Jonathan appoints man once cited for Islamic fundamentalism as new IGP

Acting IGP Mohammed Abubakar
Controversy seems to be trailing the appointment of Mohammed Dikko Abubakar as Nigeria's new Inspector General of Police.

Abubakar's appointment has thrown up many posers instead of dousing fears over the nation's security as he had been in Plateau State crisis a year ago. The Justice Niki Tobi panel constituted in September 2001 by former Governor Joshua Dariye on the Jos crisis had recommended the retirement of Abubakar from the police force.

In a White Paper released in Jos, the panel suggested that Abubakar should be dismissed if he refused to retire.

The panel said: "Religious fanatics should not be posted to head state police commands. The commission recommends that for his ignoble role during the September 2001 crisis which resulted in the loss of lives, the former Commissioner of Police, Plateau State Command, Alhaji M.D. Abubakar, be advised to retire from the Nigeria Police Force and in the event of his refusal to do so, he should be dismissed from the service."

The Niki Tobi panel had reportedly indicted Abubakar, who is from Zamfara State, for alleged sponsorship of Islamist militant group when he was Commissioner of Police in Plateau State.

But a source said yesterday that the appointment of Abubakar as the Acting IGP was actually a testimony to his competent handling of the Jos crisis, his brilliance and respect for all parties in the Plateau crisis.

The Guardian gathered that a lot of consultations were made before the choice of Mohammed Dahiru Abubakar was made as the Police High Command boss.

It was unanimously agreed by the Federal Government that the person who should succeed Hafiz Ringim must be an operations man, therefore, the government combed the entire hierarchy of force and decided that Abubakar, who had distinguished himself in crises in various states should fit in into the office.

The Presidency was also said to have contacted veteran retired police officers like Mike Okiro, Parry Osayande and others who unanimously agreed on the choice of Abubakar. Also, traditional rulers including the Emir of Kano and the Oba of Lagos, a retired police officer himself  was said to have preferred Abubakar as IGP.

Until yesterday when he became the Acting Inspector General of Police, Abubakar was an Assistant Inspector General of Police.

President Goodluck Jonathan  who yesterday  approved the appointment of Abubakar as Acting IGP also relieved  six Deputy Inspectors General of Police of their jobs.

Presidential Spokesman, Reuben Abati, said in statement announcing the appointment of Abubakar that it "is a first step towards the comprehensive reorganisation and repositioning of the Nigeria Police Force to make it more effective and capable of meeting emerging internal security challenges."

Abubakar enlisted in the Nigeria Police Force on July 30, 1979. He was the AIG in charge of Zone 12 Headquarters in Bauchi, before his new appointment.

Source: Nigerian Guardian


"Dr Death" faces South Africa charges

Face of a killer - Wouter Basin (AP File)
A South Africa court has rejected an application by "Dr Death" Wouter Basson for a discharge on four charges of unprofessional conduct.
Dr Basson is charged with producing illegal drugs in the apartheid era.
As head of the military's chemical and biological warfare division, he is accused of creating viruses that would only attack black people.
The Health Professions Council (HPC) has ruled that he does have a case to answer.
He could lose his medical licence.
The HPC granted Dr Basson a discharge on two of the charges and part of a third charge against him, but ruled that the hearing on four remaining charges should continue later this year.
HPC professional conduct committee chairman Jannie Hugo said it could not be said that there was no evidence on which a reasonable man could convict Dr Basson.
The man dubbed Dr Death escaped a criminal conviction in 2002, arguing that he had acted under orders of the South African Defence Force (SADF).
He is now a cardiologist in Cape Town.
But the HPC is investigating whether he should be struck off the doctor's roll for providing soldiers with cyanide capsules.
He is alleged to have provided security forces cyanide to help them commit suicide, "weaponising" thousands of 120mm mortar bombs with teargas, and providing drugs that would disorientate SADF prisoners
Dr Basson brought an application saying no evidence of wrongdoing had been brought against him.
"I closed this chapter 20 years ago," he told reporters outside the hearing at the HPC offices in Pretoria last year.
"All I want is to continue serving the country as a medical professional," he said at the time.
The hearing will continue on March 27.
Dr Basson's attorney Wynanda Coetzee, said she was "satisfied" with the ruling but had not yet decided if he would testify, reports say.


Republicans vow to protect high school dropouts from Barack Obama

By Chris Moody | The Ticket

WASHINGTON -- High school dropouts, do not fear. The Republican Party will protect you from Barack Obama's efforts to keep you at your desk.

At his third State of the Union Address Tuesday night, the president challenged all states to ban children from dropping out of high school before they turn 18. "Tonight," Obama bellowed, "I am proposing that every state--every state--requires that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18."

Obama wasn't proposing a new federal program, but his use of the bully pulpit to tell local jurisdictions how to run their school districts was enough to make some Republicans, already sensitive to the increasing role of the federal government in education over the past few years, bristle.

"That's none of his business!" said Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee while speaking to reporters after the speech. "He's not a principal! He's not a public school teacher! He's not a governor, he's not a mayor. These are matters for state and local government."

Standing in Statuary Hall outside the House chamber, Lee, a senator whose rise to prominence was propelled by the tea party, went on to say that there was plenty in Obama's speech that made him want to scream, but he held his tongue.

"I did not want to be Joe Wilson!" Lee said. Meanwhile, Joe Wilson, who shouted "You Lie!" during a presidential address in 2009, was standing directly behind him, about three feet away.

Regulations on school attendance varies from state to state. Twenty states currently meet Obama's standards by restricting students from dropping out before they turn 18-years-old. Some states allow students to drop out at 16 with parental permission and others require an agreement from the school to let them go. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 8.1 percent of students nationwide dropped out of high school in 2009.

Other Republicans in the crowded hall, fed up with Obama's calls for a more intrusive federal system, lambasted the president for even making the suggestion.

"What are you gonna do, give them the electric chair?" asked Arizona Republican Trent Franks. "It should be handled on the parental level."

Phil Gingrey, a Republican from Georgia, agreed, saying students should have the right to leave if they want to.

"To require them to stay in high school to age 18, those who have absolutely no intention of getting an education or value an education are disrupting the other kids in class. I think it's just a government misguided run amok quote honestly," Gingrey said.

There was, however, one Republican willing to stand up for Obama's call: High school dropout Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

Issa, who left high school when he was 17-years-old to join the Army, took Obama's call to mean that the federal government should look into ways to encourage states to raise their age limits on dropping out, and he's fully behind it.

"I agree with him," Issa said. "The truth is that maintaining students from dropping out until they're 18, and every possible inducement, rather than getting rid of them at the first possible moment because they become a 'pest,' because perhaps they're not performing well. That could make a real difference in the level of education people get. Do I promote it? Yes."

"Leave no child behind?" he said. "That has a familiar ring to me as a Republican."


Nigeria analysis: "Things Fall Apart".... Can the center hold?

Nigeria President G.E. Jonathan
By Tim Cocks | Reuters
LAGOS, NIGERIA - "Nigeria is not Animal Farm!" read one placard brandished during days of furious fuel price protests by Nigerians which have combined with a violent Islamist insurgency to moveAfrica's top oil producer closer to what many fear may be a breaking point.
The same political vices of corrupt leadership and abuse of power which George Orwell skewered in his 1945 novella "Animal Farm" have corroded Nigeria's politics since independence from Britain in 1960. Angry popular backlash against these is fuelling the latest violence and unrest in the African continent's most populous state.
This anti-establishment fury brought Africa's second largest economy to a standstill last week. Citizens from all walks of life have taken to the streets after President Goodluck Jonathan's government announced on January 1 it would scrap a motor fuel subsidy, more than doubling fuel prices.
The volcano of public rage has erupted at the same time that a spate of bombings and shootings by a shadowy Islamist sect is threatening to fracture the country's sensitive north-south, Muslim-Christian divide. This religious faultline has caused sectarian conflict claiming thousands of lives in the past.
Some are now asking whether this dynamic but troubled country of 160 million, carved by colonial rulers out of a jigsaw of ethnic and religious groups, can still hold together or risks plunging again into all-out conflict and even break-up.
Many still remember the divisive 1967-1970 civil war over secessionist Biafra that killed over a million people and caused mass starvation, dislocation and suffering.
"As the ripples of incessant bombings and massacres resonate ... fear, anger and hatred have been woven into the very fabric of the nation's life," Soni Daniel, deputy editor of Nigerian daily Leadership wrote in an editorial on Saturday.
"Nigeria has never come as close to the brink of civil war," he added.
The nationwide fuel protests have become an outlet for thousands to vent their grievances against what they see as a venal ruling political class and incompetent government, which is struggling to tackle an insurgency by the Boko Haram Islamist sect based in the largely Muslim north.
"The bottom line is we don't trust the government to do what they say anymore," said student Remi Sonaiya, sitting on a car blaring out Afrobeat music in the heaving Nigerian metropolis of Lagos, while protesters thrashed an effigy of President Jonathan across the face with leafy branches.
Unions launched strikes against the fuel subsidy removal and these are estimated to be costing the country $600 million a day. They have also threatened to shut down Nigeria's 2 million barrel-per-day oil industry, rattling global energy markets.
Talks between Jonathan and labor unions on Saturday failed to reach a compromise, and the unions said the crippling strikes would resume on Monday. But the main oil union said it was not joining the walkouts for the time being.
Jennifer Giroux, senior researcher for the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH Zurich University, says the fuel prices issue is "a common rallying point ... A unifying issue that has had an immediate impact on the majority of Nigerians, most of whom are making $2 a day or less."
The crisis mood is a far cry from the cautious optimism that greeted Jonathan last April, when he won Nigeria's cleanest ever election on a pledge to fight graft, fix a crumbling power sector and attract investment into its huge oil reserves.
Then, foreign analysts saw a potential take-off for the economy if the former zoology lecturer could push through key reforms and take steps towards healing the north-south rift.
One such recommended reform was ending the fuel subsidy but the president's January 1 decision to remove it convulsed a country already shaken by a wave of Christmas attacks claimed by Boko Haram, including church bombings that killed dozens and stoked sectarian tensions.
Attacks have continued during the fuel protests. Targeting of minority Christians triggered reprisals by Christians on Muslims in the south, even though the majority of the two communities have shown in the past they can live in peace.
During fuel price protests in southwestern Benin City on Tuesday, five people were killed when a mob attacked a mosque, and 3,000 Muslims of northern origin fled.
Fears that the unrest and violence could degenerate into something even bigger seem to be gaining some traction.
"The situation we have in our hands is even worse than the civil war that we fought," Jonathan said in recent comments about the Boko Haram insurgency.
"During the civil war, we knew where the enemy was coming from. (Now) you won't even know the person who will point a gun at you or plant a bomb behind your house," he said, warning that Boko Haram members were in "all levels of government."
And in a recent interview with the BBC, Nobel prize-winning Nigerian author Wole Soyinka said the comparison with the traumatic Biafra war was "not unrealistic."
"We see the nation heading towards a civil war, we know that the (Biafra) civil war was preceded by serious killings by both sides of the regional divide, we've seen reprisals," he said.
"It is going that way, we no longer can pretend it's not. When you get a situation where a bunch of people can go into a place of worship and open fire through the windows, you've reached a certain dismal watershed."
Some question whether civilian Jonathan, who as vice president first took power in May 2010 when his predecessor Umaru Yar'Adua died, has the capacity to lead Nigeria out of its multi-headed crisis.
They worry that his miscalculation of the public mood over the fuel subsidy removal, and his slow reaction to the escalating Boko Haram insurgency suggest he may struggle.
"There are serious questions about how in control the president is, with some really poor decision making. Is Goodluck Jonathan really able to provide visionary leadership?" asked Alex Vines, senior fellow and Africa specialist at London think tank Chatham House.
"There seems to be just drift and indecisiveness."
A civil servant who works with Jonathan says privately that his style differs from the many military rulers that have often run Nigeria in the past. He listens, even lets people interrupt, which some in Nigeria's macho politics may see as a weakness.
The son of a canoe carver in the oil-rich Niger Delta, Jonathan studied zoology, in which he earned a doctorate, and worked as an education inspector, lecturer and environmental protection officer before going into politics in 1998.
He was northerner Yar'Adua's running mate in a shambolic election in 2007, but his campaign to run himself after Yar'Adua's death was controversial because of an informal pact within the ruling PDP party that the presidency should rotate between the north and the south.
As a southeast Christian, by running for the leadership he upset that rotation deal in the eyes of many northerners.
The early signs that Jonathan's first elected term as president would not be smooth came hours after he was sworn in on May 30. A series of bombings killed at least 14 people in a drinking spot inside a barracks in the northern city of Bauchi.
Most observers see a political element to the recurrent violence in the north, which analysts say is also rooted in anger - as with the fuel price protests - against the lack of economic opportunities caused by decades of poor governance.
Boko Haram's heartland in the remote, semi-arid northeast is one of the country's poorest regions, where a failed education system and youth unemployment have conspired to provide easy recruits for extremists.
Last year, Boko Haram attacks spread and even hit the capital Abuja, yet Jonathan's reaction has often appeared low-key. Some critics have faulted him for initially treating the insurgency as a purely security issue, rather than as something requiring a political settlement.
"He's eerily calm considering we could be weeks away from a major confrontation," said Africa Confidential editor Patrick Smith. "The absolute failure ... to wheel on southerners and northerners at the same time to say this is a national crisis and we have to pull together, is striking."
The biggest fear, Smith said, is that the army - whose upper ranks are all southern Christians, while junior officers and lower ranks are a mix of both from many geographical locations - could fracture if a section of it launches a mutiny.
There are already rumblings in the military, he said.
"The next big faultline is the army, and how well they stay together ... If it splits, that is this country's nightmare."
In addition, that fact that Jonathan is an Ijaw from the southern Niger Delta means that any attempt to unseat him by force - especially by a northerner - could trigger a backlash in the Delta by militants who have fought the government before.
A former Niger Delta warlords Mujahid Dokubo-Asari said this month that his people taking up arms to defend Jonathan against Boko Haram was "minutes away.
Despite the serious strains, many point out that Nigeria has often lurched from crisis to crisis but, at least since the Biafra war, has managed to avoid a total breakdown.
An armed uprising in the Niger Delta last decade - similarly driven by anger at the failure of politicians to deliver local services - lasted years and shut down almost half of Nigeria's oil and gas output at one stage. Nevertheless, Delta militants signed a peace deal with the government in 2009.
"The president can survive the dual crisis if he manages to keep the support of key political actors from the Parliament, the state governors and some sectors of the civil society," Gilles Yabi, West Africa Project Director of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank, told Reuters.
"I don't think that the level of radicalization and polarization that preceded the Biafra war can be easily reached today," he added.
Others feel however the country may have come to a crossroads. "Do things have to get either better or worse very quickly or can it just muddle along as it always has?" said Antony Goldman, who heads London-based PM Consulting.
Yabi said it was encouraging that the unions promoting the strikes had agreed to go into negotiations with the president.
Goldman noted that Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau did not specifically rule out talks in an otherwise defiant online video in which he defended recent killings of Christians as justifiable revenge attacks and said Jonathan had no power to stop the group's insurgency.
In his video, Shekau appears to echo popular complaints against dysfunctional established politics when he says "injustice is unbelief, democracy is unbelief and the constitution is unbelief."
Stephen Ellis, a historian at the Africa Studies Center at Leiden University in the Netherlands, sees Jonathan as a wily politician who has already shown he has the skills to operate in Nigeria's challenging politics, which he calls "a very rough business ... like a poker game ... or juggling chain saws."
Ellis makes the point that all the country's power brokers, including those in the restive North who may be pursuing their own agendas by using the Boko Haram insurgency to pressure southerner Jonathan, are dependent on the national oil income.
"If you are a member of the Nigerian elite, including those in the north, you need the Nigerian state to be in business," he says, a factor which could lead, as in the past since the Biafra war, to a fresh political accommodation that restores calm.
But tackling the deeply and widely embedded corruption that lubricates all levels of Nigeria's political system is a much tougher challenge in the long term.
"A really determined effort to stamp out corruption would itself be massively destabilizing. It can only be done gradually," Ellis said.
But until this happens, outbreaks of angry protests and violence are likely to recur in an energy-rich country that pumps 2 million barrels of oil a day with the help of oil majors like Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil, while its citizens face crumbling roads, abysmal public hospitals, chronic power shortages and an economy rigged in favor of powerful import oligarchs.
"Nigeria ... has been ruled by the same cult of mediocrity - a deeply corrupt cabal - for at least forty years, recycling themselves in different guises and incarnations," said famed Nigerian author Chinua Achebe in a recent interview with the Christian Science Monitor.
Achebe's acclaimed 1958 novel "Things Fall Apart" tells of social dislocation stemming from colonial rule and can be seen as a prescient foretelling of Nigeria's post-independence pains.
So any political deal may only buy some time before the next explosion of anger in a deeply fractured and unequal society.
"For ordinary people, it's become about everything that's wrong in Nigeria ... about tens of millions of people paying for the champagne lifestyle of dozens of people," Goldman said.


Xbox workers threaten suicide in China labor tiff

BEIJING, CHINA — Dozens of workers assembling Xbox video game consoles threatened to commit suicide by leaping from a factory dormitory in a dispute over compensation that was defused but highlights growing labor unrest as China's economy slows.
Workers said Thursday that colleagues at contract manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group's factory in Wuhan climbed to the top of the six-story building and made the suicide threat last week. The workers said their colleagues were angry after Foxconn said it was closing down the Xbox assembly line and reneged on compensation.
A government official talked them down. Foxconn, which makes iPads for Apple Inc.Xboxes for Microsoft Corp. and other gadgets, declined comment.
Strikes and other job actions have risen in recent months as factories cope with rising costs and declining orders.

Source: AP News


Mayor Bloomberg learning to code

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has resolved to take an online computer coding course.
The mayor is joining more than 180,000 people currently taking part in Code Year, a campaign to encourage more people to program.
"My New Year's resolution is to learn to code with Codecademy in 2012!" he wrote on Twitter.
Participants in the course receive an interactive lesson each week, via email.
The campaign promises that participants will be "building apps and websites before you know it".
It has proved a hit on Twitter with thousands using the hashtag "#codeyear".
It is not clear what Mr Bloomberg hopes to do with his new computer skills, but his decision to learn comes at a time of renewed interest in encouraging people to program.
Codecademy, the start-up behind Code Year, was launched in August of last year in response to the company founders' "frustrations" with learning how to program.
The US site offers free web-based tutorials in programming JavaScript.
More than six million lessons were completed within the first month of the site going live.
Codecademy co-founder Zach Sims tells Mashable. “It’s too awesome for words.”


Google further pads its portfolio with IBM patents

Google has gained hundreds of patents from IBM as it continues its intellectual property spending spree.

It has acquired 187 patents and 36 applications, adding to the 1,000 it purchased from IBM last summer.

The latest patents include a system for "using semantic networks to develop a social network".
Google has spent billions building its technology rights portfolio, including a $12.5bn deal for Motorola Mobility.

The California-based company has been actively bolstering its patent catalogue in the face of lawsuits from key competitors such as Apple and Microsoft.

Among the patents acquired in this latest deal is US Patent 7,865,592 which relates specifically to social networking sites, allowing "identifying common interests between users of a communication network".

Vicki Salmon, the chair of the litigation committee of the UK Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys, believed this might be a nod that Google was moving from protecting existing technology and beginning to plan for the future.

"When you start you have to play catch-up," she told the BBC.

"When you've finished playing catch-up and you've got yourself in a stronger position, you then can begin to look forward."

Other patents included a method for using web-based applications across additional devices, and an intriguingly titled computer phone.

Neither Google nor IBM would comment on the deal when approached by the BBC.

Last year, Google accused its competitors of buying up what it called "bogus patents" in order to slow the development of its Android operating system.

However, the company now appears to have succumbed to the same approach as it adds the IBM patents to a portfolio that also includes technology for driverless cars.

"Although you can object to a lot of cost of inconvenience by virtue of people enforcing their patents, the patent system still exists," Piers Strickland, a lawyer specialising in mobile telephone patent litigation, told the BBC....

"In order to engage with that you've either got to take licences from from people's patents, and/or aggressively increase your bartering position by buying patents.

"I think they've realised that they just had to get real, and understand that you can't just ignore the system."

Google's agreement to buy Motorola Mobility, announced in August last year, includes 24,500 patents, many of which could be used to defend the use of features on its Android mobile operating system.

The purchase is currently being reviewed by competition regulators.

Google's Motorola move came off the back of losing out on buying the 6,000-strong patent portfolio of bankrupt telecoms firm Nortel. It was outbid by a consortium of companies including Apple, Microsoft and Blackberry manufacturer Research in Motion.

"The reality is that you've got a fairly vicious turf war going on between the different operating systems," explained Ms Salmon.

"People want to be in there, and they want their platform established and people to be using them."

Google is just one of many technology companies involved in patent lawsuits which seek to slow down competition or strike lucrative licensing fee settlements.

On Wednesday, US mobile operator AT&T was forced to pay Tivo - the digital video recorder specialist - $215m plus additional undisclosed monthly licensing fees.

The fee will vary depending on AT&T meeting growth targets for digital video recording customers until 2018.

"No matter which projections you take, they all involve AT&T paying us significantly higher revenue than $215m," Tivo chief executive Tim Rogers said.

Source: BBC Technology News