An attack by al-Qaeda militants at a hotel in the West African nation of Burkina Faso left at least 23 people dead and highlighted the militants’ shift to striking capital cities in the region.
Burkina Faso’s military rescued at least 126 hostages from the Splendid Hotel, which is popular with foreigners, on Saturday after the siege. It was the second attack claimed by al-Qaeda since gunmen took more than 100 people hostage in November at the Radisson Blu hotel in the capital of neighboring Mali, killing dozens.
French special forces helped Burkina Faso’s army in the operation, Interior Minister Simon Compaore said by phone. Among the victims were people from 18 countries. Four of the militants, including two women, are dead, Army spokesman Guy-Herve Ye said. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, led by the one-eyed former Algerian soldier Mokhtar Belmokhtar, said it carried out the siege that began on Friday at about 7 p.m. local time.
The attack showed al-Qaeda’s growing ability to strike far from its traditional field of operations in northern Mali where it’s been fighting government troops, French soldiers and United Nations peacekeepers, backed by U.S. intelligence officials and special forces. President Francois Hollande has sent soldiers and fighter planes to former French colonies in Africa to repel the Islamists, whose attacks intensified in the semi-arid Sahel region with arms looted from Libya following the collapse of Muammar Qaddafi’s government in 2011.
“I think it’s just a matter of time, whether it’s in Abidjan, Accra, or Dakar,” Cynthia Ohayon, Burkina Faso analyst for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said by phone from Ouagadougou. “It happens in Paris and in Istanbul; it can happen anywhere.”
Roger Nikiema, a Burkinabe who was meeting friends at the Cafe Cappuccino in Ouagadougou, said they had just placed their order when the gunfire started.
“We all threw ourselves on the floor,” he said in an interview. “I was with six friends, three American girls and three guys. A bullet hit my arm and I have an injury there. I heard a female voice among the attackers.”
The latest attack came a day after al-Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia claimed to have killed 63 Kenyan soldiers in the southwest of the Horn of Africa country and two days after Islamic State said it carried out a gun-and-suicide bomb assault in central Jakarta, Indonesia.
As they did when they attacked the Radisson Blu in Mali, the militants said their latest raid was done in response to French intervention in the region that has led to the death of Muslims, according to a statement it sent to Mauritania’s al-Akhbar newspaper on Friday. AQIM disavowed Islamic State last week, saying the group’s caliphate in Syria is illegal and strays from the tenets of Islam.
“We killed 30 of the crusaders,” one of the attackers in Ouagadougou said in a recorded message sent to the newspaper. Al-Qaeda “will fight against France until the last drop of blood.”
AQIM and other militant groups stepped up their advance in northern Mali, a desolate, semi-arid area, after a coup by the army in 2012 created a power vacuum.
From its start in 2013, France’s military drive against the Islamists has expanded to almost 3,000 troops fighting militants from Mali to Niger and Chad, where the Nigerian group Boko Haram is active. AQIM’s Belmokhtar is believed responsible for the 2013 attack on a BP Plc plant in Algeria that left 38 dead.
Government officials in the region say militants and traffickers compete with each other to move drugs, goods and migrants through the Sahel and the Sahara, which is hard to patrol because of its desert-like temperatures and lack of roads.
Burkina Faso, Africa’s fourth-largest gold producer, has faced political instability in recent years. Formerly known as the Republic of Upper Volta, President Blaise Compaore was ousted in October 2014 after 27 years in power following widespread public demonstrations against him. A failed coup followed in September, and in November elections, Roch Marc Christian Kabore was voted into the presidency.
“The new government was appointed three days ago; the president took office two weeks ago,” said Ohayon of International Crisis Group. “There was a wave of optimism and this attack has dealt a huge blow to that. Burkina Faso serves as a symbol of progress in the region, because it’s an example of democratic consolidation and peaceful religious coexistence — and I think that’s what they want to destroy.”
As Abuja-Kaduna Train Service Resumes, FG pledges Security of Lives
The federal government of Nigeria has said the Abuja-Kaduna is set for resumption after being suspended for almost two months.
Spokesperson of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Yakubu Mahmood said in a statement on Monday that the “decision to resume operations by the government does not mean efforts to secure the safe release of those abducted would be shelved.”
“The government wishes to assure the relatives of the abducted citizens still in captivity that the safe rescue of these passengers is a top priority and not to misconstrue the resumption of train services, like abandonment or nonchalant attitude of the government towards their plight,” the statement reads.
“The federal government will never abdicate its responsibility in rescuing these valuable citizens, however, the government assures of its resolve not to succumb to threats by any faceless group.”
“The resolve to resume train services on the route was reached even as most of the kidnapped passengers are still held captive by abductors,” it added.
Relatives of the abducted passengers had warned the federal government against resuming operations along the route until their loved ones were rescued.
Earlier on Monday, reports have it that one of the kidnap victims of the train attack was freed by bandits on compassionate ground.
Eight passengers died in the attack, while over 60 people still remain with the kidnappers.
Lagos State Bans Okada in Six Local Councils, Nine LCDAs
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has banned the operations of motorcycles, otherwise known as Okada in six local councils and Nine LCDAs. This comes on the heels of the growing menace and nuisance constituted by the motorcyclists.
The directive was issued at a meeting in the State House in Alausa to the Commissioner of Police, Area Commanders, and Divisional Police Officers on Wednesday.
The six local councils listed by the governor are Ikeja, Surulere, Eti-Osa, Lagos Mainland, Lagos Island, and Apapa.
Effective from June 1, 2022, the Governor directed security operatives to enforce the proscription order across the listed councils. According to the Governor, the ban is indefinite and total.
Recall that about a year ago, Investors King reported Lagos Government’s plan to execute a complete ban on okada, Keke, and introduce their own mini-buses. While the introduction of mini-buses might not be the major factor for this ban, the aim still remained the same – to reduce the lawlessness and crime rate across the state.
Sanwo-Olu said the Government took the decision in line with the State’s Transport Sector Reform Law of 2018 to immediately address the chaos and menace created by the operations of Okada in the listed areas.
“After critical review of our restriction on Okada activities in the first six Local Government Areas where we restricted them on February 1, 2020, we have seen that the menace has not abated. We are now directing a total ban on Okada activities across the highways and bridges within these six Local Government and their Local Council Development Areas, effective from June 1, 2022.
“This is a phased ban we are embarking on this period, and we expect that within the short while when this ban will be enforced, Okada riders in other places where their activities are yet to be banned can find something else to do. We have given the notice now and we expect all commercial motorcycles plying the routes in the listed councils and areas to vacate the highways before enforcement begins. The enforcement will be total,” he said.
As a matter of fact, the Governor recommended residents who patronize Okada riders on highways to use the government’s alternative transportation initiatives to organize their journey. He stated that the government has rolled out Last Mile Buses, medium-capacity and high-capacity buses to commuters in the impacted districts.
After Six Years of Promise, Power Generation in Nigeria Hits Low Again
Despite promises made by President Muhammadu Buhari to provide Nigerians with 10,000 Megawatts of electricity in 2016, power generation still stands at 3,871MW.
Investors King gathered that the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) failed to allocate 1,357MW of electricity from a paltry 3, 871MW generated on Sunday to power distribution companies (DisCos).
In a data report generated by Punch from the division of TCN, Nigerian Electricity System Operator, nine DisCos out of 11 were on Sunday allocated a total of 2, 514MW, leaving 1,357 unallocated.
A breakdown of the allocation for Sunday showed that Abuja DisCo received a total of 289.92MW; Benin DisCo, 226.89; Eko DisCo, 377.31MW; while 251.89MW was allocated to Enugu DisCo. Ibadan DisCos got an allocation of 348.73MW while Ikeja DisCo received the highest load of 478.15MW.
Jos DisCos got the lowest allocation of 138.66MW, Kaduna DisCos received 201.68MW, while Kano DisCos got 201.68MW.
In the last two years, Nigeria’s power generation has been on a record low of not up to 4000MW. The DisCos have most times, dragged TCN for weak transmission lines, low allocation, liquidity gap and others. The TCN, on the other hand, sometimes accuses the DisCos of load rejection.
Although the country’s national grid has a 13,014.14MW capacity, the GenCos generate a meagre 7,652.6MW, while TCN has capacity to wheel 8,100MW.
Experts say Nigeria needs at least 30, 000MW electricity for its over 200 million population to reach sufficiency. The national peak forecast is 19,798MW.
The highest generation ever achieved was 5801.6MW, and that was two years ago.
In a relative situation, the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution (PHED) has decried the incessant attacks on its facilities in the four states under its jurisdiction.
The company said it was bothered by the recent damage of electrical facilities belonging to the Transmission Company of Nigeria in Cross River State. The Head, Corporate Communications, PHED, John Anonyai, in a statement released in Port Harcourt on Tuesday, stated that the damage caused blackouts in some parts of Calabar, the state capital.
The statement read: “The management of the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution (PHED) Plc uses this medium to express her displeasure over the incessant vandalism of electric power facilities in its franchise, particularly the recent case responsible for the power outage in Cross Rivers State.
“This shameful act of vandalism that has rocked Calabar and its metropolis occurred about a month ago and has completely deprived deserving customers access to electricity services across the state.
“Historically, this is not the first time that heartless vandals are targeting such facilities without fear of being caught or electrocuted despite the heavy radiation of power transmitted from the towers.
“Painfully, for every act of vandalism which interrupts service delivery abruptly, PHED is always held liable with different sides to the story without facts as we currently experience in Calabar over this incident.”
According to Anonyai, residents of Calabar had been enjoying relative supply before the black-out as opposed to the current falsehood peddled by a sect of unknown faces whose plan was to trigger an unwarranted backlash against the company.
“It is pertinent to give a clue that the vandalized facilities at Oku Iboku belong to the Transmission Company of Nigeria.
“This, notwithstanding, as a responsible company that values the needs and comfort of her esteemed customers particularly in times like this, the company has been collaborating with TCN to restore supply.”
“It is no longer business as usual as the company will explore every single regulatory window to ensure collections and will only resort to disconnection where customers have clearly demonstrated recalcitrance by disregard to repeated demand and reminders to pay their bills,” PHED Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Dr Henry Ajagbawa said in a statement.
“We therefore appeal to our esteemed customers to ensure they pay their bills as at when due while hands are on deck to ensure continuous supply of uninterrupted power to the people of Cross River State and other franchise areas,” he added.
With almost nine years of privatisation, the Federal Government said it had spent over N2tn on resolving decades of rot in the power.
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