis, in what are clearly exceptional circumstances,” Mr. Friedersdorf writes.

That’s just a taste of what security wonks will be tussling over. Of course we’ve got a couple of comments here ourselves.

First, any sort of negotiated deal with Snowden won’t happen quickly. That’s because, as a practical matter, it would probably have to wait until legal challenges to the NSA’s newly revealed activities have played out in the courts. The resultant legal framework could have a powerful effect on the inherently political nature of any Snowden clemency, after all. If the NSA’s phone metadata collections are held to be unconstitutional, his chances of a return to the US might rise. If not, it might be hard for any president to offer Snowden a deal he’d find acceptable.

Second (and related), your position on Snowden today likely depends on your snap judgment as to how history will judge the activities he revealed.

To the Times, and other clemency advocates such as the ACLU, he has laid bare widespread illegality and abuse. The NSA’s own internal auditor has judged that the agency exceeded its authority “thousands of times a year," writes the Times. The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has rebuked the NSA for repeatedly providing misleading information about its surveillance activities.

“Many of the mass-collection programs Mr. Snowden exposed would work just as well if they were reduced in scope and brought under strict outside oversight, as [a recent] presidential panel recommended,” writes the Times editorial board.

Not everybody agrees with this judgment. Much of the coverage of Snowden leaks has exaggerated their reach, goes this view, while minimizing the effect of privacy safeguards that are already in place.

Washington Post opinion writer Ruth Marcus writes that her scale weighs against Snowden, for instance.

“Existing oversight, while flawed, is not as feckless as Snowden portrays it, and the degree of intrusion on Americans’ privacy, while troubling, is not nearly as menacing as he sees it,” Ms. Marcus writes.

Finally, can we leave Snowden’s personality out of this? Marcus judges that he’s got an overblown sense of self and of the importance of his actions, and that’s a perfectly legitimate opinion to have, but should it bear on his clemency outcome?

Whistle-blowers are often difficult. So are politicians. It takes a pretty big ego to step into the public arena to take on big issues, for good or ill. By going public with his identity, Snowden ensured that a good share of the coverage of his actions would focus on himself. But maybe it’s the NSA and what it does, not Snowden, that’s most important to the nation.

While it may be easy to "despise and reject Snowden," it is "much harder to despite and reject the discussion he touched off," writes New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen on his "Pressthink" blog.



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