Nigeria is to deploy drones to monitor the movement of ships in an effort to curb the rampant oil theft in the country, the state oil firm says.

Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) says it wants to end crude theft in the next eight months.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest crude producer but its revenue is severely reduced by theft and attacks on oil pipelines.

New President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to clean up the industry.

Oil generates around 70% of government revenues in Africa's biggest economy.

But a 2013 report by think tank Chatham House said that 100,000 barrels per day were being stolen.

That was equivalent to 5% of Nigeria's daily production.

It said the theft was occurring on an "industrial scale", with small barges transferring stolen oil to tankers waiting offshore to take it to international markets.

Senior politicians and military officers are said to be involved in the illegal trade.

The new head of NNPC Ibe Kachikwu also said the company would work more closely with Nigeria's navy to tackle the problem.

Boko Haram is trying to expand its activities beyond Nigeria's mainly Muslim north, to include the commercial capital Lagos, as well as other parts of the country, officials say.

Nigeria's intelligence agency says 12 members of the Islamist militant group have been arrested in Lagos since July.

It is not possible to independently verify details of the statement.

Boko Haram has waged a six-year insurgency in Nigeria, mainly in the north-east of the country.

Authorities arrested other self-confessed Boko Haram members in the south-eastern city of Enugu as well as other parts of central and northern Nigeria, the Department of State Services (DSS) said in a statement.

map

The DSS attributes the attempted expansion of Boko Haram into southern areas to the increased pressure the group is under in its north-eastern heartland.

However, the BBC's Will Ross in Lagos says the group is still causing havoc in the north-east, with reports that more than 50 people were killed in an attack in Borno State on Friday, about 100km (62 miles) north of the state capital Maiduguri.

Will Ross, BBC News, Lagos

For many in Lagos it will be alarming to hear that a dozen Boko Haram members have been arrested here in recent weeks. I have often been told by Lagosians that the jihadist group would never dare attack this city, which seems more naive than reassuring, especially as there was an attempt to bomb a fuel depot last year.

The announcement from the secret police, known as the DSS, came just a day after another statement told us a teenager had been picked up inside Abuja airport where he was gathering intelligence for Boko Haram - another disturbing bit of news.

The DSS says the arrests have helped avert "devastating attacks" and that "notable commanders and frontline members" have been rounded up.

We have no way of independently verifying the information in the statements but it is worth noting that all the security departments are under pressure to demonstrate that they are having an impact against Boko Haram, especially as President Muhammadu Buhari has made tackling the jihadist insurgency a priority and is still making senior appointments.

A new DSS director general was appointed in early July and the latest statement says the arrests began the very next week.

Boko Haram at a glance:

Boko Haram fighters
  • Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education - Boko Haram means "Western education is forbidden" in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, abducted hundreds, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Joined Islamic State, now calls itself "West African province"
  • Seized large area in north-east, where it declared caliphate
  • Regional force has retaken most territory this year

Why Boko Haram remains a threat

A revered monarch in south-west Nigeria, the Onu of Ife, is to be buried with thousands of people expected to attend his funeral.

Traditional rites to honour Oba Okunade Sijuwade - the king of the Yoruba, Nigeria's second biggest ethnic group - will be held in the city of Ife.

Banks and other businesses have been closed, one resident told the BBC.

The 85-year-old sovereign died in London in July but his death was only announced on Wednesday.

Analysts say this was not surprising as the royal court first needed to have extensive consultations and begin the search for a successor before the announcement could be made.

He was respected by most Yorubas, who number about 35 million, in south-west Nigeria, Togo and Benin.

The Ooni was said to be the direct descendant of Oduduwa, who is a Yoruba god.

"We have been told to close to our businesses for seven days and stay indoors until the funeral is over," a resident of Ife said.

He told the BBC Hausa service that the restriction of movement was to respect the traditional rituals.

Traditional rulers, politicians and other dignitaries are expected to attend the ceremony.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed a committee to advise him on how best to tackle corruption and reform the legal system.

The seven-member Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption is mostly made up of academics.

Mr Buhari was elected in May, largely on a promise to tackle corruption.

He has said he believes government officials have stolen about $150bn (£96bn) from the public purse over the past decade.

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"The committee's brief is to advise the present administration on the prosecution of the war against corruption and the implementation of required reforms in Nigeria's criminal justice system," said presidential spokesman Femi Adesina.

However, Mr Adesina was unable to say when the committee would report back to the president with its recommendations.

A billboard reading 'We will not tolerate corruption' mounted by the leading opposition All Progressive Congress is seen along a Lagos highway on January 20, 2015.
Mr Buhari promised to take a tough line against corrupt officials during the election campaign

The BBC's Will Ross in Lagos says corruption is a massive drain on Nigeria's public finances and President Buhari's anti-corruption stance was a key factor in his election victory.

The difficult part will be ending a crooked culture deeply engrained in many government departments, our correspondent adds.

In a meeting with US President Barack Obama last month, President Buhari appealed for help in finding and returning government money he said had been stolen and was being held in foreign bank accounts.

Speaking on Monday, Mr Buhari criticised the way large loans had been diverted from the government projects for which they were intended.

Lagos, Nigeria - As much of the rest of the world geared up to celebrate winter holidays in December last year, a group of 54 soldiers formerly deployed to fight Nigerian Islamists stood in front of a court martial in Abuja. 

Among them, one young man listened in shock as the court found him guilty of mutiny and sentenced him to death by firing squad.

"We did not fire on anybody. And we didn't threaten anybody. They are just punishing us for an unknown sin," he explained over the phone from Lagos, where the soldiers are being held in military detention.

Their only "rebellion", he said, was to ask for weapons before undertaking an offensive against Boko Haram fighters who have caused the deaths of nearly 15,000 people during a six-years of fighting in Nigeria's northeast.

After almost eight months in custody, their panic is rising.

"Things are going as if we are not in the civilian regime any more," the soldier said, referring to previous periods of military rule.

"Soldiers were never sentenced like this before," argued Femi Falana, a human rights lawyer who represents the soldier and the 53 convicted with him.

In total, Nigeria sentenced 70 soldiers to death in 2014, in trials which were perceived by many as an attempt to shift blame for the failure to curb Boko Haram's bloody expansion

"They are being persecuted for the failure of the state," Falana stated.

Those convictions have contributed to a huge spike in the number of death sentences awarded in Africa's most populous nation.

Some 659 people were sentenced to hang or die by firing squad in 2014, Amnesty International found in a report earlier this year, compared with 141 the year before.

China is believed to sentence and execute thousands of people annually, but it keeps its data secret. In 55 countries tracked by Amnesty last year, Nigeria accounted for over a quarter of the total 2,466 death penalties handed out.

Chinonye Obiagwu, a lawyer who chairs Nigeria's Human Rights Agenda Network, explained that this is partly because Nigeria imposes a mandatory death sentence on non-heinous crimes like armed robbery. Adultery and sodomy are also punishable by death under the Islamic law in effect in the predominantly Muslim north.

"There is huge public support for the death penalty - about 65 percent," he explained from his Lagos chambers. Such sentiment may be boosted by feelings of insecurity over the course of the insurgency, Obiagwu added.

"When there is armed conflict there is always a tendency for the society to support capital punishment, not only for military offences but also for crimes like armed robbery. So armed conflict increases the possibility of conviction and sentence," Obiagwu said.

Punishing the poor

This worries activists who believe that the system is skewed to discriminate against the poor.

Police, looking to close cases quickly, regularly stage arbitrary raids, the activists told Al Jazeera.

The rich who are picked up can afford bribes, bail and lawyers. Those who cannot often bear the scars of brutal torture by security forces who extract confessions under duress.

Moses Akatugba, who was illegally sentenced to death as a minor in 2005, and is now free, was a victim of one such pick-up. Aged just 16 at the time of his arrest for armed robbery, he recalls being shot in the hand before being taken into police custody, where he was beaten and tied up in an interrogation room.

"They brought the statement and wanted me to say I was the one to write it, but I was not," he remembers. "In the same hand I was shot, they pulled out the nails with pliers. It was a hell of a thing I went through."

Justine Ijeomah of the Port Harcourt-based Human Rights Social Development and Environmental Foundation reckons that, like Akatugba, 90 percent or more of those on death row are poor.

"Politicians steal billions, increase poverty, and they are free," he raged from his modest office, where international awards lie gathering dust against the wall. "The victims are victims of a bad system created by corruption," Ijeomah said.

Fighting back

In reality, only a handful of men have been hanged since the return to civilian rule 16 years ago, the last of them in 2013, so most of those on death row will never be executed.

In part, that's because appeals processes can take years. But governors are also increasingly wary about the ramifications of signing death warrants.

The relatively liberal Lagos State bans executions by hanging or firing squad, and has a historical policy of commuting death sentences to life imprisonment, according to Ayo Obe, a lawyer who previously chaired an advisory committee on the exercise of the prerogative of mercy.

Delta State's former governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, pardoned 90 death row inmates in 2010, Ijeomah said, and later refused to sign a bill that applied the death penalty to kidnappers.

In May, the day before Uduaghan stepped down, he granted a pardon to Moses Akatugba.

The 54 condemned soldiers were heartened when the army announced this weekend that it would review their sentences.

Still, broad support for capital punishment makes a wholesale abolition impossible, Obiagwu argued.

"We also have some religious issues involved, for instance in the Muslim religion, challenging the death penalty can mean challenging the religion," he explained.

Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary for the new Nigerian government that has been in power since May 29, did not respond to calls and text messages on whether it would review Nigeria's death sentence.

Behind closed doors

For many of those behind bars, knowing that they will never actually hang is scant consolation.

As convictions clock up, the number of people on death row in Nigeria has ballooned to between 1,000 and 1,500, campaigners estimate. Appeals processes take years and case files can often be lost, condemning inmates to languish there indefinitely.

In Lagos' Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison, Shamuradeen Tunde Olukolu, a softly spoken death row inmate dressed in tattered traditional robes, describes his living quarters as "not conducive".

"We have six people in a cell of 8x9 feet," he said from the prison chapel, which unlike the cells is well-kept using money from charity.

There are no beds, and - at night - no toilet. "We just have to use a plastic bowl between 6pm and 8am," he said. "Sometimes, we just suffocate."

At 68, Olukolu doesn't know if he will see the outside of the compound ever again.

 

NIGERIA: That is a human being stripped naked and being beaten in a gutter by a soldier at Mararaba, Nassarawa state on Saturday August 8. What kind of inhuman treatment is this?

President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Ministry of Aviation to take over from Ghana, the management of the Nigerian airspace in the Gulf of Guinea.

The president also expressed concern about the absence of a national carrier and directed the ministry to look into the possibility of having one as soon as possible.

He gave the directive at the State House in Abuja yesterday while receiving a briefing from top officials of the ministry led by Permanent Secretary Hajiya Binta Bello.

The permanent secretary later told State House journalists that Buhari ordered her ministry to begin the process of securing the management of the Nigerian airspace which, she noted, Ghana had been managing since 1945.

The permanent secretary hinted that Togo and Benin Republic had equally concluded arrangements to take over their airspaces from Ghana.

"We've a directive by the president to start the process of securing the management of the Nigerian airspace over the Gulf of Guinea which Ghana has been maintaining since 1945, and there is a move on the ground by Togo and Republic of Benin to take over their own airspace from Ghana," she said.

Bello said the president also ordered the ministry to expedite action on the establishment of a new national airline for the country.

According to the permanent secretary, the president is worried that Nigeria does not have a national air carrier.

She said Buhari was told that domestic airlines were hugely indebted to regulatory agencies under despite the federal government's N300 billion intervention fund designed to boost their operations.

The permanent secretary expressed hope that the four state-of-the-art airport terminals being constructed with Chinese Bank loan would be ready by first quarter of next year.

Presidential spokesperson Femi Adesina later in a statement quoted Buhari as expressing concern about the enormous debt profile of the nation's aviation sector.

The president was also quoted as assuring that his government would act quickly to redress the situation.

Nigerian troops rescued 178 people from Boko Haram in attacks that destroyed several camps of the Islamic extremists in the northeast of the country, an army statement has said.
Spokesman Col Tukur Gusau on Sunday said that 101 of those freed are children, along with 67 women and 10 men.


The Nigerian Air Force reported killing “a large number” of militants in repelling an attack on Bitta village, 50 kilometres southwest of the army operations that took place around Bama, 70 kilometres southeast of Maiduguri city. Maiduguri is the birthplace of Boko Haram and the capital of northeastern Borno state.

The statements did not specify when the attacks occurred. Last week the army rescued 71 kidnapped people.
Hundreds have been freed from Boko Haram captivity this year but none of the 219 girls abducted in April 2014 from a school in Chibok were among the rescued.

The extremists distributed a new video on Twitter yesterday purporting to show attacks on Nigerian army barracks in the states of Borno and Yobe. The video also shows the beheading of a man in military fatigues said to be a Nigerian soldier.
According to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group, an unidentified fighter, shown in the video with looted army weapons and ammunition, says the footage shows Nigeria’s military has not forced Boko Haram from its positions and got them hemmed into the Sambisa Forest, as the military has claimed.

Some of those rescued last week said they had been held by Boko Haram for up to one year in villages just 40 kilometers from Maiduguri.

CAMEROON has deported over 2,000 Nigerians living in the country illegally as part of its crackdown on suspected Boko Haram militants as it steps up its fight against the terrorist insurgents.

With Boko Haram spreading its activities across the Lake Chad Basin region, Nigeria's neighbours Cameroon, Niger Republic and Chad have all intensified their fight against terrorism. They have all mobilised troops to fight the insurgents and joined the Multi National Joint Task Force put together to provide a unified front.


In addition, all of Nigeria's neighbours have also banned the wearing of the hijab as it is being used to smuggle explosives into populated areas. On Thursday, Cameroon took things a step further by rounding up about 2,500 Nigerians in Kousseri, in the far north of the country and deporting about 2,000 of them.

One source close to the regional authorities confirmed that more than 2,000 irregular Nigerians have been expelled from Kousseri. Mey Aly, an official from a local charity, said that most of the Nigerians had fled the atrocities of Boko Haram to take refuge in Cameroon.

Thursday's deportations came just a day after President Muhammadu Buhari visited Cameroon for talks on how to combat the escalating regional threat from Boko Haram. President Buhari and his Cameroonian counterpart Paul Biya pledged to strengthen cooperation between their two countries in the fight against the insurgents.


Cameroon's border post at Kousseri, which has been hit by two suicide attacks since June, occupies a strategic position, with just a bridge separating it from Chad’s capital N’Djamena. In an attempt to prevent further attacks, security has been beefed up in the area with troops drafted in to provide a physical presence.

One security source said: “With these attacks, the tone of the authorities has changed.

They have asked that foreigners, notably Nigerians and displaced people in the border areas go home.”

Some 300 Cameroonian children were also removed from their Koranic schools in Maroua and taken back to their villages on Friday. This is because the schools’ managers feared that insurgents could try to use them to mount suicide attacks.

Nigeria's military has imposed a curfew in the main north-eastern city of Maiduguri after a surprise attack by militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

Streets are deserted with markets, schools and hospitals shut in the densely populated city, reports say.

The army said the lockdown was ordered to protect lives and property.

Troops and vigilantes fought off the militants on Tuesday evening as they tried to enter Maiduguri, residents told the BBC.

This was their most serious attempt to enter the city since the military declared in March that it had recaptured all urban areas from Boko Haram, says BBC Nigeria analyst Aliyu Tanko.

Map of Nigeria showing Maiduguri

Boko Haram is linked to Islamic State, which is fighting for a global caliphate.

Maiduguri, a city of about two million people, is Boko Haram's former headquarters.

Pro-military vigilante leader Yusuf Sani told AFP news agency that six of his men were killed and 12 others were wounded when three female suicide bombers detonated their devices.

"The terrorists suffered serious casualties," he added.

An army statement said the curfew would remain in force for 24 hours and the "situation is firmly under control".

 

 

 

 

 

Boko Haram at-a-glance

Abubakar Shekau (February 2015)
  • Founded in 2002
  • Official Arabic name, Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad, means "People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad"
  • Initially focused on opposing Western education
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state
  • Designated a terrorist group by US in 2013
  • Declared a caliphate in areas it controlled in 2014
  • Most territory now recaptured by army
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