The man who brokered the deal to release the Chibok girls

Lawyer Zannah Mustapha, mediator for Chibok girls, speaks during an exclusive interview with Reuters in Abuja, Nigeria May 8, 2017.Image copyright REUTERS

In our series of letters from African journalists, novelist and writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani profiles the lawyer who brokered the release of 82 women captured by Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

When 57-year-old Zannah Mustapha arrived for the handover of the 82 Chibok girls freed from Boko Haram after three years in captivity, a militant read out the girls’ names from a list.

One by one, the abducted schoolgirls, now women, lined up along the outskirts of a forest near Kumshe town, on the border between Nigeria and Cameroon. Each of them was covered from head to ankle in a dark-coloured hijab.

“I went ahead of the Red Cross. They [the militants] brought the girls to me,” said Mr Mustapha, the lawyer from Borno state in north-east Nigeria.

Mr Mustapha says the girls started singing for joy when they got into Red Cross vehicles

He has been mediating between the government and militants for the release of the Chibok girls and for an end to the Boko Haram insurgency.

In 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari told the media that his government was willing to negotiate with “credible” leaders of Boko Haram for the release of the girls.

More than 200 of them were abducted a year earlier from the north-eastern town of Chibok, sparking global outrage.

Previous attempts had failed, with different groups coming forward, each claiming to be the militants in possession of the missing schoolgirls.

It was Mr Mustapha who succeeded in convincing the Nigerian authorities that this particular group should be taken for what they say, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu told me.

The freed women will now have to rebuild their lives

“He had dealt with them in the past and they keep to their word,” he said.

Mr Mustapha’s role as a mediator dates back to his founding the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School in 2007, to provide free Islamic-based education to orphans and the poor.

When the Boko Haram insurgency erupted in 2009, the school offered admission to the children of soldiers and government officials killed by the militants, as well as those of militants killed by the state.

The 82 met the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari after they were rescued

Mr Mustapha then sought the assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which began providing free meals to the pupils.

He also encouraged parents to form an association which would reach out to other widows and convince them to send their children to his school.

The ICRC soon extended its humanitarian services to the mothers, providing them free food and other items every month.

“This was at a time when the wives of Boko Haram militants were being arrested and their houses demolished, so Boko Haram saw me and the ICRC as neutral parties,” Mr Mustapha said.

During the previous government of President Goodluck Jonathan, former President Olusegun Obasanjo visited Maiduguri, the epicentre of the insurgency, to intervene in the escalating crisis.

He then set up a group to discuss peace with Boko Haram. Mr Mustapha was included in it because of the relationship he had forged with the families of Boko Haram militants.

After the Swiss ambassador to Nigeria paid a visit to the Future Prowess school in 2012, he arranged for Mr Mustapha to go to Zurich and Geneva to receive formal training as a mediator.

“We were already trying to negotiate peace with Boko Haram before the Chibok girls were kidnapped,” Mr Mustapha said.

The initial negotiation was for a batch of 20 Chibok girls to be released.

But, as a sign of commitment to their relationship, Boko Haram added an extra woman, whom Mr Mustapha said was their gift to him, hence the number 21.

The kidnapping provoked global outrage in 2014 including from Michelle Obama

When they were released in October 2016, she was chosen by Boko Haram to read out the names of the other 20 women from a list.

Mr Mustapha said the 21 women were lined up and asked by Boko Haram militants if they had been raped. They all said they were not.

When a militant approached a woman who was carrying a baby, she said that she was pregnant at the time of her abduction, having got married a few weeks earlier.

The baby girl in her arms, she said, was her husband’s child.

For some reason, Boko Haram, a group that has cultivated a reputation for brutality, wanted it to be known that it was only after the women “agreed” to get married that the militants had sexual relations with them.


Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani:

“I felt that I have done something that is worth saying to the world that I have done this,” Mr Mustapha said.


This process of lining up the women, pointing at each one and asking the same question, was repeated at the beginning of May when 82 more women were released.

One of about seven Boko Haram militants, who accompanied them, went from woman to woman asking: “Throughout the time you were with us, did anyone rape you or touch you?” Mr Mustapha said, adding that each of them replied in the negative.

None of the second batch of 82 captives came with a child.

But one had an amputated limb and was walking with crutches, an injury she sustained, according to what Mr Mustapha was told, during Nigerian military air strikes against Boko Haram.

‘They all ran’

“You are free today,” Mr Mustapha announced to the 82 women after all the names were called out.

“They all smiled,” he said.

He believes that their subdued reaction was as a result of the presence of the militants, all armed with guns, some wearing army camouflage uniforms and boots.

Mr Mustapha then took some photographs with the women. The militants also had their video camera on hand and recorded the event. ICRC vehicles eventually arrived.

“When I told them to go to the cars, they all ran,” Mr Mustapha said. “Immediately they entered the vehicles, they started singing for joy. Some shed tears.”

Mr Mustapha has received a number of accolades for his work with Future Prowess School. He was a finalist for the 2016 Robert Burns humanitarian award, given to those who have “saved, improved or enriched the lives of others or society as a whole, through self-sacrifice, selfless service, hands-on charitable or volunteer work, or other acts”. He was also given a 2017 Aurora Prize Modern Day Hero award, for those whose “life and actions guarantee the safe existence of others”.

However, he described handing over the 82 freed girls to the Nigerian government as “the highest point in my life”.

“I felt that I have done something that is worth saying to the world that I have done this,” he said.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa

Unmasking Zannah Mustapha and The 82 Freed Chibok Girls

BBC, London:

Zannah Mustapha has been mediating between the government and militants for the release of the Chibok girls and for an end to the Boko Haram insurgency.

In 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari told the media that his government was willing to negotiate with “credible” leaders of Boko Haram for the release of the girls.

More than 200 of them were abducted a year earlier from the north-eastern town of Chibok, sparking global outrage.

Previous attempts had failed, with different groups coming forward, each claiming to be the militants in possession of the missing schoolgirls.

It was Mr Mustapha who succeeded in convincing the Nigerian authorities that this particular group should be taken for what they say, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu told me.

57-year-old Zannah Mustapha arrived for the handover of the 82 Chibok girls freed from Boko Haram after three years in captivity, a militant read out the girls’ names from a list.

One by one, the abducted schoolgirls, now women, lined up along the outskirts of a forest near Kumshe town, on the border between Nigeria and Cameroon. Each of them was covered from head to ankle in a dark-coloured hijab.

“I went ahead of the Red Cross. The militants brought the girls to me,” said Mr Mustapha, the lawyer from Borno state in north-east Nigeria.

Mr Mustapha’s role as a mediator dates back to his founding the Future Prowess Islamic Foundation School in 2007, to provide free Islamic-based education to orphans and the poor.

When the Boko Haram insurgency erupted in 2009, the school offered admission to the children of soldiers and government officials killed by the militants, as well as those of militants killed by the state.

bk1

During the previous government of President Goodluck Jonathan, former President Olusegun Obasanjo visited Maiduguri, the epicentre of the insurgency, to intervene in the escalating crisis.

He then set up a group to discuss peace with Boko Haram. Mr Mustapha was included in it because of the relationship he had forged with the families of Boko Haram militants.

After the Swiss ambassador to Nigeria paid a visit to the Future Prowess school in 2012, he arranged for Mr Mustapha to go to Zurich and Geneva to receive formal training as a mediator.

“We were already trying to negotiate peace with Boko Haram before the Chibok girls were kidnapped,” Mr Mustapha said.

The initial negotiation was for a batch of 20 Chibok girls to be released.

But, as a sign of commitment to their relationship, Boko Haram added an extra woman, whom Mr Mustapha said was their gift to him, hence the number 21.

Source: NTA

This Refugee Is Building 25 Permanent Homes From Recycled Plastic Bottles

By Phineas Rueckert| 

https://www.instagram.com/p/25dDJDvKH5/embed/?cr=1&v=7#%7B%22ci%22%3A0%2C%22os%22%3A135157%7D

It is a common proverb that “necessity is the mother of invention,” and in Algeria, one refugee is showing the truth behind this saying.

Tateh Lehbib is an engineer and a Sahrawi refugee. At 28, Lehbib has been a refugee his entire life, one of more than 165,000 Sahrawis displaced from their native Morocco by the Western Saharan War that began in 1975. The majority of the Sahrawis now live in five encampments in southern Algeria.

The idea to build plastic bottle homes came out of Lehbib’s desire to provide shelter for his grandmother in a desert region that can get hotter than 110 degrees Fahrenheit and is also susceptible to heavy rain.

“I wanted her not to suffer so much from the heat, and to lead a better, more comfortable life,” he told the Middle East Eye.

The first of his shelters was made from 6,000 plastic bottles, which are filled with sand and straw, layered one on top of the other, and held together with cement mix. The plastic bottles are then covered with an additional layer of cement and limestone and painted white to reduce the impact of the sun’s rays.

According to the Middle East Eye, these structures cost about one-quarter of what it would cost to build a similar structure from mud-brick, which can cost up to €1,000 to construct. And they are 20 times more resistant, Lehbib emphasized.

The positive environmental impact of these structures is not to be ignored. At 6,000 bottles per structure and with 25 structures being built, thanks to a grant from the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, the initiative will recycle around 150,000 plastic bottles in total. That’s 150,000 plastic bottles that won’t end up in landfills, or in the world’s oceans, into which between 5 and 13 million metric tons of plastic already end up each year.

The initiative is also providing employment and education opportunities for some of the youth in the five Sahrawi camps, ThinkProgress reports, and inspiring others to get involved in collecting and reusing bottles.

“My son Alwali, a shepherd, wants to construct a similar one in the countryside of Western Sahara,” one woman told ThinkProgress.

Lehbib, for his part, hopes to be able to expand his bottle house project to other, larger communities. But he’s got a way to go before he can take the crown of most prolific bottled-house builder. Another man, in Panama, is already on his way to building an entire village out of plastic bottles.

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Kukah Center to build skill acquisition centers for Almajiri children in the north

The Kukah Centre (TKC) on Saturday revealed it plans to introduce skill acquisition centres in the Northern part of the country for Almajiri children to acquire vocations of their choice.

kukah center to empower almajiri

 

 

Most Rev. Matthew Kukah, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto made this known during a four day workshop tagged ‘’Interfaith Dialogue and Engagement’’ for Christians and Muslims in Minna.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the meeting, which was attended by Christians and Muslims leaders from Niger, Kano, Gombe and Yobe States was to promote peaceful co-existence among Nigerians.

Kukah said that most of the social vices in the society would be reduced when these children are empowered and gainfully engaged.

“One of the greatest concerns in Nigeria now is to get the Almajiri children off the streets.

“The centre will soon sign a Memoranda of Understanding with a foreign partner to make sure that we get the Almajiri children off the streets,’’ he said.

He said that the issue of ensuring peace in the country was a task for all Nigerians.

The Bishop said that the people of the country may have their differences but stressed the need to understand these differences in order to develop the country.

Similarly, Sheik Ahmed Lemu, founder of the Islamic Education Trust said that Nigerians must respect one another in order to develop the country.

‘’If we don’t live peacefully there is no way we can make any progress. So we need one another to move Nigeria forward,’’ he said..

NAN reports that the workshop was organised by the Development Initiative of West Africa in collaboration with TKC. (NAN)

Source: NTA

NYSC: Reprinting of Call-Up Letters By PCMs Deployed To Cross River State

NYSC: Reprinting of Call-Up Letters By PCMs Deployed To Cross River State

Prospective Corps Members of the 2017 Batch ‘A’ (Stream One) deployed to Cross River State should go to the NYSC portal and reprint their Call-up Letters before proceeding to orientation camp.

This development follows the change of Orientation Camp venue for those deployed to Cross River State as announced earlier on this platform.

All affected PCMs are, therefore, requested to go to their dashboards on the registration portal for the reprinting of the Call-up Letters.

For a reminder, the venue of Orientation Course for PCMs deployed to Cross River State is now CROSS RIVER STATE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION, AKAMKPA.

FG activates Ebola preparedness plan.

Source: NTA

 

UTME: JAMB Plans Mega Centres

Mega

JAMB Registrar, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, on Thursday said the board was planning to collaborate with key stakeholders to establish mega centres for the conduct of its Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME).

Oloyede announced the plan at a news conference in Lagos, after an on-the-spot assessment of some Computer Based Testing (CBT) centres where the UTME was being conducted in the city.

He said that he was not impressed with the standard of some of the centres, adding that the board needed to be more stringent.

According to him, most of the centres currently being used for the examination fell short of the standard.

“Having gone round 69 centres in Lagos alone, I have disqualified four. Also Read; JAMB warns UTME candidates against lateness, absenteeism; says no rescheduling

“In fact, I do not see up to 30 of these centres being up-to-date and meeting our set rules.

“We will re-assess these centres in order to protect the sanctity of our examination,’’ the registrar said.

“The plan currently on ground is to collaborate with my colleague professors and some other key stakeholders on how to create mega centres with a capacity to sit about 1,500 candidates at once, in a centre.

“We will encourage those who have what it takes to establish CBT centres to do it.

“This is because we no longer want to work with some private centre owners,’’ he added. (NAN)

Source: NTA

Financial Times ranks LBS as top Global Business School

Financial Times ranks LBS as top Global Business School

By Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma

Lagos Business School (LBS) has been ranked as a top global school by the Financial Times (FT) of London.

Mrs Aderayo Bankole, LBS Head, Corporate Communications  made the disclosure in a statement made  available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Lagos.

The statement said “this is LBS eleventh consecutive appearance in the annual ranking of top business and management education providers in the world done by FT.”

It stated that LBS was ranked among the most prestigious business schools globally in two categories : open enrollment and customs executive education.

The statement said that the FT’s Executive Education 2017 ranking was published today in London.

It further  stated that LBS was one of only four schools in Africa that made the prestigious list.

Dr Enase Okonedo, Dean of LBS, was quoted by the statement as saying that, the school would remain committed to providing global standard business and management education.

Okonedo said that FT ranking was in recognition of its continuous efforts at providing world class business and management education with local relevance to Nigeria and Africa.

“Our business school’s determination for excellence has also recently been recognised by our accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and the association of MBA’s (AMBA)”, she said.

Okonedo also stated that the schoolhad been admitting more non-Nigerian nationals to its programmes as part of plans to extend the benefit of LBS education to other Africans.

She added that LBS  would be extending its executive education to other African countries in the nearest future.

The statement noted that FT publishes annually a list of the best management programmes from business schools around the world, based on the quality of learnings, staff and student diversity, growth in business and international reach.

Other schools that made this year’s ranking apart from  LBS, according to the statement, were the Harvard Business School , USA, the IESE Business School, Spain and IMD  in Switzerland.

Others in Africa include the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), USB Executive Development and Graduate School of Business, all in South Africa.

Source: NAN