Sculpture seized before Nigerian anti-oil activist’s execution anniversary

The "battle bus" was created by British-Nigerian artist Sokari Douglas Camp in 2006 in homage to the Nigerian anti-oil activist Ken Saro-Wiwa.

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The “battle bus” was created by British-Nigerian artist Sokari Douglas Camp in 2006 in homage to the Nigerian anti-oil activist Ken Saro-Wiwa.

It was supposed to be a homecoming.

Twenty years after Nigerian anti-oil activist Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed on drummed-up charges, groups in the U.K. and Nigeria teamed up to send a sculpture made in his honour to his hometown of Bori.

But when the work of art arrived at the port of Lagos in early September, it was seized by customs officers led by a member of the tribunal that condemned Saro-Wiwa and eight other indigenous activists to death so many years ago.

The incident is a reminder that while Nigeria may have gotten rid of its military dictatorship, the influence of the army and the oil industry remains very much present, said Suzanne Dhaliwal, a campaigner with the U.K. group Platform, which has been using the “battle bus” sculpture to increase awareness of the oil pollution left on indigenous Ogoni territory in southern Nigeria.

“The bus is a living accusation against the oil companies,” Dhaliwal said. “It has too much political value to be released.”

The full-sized steel bus, created by British-Nigerian artist Sokari Douglas Camp in 2006, carries oil barrels on its roof and is emblazoned with one of Saro-Wiwa’s most stark and enduring phrases: “I accuse the oil companies of practising genocide against the Ogoni.”

Its return to Nigeria was supposed to inspire youth in the oil-producing regions to hold their government and the oil companies to their promises to clean up the oil spills that have littered the area for decades, poisoning rivers and rendering farms barren. Instead, its seizure has served the same purpose.

“When the story went out, it went all over the Internet in Nigeria and there was a mass call for the bus to be released,” said Dhaliwal.

“The bus has become a symbol of the ongoing censorship of communities in Nigeria and it has also made explicit the links between the violence and corruption and the influence the oil companies . . . have in the region.”

Platform’s Nigerian partner, Social Action, has petitioned the government to release the bus and this week threatened to begin direct action protests in Ogoniland, the traditional lands of the Ogoni people.

“If the intervention at the national assembly fails, then we will only have one choice: to embark on a serious protest that would cripple the economy of the entire state,” said Social Action member Celestine Akpobari.

This is the same kind of non-violent civil disobedience that Saro-Wiwa and his supporters used in the 1990s to pressure Shell to share the wealth produced in Ogoniland with the Ogoni people and to clean up the spills affecting their health.

Akpobari says Saro-Wiwa’s struggle isn’t over because the pollution and poverty he railed against are still present. While Shell has shut down its operations in Ogoni territory, its pipelines still pass through the area and locals say they continue to rupture.

“It’s both in the water and on the land. But people have no choice. So they have to drink this polluted water, even when they see oil on it. As for the soil, it is completely dead. It can no longer support a harvest,” said Akpobari. “Our means of livelihood have been destroyed.”

In 2011, the UN Environmental Programme found that decades of oil spills have seeped into the ground, so that even where the surface appears unaffected, the soil underneath is “in reality severely contaminated.” The agency recommended that the Nigerian government and oil companies set up a $1-billion fund to pay for environmental restoration, something that has yet to see the light of day.

This month, Amnesty International released a report documenting what it calls “half-hearted clean-up attempts.”

Shell has also been targeted by several lawsuits, brought by the families of the victims of violence in the region in the 1980s, as well as those who live there now and continue to be affected by pollution.

Without admitting fault, Shell settled the suits for a combined total of almost $100 million (U.S.).

On its website, the company acknowledges that it was accused of being a “collaborator” with the military government and inflicting “environmental despoliation” on local populations.

“Shell has since strived to follow a policy of demonstrating its community of interests and reciprocal good feeling with both the governments and the local populaces it deals with,” it states.

Two decades after his hanging, Saro-Wiwa’s name continues to serve as a rallying cry for environmentalists and indigenous groups around the world, from Idle No More to the opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Or as his son, Ken Wiwa, put it: “We may finally be arriving at a tipping point in the carbon economy, and perhaps one day my father’s story will be more than a footnote in that history.

Lawsuit targeting new sex offender law is tossed out

Indiana judge dismissed ACLU suit, after attorneys for the state said two men could still attend services at churches that owned parochial schools on the same grounds.

A new Indiana law that bans many sex offenders from venturing onto school property doesn’t prevent most from worshiping at churches that house schools on their grounds, attorneys in a recently dismissed lawsuit say.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana had sued officials in northern Indiana’s Elkhart and Allen counties in July, contending that the new law wrongfully barred two registered sex offenders from attending church services. Because the men go to churches that have parochial schools on their grounds, the lawsuit said, they feared arrest if they continued to worship or take part in church events.

However, attorneys for the state said the men could keep going to church because the tougher restrictions don’t apply in either of their cases. With that determination in hand, the ACLU of Indiana and the state’s attorneys jointly sought the suit’s dismissal last month, and an Elkhart County Superior Court judge dismissed it Oct. 22.

In the joint motion, the state said it determined that “for a church to be ‘school property,’ the church building or other structure must be owned or rented by a private school.”

But in the men’s case, ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk said Wednesday, and “in 99.9 percent of all situations in Indiana, it’s the church or the religious institution that owns the property.”

Sex offenders would only be barred from worshiping at a church with a school on its property if the school — not the church — owned the property, he added.

The complaint was “without merit” because the law doesn’t “prohibit the plaintiffs from attending or worshiping” at their churches, said Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for Indiana’s attorney general’s office, which represented county officials in the suit.

The lawsuit also argued that the new sex-offender law presented an unjustified burden on the men’s religious liberties under Indiana’s new “religious freedom” law, which also took effect in July. But because Indiana’s attorneys found that the sex-offender law does not bar the men from attending church services, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was not triggered.

State high court to hear case expanding domestic violence law to unwed same-sex couples

Attorney General Alan Wilson holds a yearly ceremony to recognize those killed by domestic violence. The South Carolina Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that could expand the domestic violence law enacted in the last legislative session to same-sex couples.
Attorney General Alan Wilson holds a yearly ceremony to recognize those killed by domestic violence. The South Carolina Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that could expand the domestic violence law enacted in the last legislative session to same-sex couples.

COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s high court will hear a case seeking to expand the state’s new domestic violence law to cover unwed same-sex couples..

The request for a hearing was filed in August by attorneys Bakari Sellers and Alexandra Benevento on behalf of a woman who was denied a protection order by a Richland County court after being hit and choked by her ex-fiancee.

The state’s domestic violence law, as written, does not apply to a man or woman who is battered by a partner of the same sex if they aren’t married. Victims are defined in the law as a “household member” who is a spouse, a former spouse, persons who have a child in common or a male and female who are cohabiting or formerly cohabitated.

Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office, which would defend the law, will have 30 days to respond to the complaint. Several briefs and responses will likely be filed before justices hear arguments, possibly by January.

Wilson’s office was closed for Veterans Day and could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

South Carolina has long-ranked first or near the top as the deadliest state for women at the hands of men while the Legislature ignored the death toll documented last year in The Post and Courier’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series “Till Death Do Us Part.” But those statistics probably didn’t include the victims of same-sex relationships because they’re not covered under the law, Sellers said.

“When the Legislature makes laws, which, either intentionally or unintentionally are discriminatory, we have an opportunity to right a wrong,” Sellers said. “The fact that we had a bill that was signed into law in 2015 but didn’t take into account homosexual relationships is a problem.”

Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, who authored the new domestic violence law that increases penalties for both one-time abusers and frequent offenders, said the exclusion of same-sex couples was not an “intentional slight.” Lawmakers were simply working off the law that was already on the books.

“It’s not like we made a conscious policy decision to exclude anybody,” Martin said. “We were just attempting to address the underlying domestic violence law in the same manner in which it had previously applied.”

Martin lamented that Sellers, who served eight years in the South Carolina House before giving up his seat to run unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2014, wasn’t in the Legislature this year when the domestic violence law was being written and debated.

If he had been, Martin said, Sellers could have sought to amend the bill rather than now having to go to court to seek an expansion that potentially could undermine the whole law.

But Attorney John Nichols — who last year represented a married same-sex couple with three children who sought the same legal rights for their family as straight couples — said the Supreme Court could issue a ruling that leaves the law intact but redefines victims to include same-sex partners.

That, he said, would enable the woman to go back to Family Court to obtain a protective order.

“The reason the domestic violence law expands its reach beyond married couples is to accept the reality that a lot of folks live together,” Nichols said. “This statute … does not acknowledge that same-sex couples can be in a marriage-like relationship.”

Key question in immigration court fight: Is Obama enforcing deportation laws or changing them?

When President Obama unveiled his plan to help as many as 5 million immigrants “come out of the shadows,” the White House insisted it was not rewriting law but merely exercising “prosecutorial discretion” to decide who should be deported first.

That argument ran off the rails in the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals this week when conservative judges sided with Texas and upheld an order blocking Obama’s plan from taking effect.

Despite protests from the president’s lawyers, judges portrayed Obama’s latest executive action on illegal immigration as a major change in the law and one not approved by Congress.

It “would extend lawful presence to millions of illegal aliens on a class-wide basis,” said Judge Jerry Smith, and “affirmatively confer” a “host of federal and state benefits,” including a Social Security pension and Medicare hospital coverage.

The decision sets the stage for another highly partisan battle in the Supreme Court, with Texas and 25 other Republican-led states on one side and Obama and the Democratic-led states, including California, on the other.

The president’s lawyers may face an uphill fight in the high court, where some justices have voiced skepticism over Obama’s bold use of executive authority. Twice, the court has upheld Obama’s healthcare law against conservative challenges, but in those cases, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. cast a key vote to preserve a liberal law that had won approval in Congress.

In the immigration area, by contrast, Obama has no new law to defend. A bipartisan reform measure died when House Republicans refused to take up a Senate bill that had won passage on a 68-32 vote. Only then did a frustrated Obama announce his executive action to “help make our immigration system more fair and just.”

Going forward, the key question will be: Is the president enforcing the immigration laws or changing them?

In public statements and legal briefs, Obama’s aides describe their immigration initiatives as limited and temporary. No one is offered “rights” or a “path to citizenship.” They speak of “case-by-case” determinations involving individuals, not changes that affect whole categories of people. They describe their policy with the phrase “deferred action,” a term used in immigration law to mean the government had decided to put off the deportation of someone who could be sent home.

It’s a power Obama and past presidents have used before. In 2012, the Department of Homeland Security announced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, to offer a temporary lawful status to as many as 1.2 million people who were brought to this country illegally as children. This policy did not face a strong challenge in court, in part because these immigrants could not be accused of deliberately violating the law when they crossed the border.

But last year, when the president and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced the much larger Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, or DAPA, lawyers for Texas and 25 other states filed a suit to block the program. The president’s plan also included an expansion of DACA that could affect several hundred thousand additional immigrants.

Experts in immigration law knew the administration was skating near the edge when it announced changes that would affect as many as 5 million immigrants who were living in the U.S. illegally. On the one hand, they said, the law had always given the executive branch the authority to decide whom to deport and to set priorities, such as focusing on those with criminal records.

But as Judge Smith saw it, the DAPA order went far beyond that by saying the government would not seek to deport immigrants who had lived with their American children for many years in the United States. His opinion was joined by Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod, also a Republican appointee.

Judge Carolyn Dineen King, a Democratic appointee, dissented and described the new policy in a quite different way. “DAPA is merely a general statement of policy,” she said. It does not guarantee anything to anyone, she said.

Solicitor Gen. Donald Verrilli Jr., Obama’s top courtroom lawyer, is expected to file an appeal in the Supreme Court soon and urge the justices to rule on the case by June.

Early this year, Obama’s lawyers hoped to get the Texas case thrown out on the grounds that the state had suffered no injury and therefore had no standing to sue. But U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen in Brownsville, Texas, said that the state could be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to help cover the cost of driver’s licenses for nearly half a million immigrants in Texas, and that was a sufficient injury. He then issued a national order blocking Obama’s plan from going into effect, an aggressive use of his judicial power.

The 5th Circuit panel affirmed his decision this week, and it did so by relying on a liberal precedent from an environmental case.

A decade ago, environmentalists were upset that the George W. Bush administration was not taking action against global warming, and a coalition of “blue states” led by Massachusetts and California sued, alleging a failure to fully enforce the Clean Air Act. The key question was whether these states could claim they had an injury that gave them standing.

In Massachusetts vs. Environmental Protection Agency, the court by a 5-4 vote ruled for the blue states and said they had standing because rising seas could take away parts of their beachfronts. Chief Justice Roberts sharply dissented.

In this week’s opinion, Smith repeatedly cited the Massachusetts case as confirming that Texas had standing to challenge the Obama administration for not enforcing the laws against illegal immigration.

Immigration law scholars who have supported the administration believe Obama’s executive actions will be upheld in the end. The 5th Circuit ruling “flies in the face of several Supreme Court precedents granting the executive branch broad, almost unlimited, power on immigration issues,” Cornell law professor Stephen Yale-Loehr said.

Three years ago, the high court ruled for the Obama administration and against Arizona in a federal-state battle over immigration. In a 5-3 decision, the court said the state was not free to use its police to make immigration arrests. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy explained that U.S. law gives federal officials “broad discretion” in handling deportations, an argument Obama’s lawyers are sure to repeat in their appeal to the high court.

Verrilli’s first task, however, will be to win a quick hearing. If the justices vote to take up the case by January, it will be decided by the summer, which could give Obama’s team time to put the policy into effect. But a delay could push the case to the fall, which could leave the 5th Circuit’s order in place until the president leaves office.

Babysitter married Nigerian illegal immigrant in sham wedding to help him stay in UK

Emma Louise Evans, 34, confessed to taking part in a ‘marriage of convenience’ with Kazeem Kolade at Blackburn Register Office in July 2012

A babysitter could face jail next month after she faked a marriage to a Nigerian illegal immigrant so he could stay in the UK.

Emma Louise Evans, 34, confessed to taking part in a ‘marriage of convenience’ with Kazeem Kolade at Blackburn Register Office in July 2012.

Burnley Crown Court heard the sham marriage was later annulled so that Evans could genuinely marry her partner Stephen Akinseye, 45, in January the following year.

Initially Evans was accused of two suspected sham marriages – the first to Kolade and the second to Mr Akinseye – as well as a third charge of bigamy .

The court heard defence counsel Mark Stuart was able to produce a divorce certificate, after making inquiries with the Nigerian High Commission, to prove that the first ‘wedding’ had been annulled.

Cavendish Press Emma-Louise Evans outside Burnley Crown Court
Defendant: Emma-Louise Evans outside Burnley Crown Court

Now prosecutors have accepted the second marriage was neither bigamous nor fake and dropped the second sham marriage allegation.

Requesting a pre-sentence report for Evans, Mr Stuart said: “The defendant is a lady of good character.”

Evans, of Burnley, Lancs, will be sentenced for the one count of taking part in a marriage of convenience on December 9.

Adjourning the case, Judge Harry Narayan told her: “All sentencing options, including a custodial sentence, remain open to the court.”

The court was not told of the whereabouts of Kolade – or whether he has now been booted out of Britain.

Cavendish Press Emma-Louise Evans outside Burnley Crown Court
Court: Evans will be sentenced on December 9

Last year a senior Government official warned that sham marriages are a “massive loophole” in Britain’s border controls and amount to a “golden ticket” into the country for immigrants.

John Vine, the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, highlighted serious failings in the way officials are attempting to combat bogus marriages.

His report found evidence it could be a “growing problem”, but intelligence on the true picture was “lagging behind”.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Registrars have a duty to report suspected sham marriages to the Home Office.

“We are working more closely with the General Register Office to increase awareness and improve the national response.”

Nigerian in court over indescent assault charge

A 25 year old Nigerian who is accused of ‘struggling’ with a girl in his bid to have sex with her has appeared before an Accra Circuit Court.

Ike Ebunogo, charged with indecent assault, has pleaded not guilty.

Ike has been admitted to bail in the sum of GH¢8,000.00 with a surety to reappear on December 2 before the court presided over by Mrs Abena Oppong Adjin-Doku.

Prosecuting Detective Inspector Kofi Atimbire told the court that the victim is a 15 year old Junior High School graduate who lives with her grandmother at Abossey Okai.

According to Inspector Atimbire, the accused person also lives at Abossey Okai but has moved to Agbogboloshie.

Somewhere this year, prosecution said the victim went to church and was returning home when accused saw her and called her but the victim ignored him.

Prosecution said the following day, the victim went to buy food and accused saw her and he gave his mobile phone number out, saying he wanted her to be his friend.

Based on that, the prosecutor said the two became friends and the victim invited the accused person to church on two occasions.

When Ike moved to Agbogboloshie, he invited the victim to visit him in order to know where he is staying.

On October 23, this year, prosecution said in the morning, the accused called the victim on her phone to meet him at an area known as Sikkens and she obliged.

Prosecution said Ike who managed to lure the victim into his room and locked same and forcefully removed the victim panty and indecent assaulted her by struggling with her in order to have sex with her.

According to prosecution, the victim shouted for help and bit the accused chest. A rescuer who went to stand in front of accused person’s room could not enter because the room was locked.

Detective Inspector Atimbire said the victim managed to open the door and a mob caused his arrest and escorted him to Old Fadama Police station.

The case was however transferred to the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit, Accra.

Nigeria finally gets cabinet ministers

Nigeria finally gets cabinet ministers

ABUJA: Nigeria finally got a new government after more than five months of waiting, as 36 ministers and junior ministers swore the oath of allegiance and were assigned formal roles on Wednesday.
The ceremony at President Muhammadu Buhari’s official residence in the capital, Abuja, brought to an end 166 days in which he has effectively been in sole charge of Africa’s leading economy.
Buhari described the appointments as a “milestone” and indicated it had taken so long to decide because of the need to put “round pegs in round holes” with the right people for the job.
“I have been conscious of the need not to repeat the mistakes of the past,” he said, adding the ministers had been chosen on the basis of their abilities and performance.
As expected, Buhari, who has been seeking to streamline government and cut endemic corruption, slashed the number of ministries from 36 to 24, making some nominees only junior ministers.
He confirmed he would take charge of the oil portfolio.
The head of the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Ibe Kachikwu, will be his deputy and responsible for overseeing the day-to-day running of the sector.
Kemi Adeosun, a former investment banker and accountant who recently served as finance commissioner in the southwestern state of Ogun, was appointed finance minister.
She faces a battle to get Nigeria’s crude-dependent economy back on track, with government revenues hit hard since last year by the global slump in oil prices.
GDP growth is currently running at just 2.35 per cent, while inflation is creeping towards 10 per cent and the naira currency is weak.
Buhari is keen to diversify the economy of Africa’s number one oil producer, boosting investment in agriculture, manufacturing and mining.
Since taking office on May 29, he has given priority to the fight against Boko Haram, whose insurgency has left at least 17,000 dead and made more than 2.5 million people homeless since 2009.
The defence portfolio was handed to retired Brigadier-General Muhammad Mansur Dan-Ali, who was preferred to former army chief Abdulrahman Dambazau, who was appointed interior minister.
Intellectual property lawyer Geoffrey Onyeama was appointed foreign minister.
Former Lagos state governor Babatunde Fashola was handed power, works and housing while the former Rivers state governor Rotimi Amaechi got transport.
Fashola and Amaechi are both political heavyweights in Buhari’s governing All Progressives Congress (APC) party.
The latter served as Buhari’s campaign manager during elections in March.
The lack of ministers since May left Nigeria in political limbo and created uncertainty in the business world.
“Political stasis has bred economic stasis, through cargoes stranded at ports, an uncertain investment climate and delayed spending decisions,” Michael Famoroti, editor-in-chief of Nigeria business, economy and finance analysts Stears, said.
“Too many parts of the economy have stalled as economic agents await government clarity,” he said in an email.
But with the new ministerial line-up announced, it is hoped a clearer picture should emerge of the government’s direction.
Dawn Dimowo, of political consultancy the Africa Practice, said Adeosun and the new budget and national planning minister, Udo Udoma, would likely work together.
“APC campaign rhetoric had made it clear there will be a renewed focus on national planning,” she said.
“This is going to be as important as finance, and it makes sense, so that planning is better aligned to the budget,” she added.
Fashola faces the daunting task of translating his relative success in Lagos to the national stage, with Nigeria badly in need of decent infrastructure and particularly power.
Buhari had been running Nigeria with just permanent secretaries (senior civil servants) at government ministries, opening the former military ruler up to opposition charges of autocracy.
The new cabinet is made up of technocrats and political appointees from each of Nigeria’s 36 states.
Last weekend, lawyer Aisha Alhassan, who was appointed minister for women, won a challenge at an election tribunal to her defeat at governorship polls in April.
She has indicated she will take up the post in eastern Taraba state, becoming Nigeria’s first female state governor in the country’s 55 year independent history.— AFP