Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Do News Blackouts Help Journalists Held Captive?

27 Feb 2013 04:13 Africa/Lagos

Do News Blackouts Help Journalists Held Captive?

NEW YORK, 26 February 2013 / PRNewswire Africa / - At any given time over the past two years, as wars raged in Libya and then Syria, and as other conflicts ground on in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, a number of journalists have been held captive by a diverse array of forces, from militants and rebels to criminals and paramilitaries. And at any given time, a small handful of these cases--sometimes one or two, sometimes more--have been purposely kept out of the news media. That is true today.

News organizations have invoked the captives' safety in seeking media blackouts. But do the blackouts really benefit the individuals being held captive?

Different actors hold journalists for various reasons. Ransom can be one, as captors have demanded cash for journalists in Colombia, Somalia, and Afghanistan. Politics can be another, as captors have used journalists like the late Daniel Pearl in Pakistan to communicate a political message. Influencing coverage can be another motive. This month, five employees including three non-journalists of El Siglo de Torreón in northern Mexico were held for over 10 hours before being released.

Extracting information can be another motivation. Last June Mining News editor Franck Fwamba was abducted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and interrogated for 11 hours about his finances, sources and relationships. Concerns over espionage can be yet another motive. In 1991, a French photojournalist and I were held by Iraqi government forces who, for a time, accused us of being spies.

The key tests are whether press coverage will work for or against the captive individuals (whether they are news personnel or not) and how the captives' interests are balanced against the public's right to information.

"This is not a uniform thing. Each case is different," said David Rohde, a Thomson Reuters foreign affairs columnist and a former New York Times correspondent who was held hostage for seven months in Afghanistan.

It's a divisive issue among the press corps, whether to honor a request not to report about a journalist in captivity. In December, Turkish news outlets and the U.S.-based website Gawker, whose slogan is "today's gossip is tomorrow's news," broke a blackout sought by NBC News on the kidnapping in Syria of correspondent Richard Engel and his crew.

The effect of breaking that blackout is largely unknown; the NBC crew was freed within hours of the first public reports. But John Cook's report in Gawker, in particular, provoked outrage from journalists and human rights defenders who often work alongside each other in conflict areas. Human Rights Watch's Emergencies Director Peter Bouckaert encouraged members of a closed, war correspondents' group on Facebook to bombard Gawker with emails demanding the website remove the story.

"Yo @johnjcook, ever put yr life on line in hostile country to report story 4 Gawker? Don't 2nd guess @NBCNews if you havent," tweeted Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a Washington Postsenior correspondent and associate editor and CPJ board member.

Cook said he spoke with NBC but decided not to go along with the network's request. "No one at NBC made a case to me that reporting Engel's situation might cause anything concrete to happen to him, because they didn't know anything about his current circumstances," he wrote. "And as a more general question, it's not clear how publicity as a rule increases risk to kidnapping victims."

Research by the Committee to Protect Journalists does offer some insight. Engel later said that his captors seemed most interested in getting a ransom. The captors, Syrian militiamen, executed the news crew's Syrian rebel escort but acted to keep the Western journalists alive. "I didn't think they were going to execute us at first," Engel said in an on-camerainterview after their release. "They clearly wanted us as hostages. This was a hostage-taking scenario."

Many observers maintain that publicity in ransom cases complicates efforts to secure the captive's safe return. "Negotiations with kidnappers could be more difficult if they become aware that they're holding a 'big fish,'" noted the Canadian Association of Journalists after the CBC requested a media blackout in 2008 during correspondent Mellissa Fung's four-week kidnapping in Afghanistan.

"My kidnappers had a delusional idea about the kind of ransom they could get for me," Rohde told CPJ, saying that press would have only worsened his and a colleague's chances of survival. The New York Times requested a blackout after an initial report by Al Jazeera about his abduction, and all but a few isolated news outlets honored it. As his ordeal dragged on, Rohde and a colleague eventually managed to escape.

Robert Young Pelton, an author, journalist, and publisher of the Somalia Report, is skeptical of news organizations' motives behind blackouts. "In many cases, these blackouts are just a bald-faced attempt to buy time, mitigate bad publicity, reduce financial impact, and hide corporations' incompetence in their ability to get their employees back," he wrote in a piece for Gawkeron the NBC case.

The blackout in Rohde's case went as far as to include sites such as Wikipedia, which erased user-editor posts about his kidnapping a dozen times before finally freezing the page. New York Times journalists also altered Rohde's bios on the Times' website and, using a pseudonym, also on Wikipedia, as the paper later disclosed in a story once Rohde was free. Colleagues removed the name of his prior employer as it included the word "Christian" along with Rohde's investigations of groups like Al-Qaeda, while emphasizing his investigation of the Srebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslims.

Some were disquieted by such widespread manipulation. Poynter Institute ethicist Kelly McBride said she was "really astounded" by the media blackout. "I find it a little disturbing, because it makes me wonder what else 40 international news organizations have agreed not to tell the public," McBride told NPR.

Journalists do have a duty to report the news. It was one thing to withhold information about the kidnapping of Rohde, who is very prominent in the field but is not a household name. But would it have been practical or ethical for dozens of news organizations to withhold information for many months about Engel, whose face is seen in millions of homes on a regular basis?

History and context provide some guidelines. Withholding information so as not to endanger individuals, including U.S. soldiers, has been an accepted journalistic practice over time. In 1994, all four major American network television news divisions voluntarily withheld information that U.S. war planes had lifted off from Fort Bragg, N.C., to support a planned invasion of Haiti, only to report the news after the invasion was cancelled.

But some critics complain that news organizations don't apply media blackouts to non-journalists. "Stopping the flow of information about a kidnapped foreign correspondent suggests that media outlets value the lives of their own personnel above those of other people they report on," wrote Blake Lambert, a Canadian freelance journalist for the Christian Science Monitor and other news outlets, on the website of the London-based International News Safety Institute after Fung's Afghan ordeal.

For news outlets to give fellow journalists special treatment would seem indefensible. But it's not clear-cut that is happening. More than 1,000 people, virtually all non-journalists, have been held hostage in Somalia every year, for example, according to news reports. Only a handful of them receive press attention.

Some news organizations have maintained that journalists held hostage receive no special treatment. Back in 1994, at least 15 news organizations honored an AP request not to report the kidnapping of its correspondent, Tina Susman, who was released after 20 days of captivity in Mogadishu. "We would withhold news of a kidnapping of anyone if we felt that it was not already in the public domain, and if we felt that coverage would further imperil the person's life or the prospect of an early release," AP's then-International Editor Tom Kent explained to American Journalism Review after the ordeal.

Another matter concerns freelance journalists. Several analysts point out that the abductions of freelance journalists are not subjected to the same level of pre-publication scrutiny as those of staff journalists who are kidnapped. Some cases of freelancers are publicized even when they appear similar to those involving staff journalists that are kept quiet. Other cases of freelancers receive little press attention even when coverage of their status would help them.

I know from my own experience how corporate interests can work against journalists held captive. In 1991, during the post-Gulf War uprisings against Saddam Hussein, colleagues and I crossed into Iraq with anti-Saddam rebels. A European colleague, Gad Gross, was executed along with our armed rebel escort. A French colleague, Alain Buu, and I were captured an hour later and held captive for 18 days. We were missing as far as our editors and family members knew.

A longtime, accredited CBS News radio stringer, I was also carrying network video equipment that CBS television producers asked me to bring in once the radio desk told them that I was going into Iraq. Once my colleague and I went missing, my family still had to push the network to report the case. A debate ensued at the network, with CBS lawyers arguing that giving our story press could be perceived as implying network liability, CBS colleagues later told me. Having CBS News step up to confirm that I was a journalist was key, as Iraqi authorities were accusing me of being an intelligence agent. In any such case, press coverage can help by convincing suspicious captors that the captives are independent journalists, and by underscoring that any actions to harm them would also not go unnoticed. Conversely, sometimes keeping the kidnapping of a journalist -whether a freelancer or not-- out of the press can help persuade captors to release the captive and still save face.

There is no single template showing how to handle such cases, as each deserves its own careful examination. But a few guidelines come to mind:

• Each case is unique, but standards should be consistent. News organizations need to apply the same test of balancing the captive's interest against the public's right to know. That is true whether the captive is a journalist or not. And the scale can tip the more any hostage is well-known, whether he or she is a journalist or not.

• Evidence suggests that publicity can fuel ransom demands for anyone held hostage, although more research needs to be done. Publicity can put captives in danger if it leads to higher ransoms that family members or news organizations are unable to meet.

• The motive of captors must be scrutinized in each case to determine whether their goal is ransom, political gain, media influence, or something else. This may be difficult to determine. But it should nonetheless help guide any decision weighing whether press would be more likely to help or hinder the captive's well-being.

• The decision over whether or not press is desirable should be made by a coalition of stakeholders led by family members, who should independently evaluate the recommendations of news directors and security advisers. (This is especially important in the case of freelancers.) And they should remain open to changing their decisions as a situation develops.

• Keeping a case out of the public eye is increasingly difficult today due to the Internet; the challenge increases if the captive is a well-known public figure. News organizations may be able to persuade other major outlets to keep a case quiet, but they face extraordinary challenges in scrubbing information posted across the Web. It may be more practical to release limited information about an abduction early, then manage the flow closely.

• If publicity is desired, close management of information is essential. Colleagues and family members may decide it best to release some information, but still try to keep the case relatively quiet. Advocates may also decide to shape the narrative of a journalist held captive--highlighting one nationality over another, for example, in the case of a person with dual citizenship. Or by highlighting stories captors might see favorably. Or by downplaying information about matters like financial holdings.

• Journalists do deserve special treatment in one respect. In the case of media blackout or manipulation of information, the public trust must be maintained and readers or the broadcast audience should be informed afterward what was done and why, and the record should be set straight.

• Do no harm should guide decisions. Claiming that there is no evidence that harm would be done by publicizing a case is not an argument in favor of publicity. Instead, every news outlet should consider whether press is likely to help or hinder the interests of not the news organization or any other entity, but the individual --whether they are news personnel or not--at risk in captivity.

The matter is hardly an academic one for journalists and others either known to be in captivity or still missing today. Freelance journalist James Foley, a contributor to Global Post, was kidnapped in northwest Syria late last year; his family waited six weeks before deciding to make the case public. He remains missing. Austin Tice, a freelance journalist for McClatchy newspapers and The Washington Post, was seized in Damascus in August, and what appears to be a staged video of him in captivity leads observers to suggest that Syrian government forces may be holding him. His parents recently traveled to Beirut to try and appeal to whoever may be holding him.

Neither is the risk limited to Western correspondents. Mohamed al-Saeed of Syrian State TV was kidnapped last August in Damascus and he, like many others, remains missing. Bashar Fahmi of the U.S.-government broadcaster Al-Hurra and his Turkish cameraman disappeared in Syria reporting in Aleppo. The Turkish cameraman was captured and released almost 90 days later. But Fahmi is still missing, and his fate remains unknown.

The over-riding guideline: Every captive situation requires the same degree of care and balance of interests as any story where lives are in peril, whether the captives are journalists or not.

SOURCE : Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

submit to reddit

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Seun Nairaland Founder And Others on Forbes Africa's Best Young Entrepreneurs Under 30

Seun Osewa.

Seun Osewa, founder of Nairaland, Africa's largest internet forum, Opeyemi Awoyemi, Olalekan Olude and Ayodeji Adewunmi, founders of Jobberman, Sandra Appiah and Isaac Boateng, Ghanaian co-founders of Face2Face Africa and other outstanding young African achievers make the 2013 FORBES 30 Under 30: Africa's Best Young Entrepreneurs.

Opeyemi Awoyemi, Olalekan Olude and Ayodeji Adewunmi.

Sandra Appiah and Isaac Boateng.

Click here to read the complete report.

submit to reddit

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ben Affleck's Argo Wins Best Picture Oscar and Daniel Day-Lewis Makes Oscar History

Best PictureWinner: Argo
Best Actor in a Leading RoleWinner: Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
Best Actress in a Leading RoleWinner: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Best DirectorWinner: Ang Lee (Life of Pi)

According to Reuters, Ben Affleck's Argo made it the first time since "Driving Miss Daisy" in 1990 that a film won the top prize at the Oscars without its director also being nominated. Argo also won the Oscars for best film editing and best adapted screenplay.

Well, we might as well call this year the Year of "Argo" as "Argo" has won almost all the coveted awards and winning the Best Picture Oscar when the director Ben Affleck was not even nominated for Best Director is a great achievement at the 85th Academy Awards by winning three Oscars for Best Film Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture, to add to the Golden Globe Awards for Best Picture in Drama and Best Director, Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the 19th Screen Actors Guild Awards, Best Film and Best Editing at the 66th British Academy Film Awards.

British actor Daniel Day-Lewis also made history by being the first actor to win three Oscars for Best Actor as he won his third Best Actor award for playing the leading role of President Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's historical film "Lincoln" at the 85th Academy Awards. His other previous Oscars were for Christy Brown in "My Left Foot" (1989), Daniel Plainview in "There Will Be Blood" (2007). He surpassed the record of John Joseph "Jack" Nicholson, Marlon Brando and Dustin Hoffman who have won the Oscars twice for Best Actor. But this achievement does not make him a better or greater actor than Harrison Ford, Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins, CBE, Sir Michael Caine, CBE, Clinton "Clint" Eastwood, Jr, Denzel Washington and other accomplished actors in the world.

And also remarkable for Michael Haneke's "Armour" for winning the Oscar for Best Film in a Foreign Language after winning the Palme d'Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and best film in a non English language at the 66th British Academy Film Awards among other awards.

1. Best Picture: "Argo."
2. Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln."
3. Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook."
4. Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, "Django Unchained."
5. Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, "Les Miserables."
6. Directing: Ang Lee, "Life of Pi."
7. Foreign Language Film: "Amour."
8. Adapted Screenplay: Chris Terrio, "Argo."
9. Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino, "Django Unchained."
10. Animated Feature Film: "Brave."
11. Production Design: "Lincoln."
12. Cinematography: "Life of Pi."
13. Sound Mixing: "Les Miserables."
14. Sound Editing (tie): "Skyfall," "Zero Dark Thirty."
15. Original Score: "Life of Pi," Mychael Danna.
16. Original Song: "Skyfall" from "Skyfall," Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth.
17. Costume: "Anna Karenina."
18. Documentary Feature: "Searching for Sugar Man."
19. Documentary (short subject): "Inocente."
20. Film Editing: "Argo."
21. Makeup and Hairstyling: "Les Miserables."
22. Animated Short Film: "Paperman."
23. Live Action Short Film: "Curfew."
24. Visual Effects: "Life of Pi."

Oscar winners previously presented this season:

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award: Jeffrey Katzenberg

Honorary Award: Hal Needham

Honorary Award: D.A. Pennebaker

Honorary Award: George Stevens Jr.

Award of Merit: Cooke Optics

submit to reddit

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Governor Amaechi: Security Challenges in Rivers State, His Strategies and Scorecard

~ By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze
In my continuous efforts to appraise and review the activities of the enigma they call, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the indefatigable Governor of Rivers State and undisputed Chairman of the Governors’ Forum of Nigeria and having successfully treated his exploits and issues of governance in Rivers State pertaining to areas of Finance, Education, Health, job creation and some other sectors; the challenge of writing on the security challenges or insecurity in Rivers State, I must confess was the most exigent as I was at a loss on how to start bearing in mind that this should be the area of my next consideration. In this regard, Hon. Chief Dakuku Peterside, Chairman House of Representatives Committee on (Downstream) Petroleum came to my aid with his revealing article titled How to tackle insecurity in Nigeria’ in which he stated and I quote, “Security, law and order are the major preoccupation of any Government. Once a government gets this priority right, it has made the very first right step. Growing insecurity on the reverse side is the first sign of a failing state”

Security Communication gadgets donated by the Rivers State Government to the Nigeria Police Force.

Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi demonstrating the use of one of the security gadgets he donated to the Nigeria Police Force.

Security patrol jeeps donated by the Rivers State Government.

Poet and Political Philosopher, Samuel Taylor Coleridge view of security tallies with that of Hon Peterside when he stated, “The three great ends which a statesman ought to propose to himself in the government of a nation, are,-
1. Security to possessors;
2. Facility to acquirers;
3. Hope to all” while Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi concurred by stating that, “Government must not be for one section of the Society. It must be for the rich and the poor, emphasizing the upliftment of the poor...”
With the above, let me therefore state that the main treatise of this attempt is to review the strategies adopted by the Rivers State Government under the watch of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi in tackling the menace of insecurity in Rivers State prior to his assumption of office on 28thOctober, 2007 with the hope that it will serve as a model to other States in any part of the globe in addressing the security challenges in their domain. For matter of clarity, Rivers State is the hub of oil industry in Nigeria and very rich in hydrocarbons from which the nation draws its major revenue and because it was confronted with key security challenges especially the challenges of illegal bunkering, piracy, kidnapping and armed robbery this attempt is embarked upon.
According to records, Port Harcourt, the State capital of Rivers State that Amaechi inherited was more like a war zone or aptly put a jungle where the fittest determines the fate of the lesser animals. It sounds pretty surprising but not unexpected that the city of Port Harcourt, a once very glamorous city, was ranked among the three most dangerous cities in the world by then. The human resources unit of New York-based Marsh & McLennan Cos. had ranked Port Harcourt with Baghdad, Yemen's capital of Sana'a and Khartoum in Sudan, as the world's most dangerous cities. Going by the ranking published by Bloomberg, Port Harcourt ranked with Baghdad as one of the world's most dangerous cities for foreign workers as criminal gangs and militia groups seeking greater control of energy revenue step up attacks.

Ahamefula Ogbu, a Journalist with Thisday Newspapers described one of the scenes in the State at this period in these words 'Rambo could not have done better. With automatic rifles in their hands and hate, revenge and murder hanging around their necks, warring cultists took Port Harcourt, Rivers State, by storm yesterday for the second day running. Pandemonium broke out as residents ran for safety. It was sorrow, tears and blood. At the end of it all—or, more aptly, at the interval, for no one knows the end yet—15 persons had been dispatched to their early graves' and true to this unsung prophet nobody knew the end as the next few days saw about eighty innocent souls wasted by an agitation uncommon to our people in the Niger Delta.
While to my late friend and brother, Mr. George Onah reporting for Vanguard Newspaper captured Port Harcourt before the assumption of office by Gov Amaechi in these words; “For many residents, the capital of Rivers State, hitherto the Garden City where life was lived to the fullest is no longer the place to live in as rivers of blood flow ceaselessly following an unending siege by militants, kidnappers, cultists, and criminals of other hue”
“Violence in Port Harcourt, Rivers State has gone full circle and the guns are still booming. The casualties are pilling, even as blood of defenceless citizens’ flow endlessly. Neither the Police nor the government has answers to the brigandage. Security outfits do not have official figures, record or reliable estimates of casualties in the Rivers State orgy of killings”.
“Even the number of deaths during the Nigerian Civil War had a consensus of informed opinion on the number of deaths, on both sides, which hovered, realistically around 600,000 and below. But the rapidity of casualties in the onslaught by gunmen on Rivers State cannot simply be pigeonholed. The currency of killings is alarming and the growth of the economy of the state is heading for the deep”.
“The pattern of the crime ranges from kidnapping of expatriates and children of wealthy parentage, to outright violent robbery. Cultism and political vices equally occupy a frightening position on the crime chart. The volatile atmosphere appears to have annulled whatever achievement of the peace and reconciliation committee of the government”.
As if both Ogbu and late Onah did not capture the picture correctly, Okey Ndibe, a respected opinion leader on national issues in Nigeria in his article during this period published by the Sahara Reporters one of the leading online media on Nigerian political activities titled 'a blood soaked city' described the happenings in Rivers State then in these words 'That the once idyllic Port Harcourt was now a scarred place, a war zone, a city soaked in blood; the city under siege with thousands of citizens displaced; that its once quiescent boulevards and avenues were now ruled by marauding militiamen and by the fierce soldiers deployed to dislodge them. Sudden death by bullet was now a generalized hazard for the city's trapped and hapless residents'.
Proffering an answer or rather solution out of this madness, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, an elder statesman and a onetime Federal Minister of Information in the first Republic advocated that the only solution to the lingering security crisis in Rivers State, 'I implored President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua not to dilly-dally in imposing a state of emergency on Rivers State, not doing so would be tantamount to postponing the evil day' He continued, 'Omehia was not fit to be governor of Rivers State in fact he is a major part of the problem and an unserious and insensitive personality; where is the seriousness in Omehia? If he is a serious governor or politician, why should he abandon Rivers State when the state was still boiling to go and take part in a birthday bash in Abuja for his godfather, Peter Odili? We can't fold our hands as elders, and continue watching situation degenerate."
Affirming the unfortunate state of Rivers State then, an icon and Prince of Niger Delta Politics, Prince Tonye Princewill in a recent interview stated thus, “Rivers State, when Amaechi took over was a garrison state. Now that things have changed, people refer to him, like they do to Fashola as a performing governor though the only difference between the two is that Fashola had a foundation in Tinubu but in the case of Amaechi, it was not so!”.
One of the major forces behind the menace of insecurity in Rivers State was class challenge and Lady Dorothy Alison captured this aptly when she stated, “The horror of class stratification, racism, and prejudice is that some people begin to believe that the security of their families... and communities depends on the oppression of others, that for some to have good lives there must be others whose lives are truncated and brutal”.
Affirming the truism by Lady Alison, Governor Amaechi enthused, “When we took over the reins of governance in the State we met a situation where people were being given cash, but we decided to take the extreme position of not giving money to people, but doing projects that would impact positively on the lives of the majority of our people”. This stand of the Governor to stop the method which was the practice hitherto of sharing State funds to some seasoned politicians and groups who in turn use it to sponsor militia groups that constitute security challenges in the State.
Apart from class challenges as postulated above, insecurity in Rivers State was occasioned by greed for power; empowering and arming our youths with sophisticated arms in order to undo political opponents in the State. Another great influence of insecurity was the wickedness of the politicians in undermining the future of the youths and misuse of public and the common patrimony of the State. Instead of investments that will create jobs for the teeming youths, the funds are distributed amongst friends and relations

Governor Amaechi with school children in one of the model schools built by his administration.

Pupils in class at one of the model schools.

According to Governor Amaechi who viewed insecurity in wider perspective stated, “Insecurity in Nigeria is caused by politicians and poverty pervading the country”. He stressed that armed robbery; kidnapping and Boko Haram insurgency were all products of the poverty occasioned by rapacious rulers. Accordingly, he said issues such as religion differences among the citizenry would only come to the fore when the political class had differences with one another in their sharing formula of the national cake, declaring that “when you see difference in religion, there is a particular political undertone. The governor noted that the situation in the country currently had been made worse by the mono-product status of its economy; a development he said had pitched the various regions and states against one another. He stressed that it was even worse that the Federal Government wielded enormous power and “made the centre a dispenser of patronage and rent.”
To Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi, “inability of elected leaders to provide adequate security for the citizenry is an impeachable offence. The first offence governors commit is when they are unable to provide adequate security for the people. This is because the first oath taken by elected leaders is to protect life and property. It is the responsibility of the government to provide security for the people.”
According to Noam Chomsky, “the U.S. international and security policy ... has as its primary goal the preservation of what we might call "the Fifth Freedom," understood crudely but with a fair degree of accuracy as the freedom to rob, to exploit and to dominate, to undertake any course of action to ensure that existing privilege is protected and advanced”. The fact remains that it seems that Governor Amaechi on assumption of office adopted this US security policy in tackling the menace of insecurity in the State as he went out exploiting every means humanly possible to arrest this ugly trend. Apart from declaring war on all the militia groups in the State and refusing any form of dialogue or negotiations with them, he ensured that the security organs in the State were well motivated and trained to tackle the menace of insecurity in the State.
Explaining further on how Governor Amaechi handled the security challenges of the State at this period, an influential member of Amaechi’s Administration, former Commissioner of works and present member of the Nation’s House of Representatives, Hon. Dakuku Peterside in his article on insecurity in Nigeria stated as follows, “When I had the privilege of serving in the government of Rivers State under the leadership of Governor Amaechi, I observed that he placed high premium on security because he believed that security was the foundation upon which progress in every other facet of development depends. This is aside from government’s proactive disposition which drew substantially from intelligence gathering, surveillance and the fact that law enforcement agents could reasonably predict potential crime with near perfect accuracy.
Another interesting aspect of the Rivers model is the deployment of technology. Without sounding immodest, I can confidently say that the state’s security network is driven by excellent modern technology. Rivers was the first state to acquire a mobile scanning van known as back scatter. Around the Port-Harcourt metropolis, there are Gantry Scanners at strategic entry locations in Onne- Eleme Road, East-West Road, Choba Road, Oyibo Road, Ikwere Road, Aba Road and Mbiama Road among others”.
Throwing more light on the postulations of Peterside, a security expert and CEO, MPD Security Systems, Engr. David Meyer stated as follows, “The first step we took in Rivers State was to raise capacity among selected police personnel, over 200, through local and overseas training in Israel and other parts of the world on modern crime fighting techniques and intelligence gathering,” Meyer explained. Working with modern gadgets and substantial logistics including an Israeli trained concealed weapon detecting dog, these crossbred police team had since been strategically placed at main outskirt check posts witnessing mass movement in and out of Port Harcourt City. Others lead a number of metro patrol teams responding to security emergencies around the town and environs. These are far as the public can see.
Beyond public view, as part of Rivers current long term vision of security, Meyer pointed to underground application of ICT aided security hardware and software helping the police to sense and react to security situations with dispatch. This network of technology managed by experts from a hub which Meyer would not disclose its location for security reasons, employs the C4I urban surveillance cameras watching over the city and active 24hrs of the day in Port Harcourt and environs.

Model of the Specialist Hospital of the administration of Governor Amaechi.

The interactions between the seen and unseen infrastructures, according to Meyer, account for the recent security operatives swift bursting of some of failed organized crime operations, including an attempted raid of a bank in the Mile 4 area of the city last year. “These measures have been working well and while the public may not know, it has lead to several arrests and we have gained convictions against suspects on account of the improved network”, he emphasized.
Supporting the views of Hon. Chief Peterside and Engr. Meyer, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Chibuike stated,. We have done a lot about security. We are doing more. Before we came to office, kidnapping was a serious challenge. We have dealt with it substantially. We are finishing December, 2012 without a single report of kidnapping or armed robbery. We have specially trained policemen handling security. Barring any unforeseen circumstance, any moment from now, the Rivers State Government’s security web would be two surveillance helicopters stronger, laying foundation for a standing air wing to give the state 24-hour security coverage.. He said the helicopters; costing $30m (N4.5bn) with surveillance cameras to fly all over the city of Port Harcourt and other parts of the state would arrive at the end of December and commence operations in January, 2013. He stated that Rivers now has in place a technology reliable for tracking criminals and their hideouts.
The Governor who is a major proponent of State Policing postulated, “
If we have State Police, Rivers would be able to train its police the way it wants. It would not have suffered the loss of those 500 policemen it trained. Most states are spending a lot of money improving the police which are not under their control. States can use the same resources to fund their own police. Only those with something to hide are afraid of State Police.
All the above commendable steps totally unique by any other segment of governance in Nigeria, the fact remains that to Gov Amaechi the panacea to insecurity or stoppage of any form of crime in the State is to provide employment to our youths, according to him, “The first step to solving economic crisis especially crime is to provide people with source of livelihood. The challenge here therefore is to provide to the reader the steps and means through which this enigma who is misunderstood by some unprincipled politicians who want to pull him down using every means possible intends to handle the creation of job and reduce insecurity in Rivers State
To Horace Mann the great Educationist, “Education is our only political safety. Outside of this ark all is deluge”. Mann cannot have a better disciple better than Gov Amaechi who probably because of what he suffered to be educated due to lack of fund has sworn that he will not allow any Rivers State child to go through the hell he went through to be educated. In this regard, the Governor stated, “We flagged off the free education on 1 October 2010 – free text and exercise books are distributed every session to pupils in all state primary and secondary schools. Free education in the state’s standard educational facilities is expected to give children from Rivers State an edge in academics, particularly those from poor homes who ordinarily may not have been opportune to have such educational upbringing. Out of 500 new model primary schools being built across our 23 local government areas of the state, 254 are 100 percent completed, 92 are fully functional while the others are being furnished and equipped. Our initial plan was 750 primary schools by 2015. We have had challenges with getting land to build; there has been an increase in the number of pupils. We would do 500 schools, but a storey-building with 25 classrooms, instead of 14 and not more than 30 students per class. These primary schools are each equipped with ICT facility, modern library, science laboratory, football field, basketball pitch, volleyball pitch, a sick bay, nursery playground.
To arrest the sad wave of unemployment in the State the Governor has authorised employment of over 13, 000 Teachers apart from supporting staff to man all these schools.
2.      Health
160 model health centres are operational in our 23 local government areas. The free health care programme has contributed to a decline in the mortality rate of Rivers people particularly maternal and child mortality as the health centres are located to serve every part of the state. All indigenes and residents of the state are beneficiaries of the programme. People in the remote villages or coastal areas no longer have to visit the city for medical care. For secondary health care, there are three new hospitals all completed. They include the ultra modern Rivers State Dental and Maxillofacial Hospital on Aba Road. This facility is completed and being furnished and equipped. The Kelsey Harrison Hospital, formerly known as New Niger Hospital on Emenike Street, Diobu, is fully equipped and ready to take off. The General Hospital at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology is also completed. Doctors and supporting staff are employed to man these hospitals thereby reducing unemployment in the State.
3.      Agriculture
According to the Governor, “We have four fish farms-Buguma, Andoni, Opobo and Ubima. Banana Farm in Ogoni-100 hectares have been done out of the total 250 hectares. Therefore is among the big farms we have started to create jobs for rural dwellers. It will employ about 500 workers. Rivers Songhai learning initiative has a centre for training, agricultural production, research and development of sustainable agricultural practices. The farm project sits on a 314-hectares land in Bunu-Tai, an agrarian community in Tai Local Government Area of the state. It is about 20 times the size of the Songhai model in Porto Novo – an integrated farm which combines livestock, arable farming, fishery, snail farming and poultry. There is a 2,000-hectare farm in Etche with a total available land space of 3,000 hectares. The farm is projected to cost $140 million. The state is investing $100m; the foreign partner $40 million. The farm would have 300 farming houses, agro processing and 3,000 hectares for cultivation. The 300 houses would accommodate 300 farming families who would live and work on the farm.
All the above efforts not withstanding the Government of Rivers State based on the much she has done in the area of Power generation, the Governor has promised that by March, 2013 the residents of the State can be assured of at least 20hours of steady public power per day thereby resurrecting small scale industries and major industries in the State that will revolutionise and p[rovide employment amongst our people.
The results of the peaceful state of Rivers State under the watch of Gov Amaechi has resulted not only attraction of foreign investments but today Port Harcourt is now the haven of both International and National championships. Apart from hosting one of the best organised National Sports Festival ever in Nigeria, the just concluded School Sports was hosted by the State. The Police Games coming up by March is billed to be hosted by the State. Port Harcourt apart from Abuja and probably Lagos is the only State to have hosted US-Nigeria bie National Conference. The city has hosted the Miss ECOWAS Beauty Pageant, Pan African Parliamentary; Garden City Literary Festival, hosted CARNRIV involving several foreign countries to showcase the rich culture, potentials and beauty of her people, the 2nd Dr Claude Ake Memorial Lecture, Rivers State Investment Forum and Governor’s Interactive Session with Rivers State Youths amongst several other meets the city has hosted to prove its acceptability as the most peaceful and progressive city in Nigeria.
Kudos of course must go to Alh, Suleiman Abba the then Commissioner of Police now AIG for his commitment and no nonsense approach to crime in the State; the Brigade Commander, the Air force Commander, Director of SSS for their commitment in ensuring that Rivers State was recovered from the hands of these hoodlums! My commendation can’t be concluded without mentioning the then Secretary to the Rivers State Government now a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dist. Senator Magnus Abe whose office then was coordinating and spearheading this onslaught against insecurity in the State.
If all these do not show that Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is a committed, patriotic and visionary leader then I must be ignorant of what a true leader is all about and if Rivers State is not the peace haven of Nigeria now then I maybe at loss on what security is all about!
In conclusion, the bottom-line of this review exposing the revolutionary strategies adopted by Gov Amaechi in arresting the security challenges in Rivers State which was a war zone at the time he took over the reins of governance comparable to what is currently occasioned by the menace of Boko Haram in the Northern Nigeria is if the Federal Government can be wise and magnanimous enough to learn from these strategies and probably consult with Gov Amaechi to assist them  put an end to the menace and embarrassment Boko Haram activities have inflicted on our nation then the exercise of carrying this attempt may have been achieved!

 ~ Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

submit to reddit

Friday, February 22, 2013

Eko Atlantic Celebrates Reclamation of 5,000,000 Square Metres of Land from the Sea

caption: 5,000,000 SQM Dedication Ceremony, Eko Atlantic, February 21, 2013. L/R Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, Former US President, Bill Clinton, Nigerian President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan
source: South Energyx Nigeria Limited
media contact info:, +23418449900.

22 Feb 2013 17:57 Africa/Lagos

Eko Atlantic Celebrates Reclamation of 5,000,000 Square Metres of Land from the Sea

LAGOS, Nigeria, February 22, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

His Excellency the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, applauds a 'noble initiative' and gives the project the full support of the his Government

Eko Atlantic, the visionary new city for Lagos, Nigeria drew high-level presidential praise from both the Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan and the former President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton during a dedication ceremony to mark a milestone event.

caption: 5,000,000 SQM Dedication Ceremony, Eko Atlantic, February 21, 2013. Former United States President Bill Clinton applauds the developers of Eko Atlantic City in Lagos, Nigeria. for reclaiming five million square meters of land and building The Great Wall of Lagos to protect the Lagos shoreline from rising sea levels and coastal erosion.
media contact info:, +23418449900.

Describing the development of Eko Atlantic as an outstanding initiative President Jonathan said, 'This landmark event is continuing the good news narrative that Nigeria must now embrace permanently. You cannot be hearing only ugly stories. Eko Atlantic City is bringing us happiness and this happiness has come to stay.'

Eko Atlantic land reclamation started in February 2008 with a 7-year dredging operation planned to create 8,000 square metres of new land every day.

A year after reclamation work began the Chagoury Group, the developers and planners of Eko Atlantic, based in Lagos, Nigeria, committed at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York to protect Victoria Island from coastal erosion through the forces of the Atlantic Ocean.

Since making their commitment the developers have built a sea revetment known as The Great Wall of Lagos that now stands at three and a half kilometres. Half the land needed to build the new city has been recovered from the ocean.

'They have reclaimed five million square metres of land from the sea. They have built the beginnings of this amazing wall. They have kept their commitment and it will help to diversify the economy of Nigeria, to brand Lagos all over the world and to create an enormous number of opportunities. I am convinced that within five years people will be coming from everywhere just to look at the wall.'

The Great Wall has brought back the coastline of Victoria Island to where it was a century ago before coastal erosion began to wash it away.

'This is an ingenious engineering feat,' said President Clinton, This is something I am telling you there will be countless numbers of people coming here to study. It is something you can be very proud of.'

The Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola hosted the dedication ceremony close to the massive sea revetment that protects the five million square metres of land. 'When all is done, a new city will emerge here from what was once a devastated area as a result of nature's onslaught, said Governor Fashola. 'But that devastation is now history. Our ultimate triumph beckons,' he said, 'the human spirit will prevail because of the goodwill of a few good men.'

The dedication ceremony was attended by high-ranking Nigerian Federal and State officials as well as international developers, financial institutions and the diplomatic corps.

In his address, the Executive Chairman of Eko Atlantic, Mr. Ronald Chagoury, said, "Nigeria is a great nation. Building a city of this calibre can only be achieved by putting our hands together. Today we are at a turning point where the real construction of the city has started." And he added, "Today Lagos is the economic capital of Nigeria. We pray by your blessing Mr. President, to become the economic and financial centre of Africa in the near future".

The construction of infrastructure for Eko Atlantic, such as roads, drainage and sewage systems has also started as has foundation work for Eko Atlantic's first commercial tower block. An international developer, Satellite Oil and Gas from Nigeria, has started to build Eko Energy Estate and numerous other projects are in the pipeline.

Upon completion, the developers and city planners of the new city will have produced 10,000,000 square metres of land, ripe for development: equivalent in size to the skyscraper district of Manhattan in New York City.

Eko Atlantic is designed to provide the space and infrastructure to house 250,000 people and become the workplace for a further 150,000.

Releases displayed in Africa/Lagos time
22 Feb 2013
17:57 Eko Atlantic Celebrates Reclamation of 5,000,000 Square Metres of Land from the Sea  
21 Feb 2013
22:23 Equatorial Guinea Hosts The 3rd ASA Summit
20 Feb 2013
14:00 Factors Moving Markets, Today's Influences - Research Report on Euronet Worldwide, Inc., Audience Inc., ON Semiconductor Corp., Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV and Diageo plc.
13:47 New West African Security Service to Protect Commercial Shipping in the Gulf of Guinea

submit to reddit