Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Floating Bodies And Our Identification System

Forty bodies were found floating in Amansea community, along the border of Anambra and Enugu State. The unidentified bodies have been perceived by many as victims of extra judicial killings by government security agencies. As usual, government officials and the Nigeria Police had vowed to “unravel the mystery behind the floating bodies”, one can only be skeptical of what they can truly unravel when the country lacks basic numerical statistics of how many we are. Everybody just dips hand into their vault of assumptions and peg the nation’s population between 140 and 160 million!

Even the last population census conducted in 2006 to arrive at 140 million was greatly flawed with irregularities and baseless hype of figure to earn cheap political advantage, which is more motivated for selfish reasons rather than for nation building. The result witnessed no specific departure from what 1991 census threw up, with Muslim northern states accounting for over half of the country’s official population of 140m. Laughable as it may sound, Kano’s population was more than that of Lagos, while a sizable number of citizens were not enumerated at all. So on the long run, the 2006 population census was a sham, shame and surreal!

Since Federal-State allocations are absurdly based more on population, land mass than on equality (equal shares per state), social development, and revenue generated, one could easily visualise what warrants the distortion of rare population facts. We are just one nation that benefits from distortion of basic facts. Government enslaves us with it while the citizens make sure it never gets better, that’s why a president would lie to the world that electricity generation has improved when we still sleep for weeks in darkness. We lie about our income, expenditure, poverty rate, social service, national identity cards and everything one can think of. That’s why combating crime still remains as elusive as tracing the source of a rainbow, but something needs to be done. Why would human bodies turn water hyacinth and security operatives are so clueless about the cause?

Though surrounding villages in Anambra and Enugu have claimed none of their members are missing, one irrefutable fact is that, the Nigerian government lacks grounded mechanism to identify her citizens either living or dead. The records are not just there. Take it or leave, those bodies are sons, brothers and fathers of Nigerians. And if they are immigrants, do we have their details? Our borders are so porous that you can ship 20 truck loads of human beings in if you know the right Customs and Immigration officers to pay. Our attempt to identify citizens can only be told in the tales of former Internal Affairs Minister, the late Sunday Afolabi saga. Over $214m was committed into that National ID card project. All those who stood trial along with Sunday Afolabi are today national award holders and still living large at tax payers’ expense.

Personally, I hold no faith in the story that might later spring up in respect of the floating bodies (if there would even be any) but I do hope this would be the last of such shameless lack of responsibility on the part of government and security agencies. Government needs to step up the ante of surveillance through a bio-metric data base with central and state control boards. This data base would be a panacea to planning and aid government policy plan, a means to identify fraud, combat terrorism, create a leverage to citizen’s entitlement and to access public services. Inasmuch as I don’t like comparing Nigeria with the United States of America, there is nothing stopping a responsible government from running a Social Security number (SSN) system for permanent residents, and temporary (working) residents such as Nigeriens, Ghanaians, Beninois, Malians etc. If we need play big brother, then it should be with more security caution and management of the borders. These security numbers can further be used to manage tax collection and social welfare. But the government would choose not to do the project in view of the tax benefit simply to run away from the responsibilities of an all inclusive social welfare.

In 2006, the United Kingdom Parliament passed the Identity Cards Act 2006 which provided National Identity Cards, a personal identification document and European Union travel document, linked to a database known as the National Identity Register (NIR). The Act specified fifty categories of information that the National Identity Register could hold on each citizen, including up to 10 fingerprints, digitized facial scan and iris scan, current and past UK and overseas places of residence of all residents of the UK throughout their lives and indices to other government databases (including National Insurance Number) which would allow them to be connected. A government that cannot manage the identity of its citizen is not worth their respect. According to world fact finder, Wikipedia, Identity management (IdM) means the management of individual identities, their authentication, authorization, roles, and privileges within or across system and enterprise boundaries with the goal of increasing security and productivity while decreasing cost, downtime, and repetitive tasks.

In 2007, the National Assembly passed the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) Act, a replica of that of UK. It has the mandate to establish, own, operate, maintain and manage the National Identity Database in Nigeria, register persons covered by the Act, assign a Unique National Identification Number (NIN) and issue General Multi-Purpose Cards (GMPC) to those registered individuals, and to harmonise and integrate existing identification databases in Nigeria. The Director-General, National Identity Management Commission, Mr. Chris Onyemenam, in order to achieve this magnificent feat( I don’t want to believe it’s impossible) as promised to “recruit the best available talents to fill the spaces within the commission”. All things being equal, the identity registration of Nigerian citizens will begin nationwide in April 2013. And that is where I have my strong reservations.

As much as I want to believe the NIMC, glaring realities put my belief on hold. If truly registration would commence in April, then I don’t see the readiness. The NIMC is still grossly under powered with the basic resources to have an integrated centralised demographic database for the country. Except am mistaken or due process of selection has been subverted, the much taunted recruitment of young, vibrant and talented hands has not been done. Barely three months to commencement. Won’t the new hands be trained or are we on the path to Sunday Afolabi/Sagem again?

The NIMC must understand that the ability to properly identify a person to their true identity is central to their operation, with wider implications for operations against crime and terrorism. These can’t be done by a shabbily put together team. Comprehensive training has to be carried out with a broad-based campaign orientation that would reach the hinterlands and all those staying outside the shores of the country. In recent times, illegal immigration has become one of the key political issues for the country, because of unending menace of Boko Haram whose bulk of suicide bombers are from neighboring countries such as Niger and Mali. To get anywhere, we must be ready to adequately manage the borders!

Aside the collation of the bio metric data and ID card now, a sustainable upgrading mechanism needs to be devised. Nigeria is one of the few countries you can enter without adequate documentation and nobody cares. You don’t even have to state when you would be leaving the country. NIMC needs to work out collation strategies for births and deaths, liaise with the High Courts, Prisons, and Police to get updates on criminal records, with National Emergency Management Authority to get details during disasters, Immigration agencies (Airport authority, sea ports, borders), etc. The recruitment exercise of NIMC needs to put in mind the number of agencies and places it would have to station staff permanently to enhance continuous monitoring and update. Again and most importantly, NIMC must be conscious that the ID card would bring about socio-economic and political integration as against segregation that might be caused by nepotism, ethnic bigotry and religious fanaticism. The horrible scenarios of Rwanda’s Tutsis and Hutus must not be allowed to replicate itself here.

Tuesday 29 January 2013


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DNA of 37 Tazreen fire victims matches with their family members

DNA test results of 37 Tazreen fire victims matched with the samples collected from their family members two months after the devastating fire that took place on November 24 last, a top official of Ministry of Labour and Employment said Tuesday.

About 112 workers had died and many others injured in the fire incident while about 59 bodies were buried as unidentified.

"We got only 48 claims for the dead bodies and 37 matched with the samples," Secretary-in-Charge of Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mikail Shipar told the FE Tuesday.

We just got the report Tuesday, he said adding the ministry will sit with the concerned authorities including the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers' and Exporters' Association (BGMEA), Bankers' Association and the foreign buyer Li and Fung to sort out how to compensate the families who lost their only livelihood earners.

The ministry will also discuss fate of the bodies buried but which are yet to be claimed and do not match with the supplied samples, he added.

About 47 victims' families got Tk 0.6 million each as compensation from the Prime Minister's Office, BGMEA, Bankers' Association of Bangladesh and Li and Fung.

Earlier, a team of Criminal Investigation Department (CID) along with forensic doctors of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital collected samples from the unidentified bodies to find out their identities through DNA tests.

Tuesday 29 January 2013


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Ezu River - 15 Bodies Exhumed for Autopsy

Fifteen of the initial 18 bodies recovered from Ezu River in Anambra State were yesterday exhumed by a team of pathologists from the office of the Inspector General of Police and the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, (NAUTH) Nnewi.

The recovery is to enable the pathologists carry out autopsy and further investigate the nature and circumstances of their death. The bodies were part of the several that were dumped by unknown persons into the river over a week ago. The bodies were later buried while investigations were still going on as to why and how they were killed.

The corpses were discovered on January 19 by some villagers who had gone to fetch water, giving the impression that they were dumped the previous night. The villagers had reported that they counted over 50 bodies, all hefty young men in boxers while some of them had their hands tied behind their backs and with bullet holes behind their neck.

When people trooped there to witness the incident, about 30 bodies were counted with no person being able to identify any. Some others, according to the villagers' accounts, might have been swept away by the fast flowing river with its source at Ogwu in Enugu Council Area.

Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, who visited the scene the following day, had expressed shock at the floating bodies, their source and motive behind their killing and promptly ordered that the bodies be recovered. He also announced a N5 million reward for anybody with any clue as to the source of the corpses and who dumped them.

The Police Commissioner in Anambra State, Bala Nasarawa, on January 21, said 18 bodies had been recovered without bullet holes or machete cuts thereby contradicting the villagers' account.

Three of the corpses, he said, were selected for autopsy, while the remaining 15 were given mass burial.

Four more bodies, however, had been recovered since then. But at the weekend, the Anambra State Health Commissioner, Dr. Lawrence Ikeako, said the pathologists had conducted autopsy on the three selected corpses after subjecting them to toxicological laboratory examination and that 15 others would be exhumed yesterday to determine the cause of their death since it may not be the same for all of them.

Ikeako remarked that the corpses were in very bad state having been buried about a week ago. Some specimens, he said, would be taken from each of the corpses for laboratory examination, adding that the outcome would be known in about two weeks.

Tuesday 29 January 2013


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Bodies of plane crash victims to be delivered to Kalkaman morgue

The bodies of the victims of the plane crash near Almaty will be placed in Kalkaman morgue, Yuriy Ilyin, head of Almaty mobilization preparedness, civil defense, prevention and elimination of accidents and natural disasters department told Tengrinews.kz.

Initially Almaty administration prepared 50 spots in the city morgue, as the exact number of the victims was unclear. According to Ilyin, the experts are currently collecting the bodies and their fragments at the accident site.

On January 29 a Bombardier airplane owned by Scat airline crashed 7km from Almaty airport during its second attempt to land. According to the prosecutors, the plane was performing Kokshetau-Almaty flight. The accident claimed lives of 5 crew members and 16 passengers, including a 2-y.o. child and a foreigner.

Tuesday 29 January 2013


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Eerie sounds of cell phones amid disaster adds to first-responder toll

The dead can't speak. Their cell phones do.

And, for police, firefighters and paramedics, the incessant chirping, bleating and incongruously cheerful boom box beats of victims' cell phones comprise a soundtrack of disaster.

It happened at the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, a commuter train crash in Los Angeles the next year, the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado, last July and, again, at the night club fire in Brazil that killed 231 people on Sunday.

The incessantly ringing phones and the realization that someone is desperately trying to reach someone else who is now dead, short-circuits the psychological defenses first responders need to do their jobs, said Jim Crabtree, a registered nurse who helps train them for the Los Angeles County Emergency Management Services Agency.

"It starts ringing and it becomes an instant reminder that this person is human, that they have friends and family who care," he said.

It also leaves responders with an uneasy feeling they're keeping a secret from the victim's loved ones, Crabtree said.

Crabtree first ran across the issue following the Virginia Tech shooting, in which a lone gunman, a student, killed 32 people.

Some first responders couldn't get the sound of ringing cell phones out of their ears, psychologists Christopher Flynn of Virginia Tech and Dennis Heitzmann of Penn State wrote in a follow up journal article.

"As police and rescue workers removed the bodies of the deceased and evacuated the survivors, they reported haunting memories of cell phones ringing in body bags as parents and friends desperately called their loved ones."

Los Angeles first responders dealt with the same issue when a commuter train collided with a freight train in 2008.

Hundreds of firefighters and other first responders flooded the scene, clawing through the mangled wreckage to get at the bodies of victims. All the while, Crabtree said, dozens of cell phones kept ringing.

Aurora police Officer Justin Grizzle spoke this month during a court hearing of entering a theater where 12 people died in that shooting rampage.

The things he noticed: blood running down the steps and the sound of cell phones ringing.

It was the same Sunday night, when firefighters rushed through a hole punched into the wall of the Kiss nightclub by people who had escaped the building after it caught on fire.

They found dozens of bodies of club-goers who died of smoke inhalation. And they once again heard the sounds of ringing phones.

Milton Neves, a reporter from Radio Bandeirantes, said some 800 to 900 mobile phones were going off at the same time. One alone had 104 missed calls.

Hundreds of family and friends were desperately trying to reach loved ones who were at the nightclub in the Brazilian city of Santa Maria when a fire swept through early Sunday, killing at least 230 people and injuring hundreds more.

"It was a really complicated scene. A lot of smoke, a lot of shoes that were left, cell phones, because everybody tried to get out of there running," Glauber Fernandes, a reporter for CNN affiliate Band News said.

"While we were there, we saw the cell phones were ringing. It was parents, friends, trying to know about what was happening and nobody was answering."

Few, if any, agencies have policies on what to do about the multitude of ringing phones police and firefighters frequently encounter at disaster scenes, Crabtree said.

He said he tells trainees turning off the phones can help save their own sanity, but says some agencies could view the act as tampering with evidence.

He favors policies that would allow responders to turn the phones off, but says most commanders haven't yet come to the same conclusion.

"It's a 21st century problem," he said.

But it's an issue emergency agencies will have to deal with sooner or later, if the experience of first responders Crabtree has spoken to is any indication.

"They don't talk about it openly, but when you get them alone ... " Crabtree said, like the responders, leaving the rest unspoken.

Tuesday 29 January 2013


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5 dead in central China oil tank blast

The bodies of four missing people have been found after an oil storage tank exploded in central China's Hunan Province on Monday, taking the death toll to five, local authorities said.

The blast occurred around 10:45 am in the yard of a residential building that was under construction in Qingshui village of Xiangtan city, according to sources with the publicity department of Yuetang district, which administers the village.

Five people were also injured in the blast and two are in a critical condition, receiving treatment in a local hospital

A total of 17 people were working in the yard when the tank exploded. The fire caused by the explosion was put out by 1:10 pm.

An initial investigation showed that illegal welding and installation of the oil tank was to blame for the explosion.

The case is under investigation.

Tuesday 29 January 2013


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Update: More bodies of missing Mexican band members found in well

The Colombian-style music group was playing at a ranch in northern Mexico when at least 10 gunmen entered the warehouse where the private party was being held and forced them and several crew members into waiting vehicles, a survivor of the attack told authorities.

Nuevo Leon state security spokesman Jorge Domene said the survivor, a member of the Kombo Kolombia band, told police the 18 were blindfolded and driven on dirt roads until they stopped. He then heard the assailants ask fellow band members if they belonged to a drug cartel, shots were fired and the bodies were dumped into a well.

Domene said the survivor, who is being protected by soldiers, was able to reach a nearby ranch and get help. He wouldn't give details on how the man was able to escape.

The man later led authorities to the well where searchers found several bodies, Domene said.

Domene said four bodies first pulled from the well on Sunday have been identified by their relatives, including a Colombian citizen who played the keyboard. Three of them were wearing matching T-shirt with the name of the band.

"The search will continue ... to see how many more bodies may be hidden there," he said.

By Monday afternoon, searchers had pulled 12 bodies from the well along a dirt road in the town of Mina, about 140 miles (225 kilometers) from Laredo, Texas, Domene said.

The bodies recovered showed signs of torture, said a forensic official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly on the case.

It was hard to determine how many more bodies were submersed in the water, he said.

Authorities initially said 16 members of the band Kombo Kolombia and four crew members were reported missing early Friday after playing at a private party attended by about 50 people and held at a ranch called La Carreta, or The Wagon, in the town of Hidalgo north of Monterrey.

But Domene said Monday 18 band members had gone missing. He didn't say how many were crew members and how many were musicians.

The party guests are being questioned and police have yet to determine a motive in the killings, Domene said.

Nuevo Leon state, on the border with Texas, has been the scene of a turf battle between members of the Gulf drug cartel and the Zetas drug gang. The Zetas were hit men for the Gulf cartel until they split in 2010, unleashing their bloody war.

People living near the ranch in Hidalgo reported hearing gunshots at about 4 a.m. Friday, followed by the sound of vehicles speeding away, said a separate source with the Nuevo Leon State Investigative Agency. He also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be quoted by the news media.

The officials added that gunfire is common in the area and said investigators found spent bullets nearby.

Relatives filed a missing persons report on Friday after losing cellular phone contact with the musicians. When they went to the ranch to investigate, they found the band members' vehicles still parked outside.

Kombo Kolombia has played a Colombian style of music known as vallenato, which is popular in working class neighborhood in the city of Monterrey and other parts of Nuevo Leon state. Most of the group's musicians were from the area, except for the keyboard player who is Colombian and had Mexican residency, Domene said.

The band regularly played at bars in downtown Monterrey on the weekend. At least two of the bars where they had played had been attacked by gunmen.

It was Mexico's largest single kidnapping since 20 tourists from the western state of Michoacan were abducted in Acapulco in 2010. Most of their bodies were found a month later in a mass grave. Authorities said the tourists were mistaken for cartel members.

Members of other musical groups have been murdered in Mexico in recent years, usually groups that perform "narcocorridos" that celebrate the exploits of drug traffickers. But Kombo Kolombia did not play that type of music, and its lyrics were about love and heartbreak and did not deal with violence or drug trafficking.

But singers of drug exploits are not the only musicians targeted, said Elijah Wald, author of the book, "Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns and Guerrillas."

"There is really not correlation. Drug guys hire people to play for their parties and they hire whatever is happening," he said. "Sergio Gomez, the single-most famous singer killed from K-Paz de la Sierra, his big hit was a version of 'Jambalaya.'"

Gomez was kidnapped and found strangled and tortured in 2007 in the western state of Michoacan, a day after Zayda Pena of the group Zayda and the Guilty Ones was shot in a hospital while recovering from a separate bullet wound in the border town of Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas.

Valentin Elizalde, "El Gallo de Oro," was shot to death along with his manager and driver in 2006 following a performance in Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas. Norteno singer Sergio Vega was shot dead in a northern state of Sinaloa in 2010.

"A lot of people are being killed because they're in the wrong place at the wrong time and musicians are some of the people on that list," Wald said.

Monday 29 January 2013


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Coal mine gas explosion kills eight miners

At least eight coalmine workers were killed and two others wounded when an explosion took place in a private company’s coal mine in Dukki tehsil of Loralai district, some 180 kilometers away from the provincial capital, on Monday.

Official sources said that 10 coal mine workers were working 1200 feet below the surface of earth when the blast took place in the coal mine. According to the preliminary inquiry, accumulation of methane gas – an inflammable gas- was the cause of the explosion as it got ignited by some spark in the mine. The cause of spark could not be ascertained till the filing of this report.

Reports suggested that the blast in the coal mine occurred at 3:30 am, while the rescue operation was launched at 7:30 am after several hours of the tragic incident. Because of this delay, the ill-fated miners lost their lives. But, to the dismay of all of them, the ambulances and doctor could not reach the spot even after several hours of the incident.

The names of ill-fated mine workers included: Hazrat Ali, Samiullah, Khan Zamir, Bakhat Munir, Shakir, Bakhat Jamal, Hukmaran, and Sohrab Khan. All the deceased belonged to Sawat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa. Moving scenes were witnessed when the bodies of the deceased were being recovered from the coal mine.

Later, the bodies and the injured were shifted to local hospital. Later, the bodies were dispatched to their native villages in KP.

Meanwhile, Chief Inspector Mines Iftikhar Ahmed expressed his deep grief over the deaths of coal mine workers and directed to conduct inquiry of the incident. He ordered to seal the coal mine.

The labour union of mines held the coal companies responsible for such tragic incidents. They alleged that safety measures could not be properly taken at most coal mines in Balochistan. They demanded of the government to take strict action against those mine owners who had not provided the necessary safety equipment at their mines and were not following the safety rules and regulations. Ahmed Jan, a coal mine worker, told The News there was no concept of safety equipment in the mine which caused the killings of eight people.

It may be noted here that in case of such disaster Rs500,000 is to be paid by mine welfare board to each bereaved family as compensation. Earlier, the compensation amount was Rs300,000 but the previous government raised the amount to Rs500,000.

Tuesday 29 January 2013


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Passenger plane crashes near Kazakh city of Almaty

A passenger plane crashed in thick fog near Kazakhstan's commercial capital of Almaty on Tuesday, killing all 22 people on board, an emergency services official said.

The Canadian-built Bombardier Challenger CRJ-200 was en route from the city of Kokshetau in northern Kazakhstan to Almaty in the southeast when it crashed near the village of Kyzyl Tu, Deputy Almaty Mayor Maulen Mukashev said.

He told reporters near the scene that the plane belonged to private Kazakh airline SCAT, which operates extensive domestic services and some international flights.

"There was no fire, no explosion. The plane just plunged to the earth," Yuri Ilyin, deputy head of the city's emergencies department, told Reuters near the scene.

Ilyin put the death toll at 22.

Almaty and the surrounding area were veiled in thick fog on Tuesday.

Almaty's deputy mayor Maulen Mukashev visited the crash site near the village of Kyzyl Tu and said that the Canadian-built Bombardier plane crashed in thick fog, Reuters news agency reports.

"The preliminary cause of the accident is bad weather," Mr Mukashev is quoted as saying. "Not a single part of the plane was left intact after it came down," he said.

Scat airlines is based in Kazakhstan with its main base at Shymkent airport - it operates extensive domestic services and some international flights as well.

It was the second plane crash in the Central Asian country and former Soviet republic in just a over a month.

On December 25, a military transport airplane crashed in bad weather near the southern Kazakh city of Shymkent, killing all 27 people on board.

Prosecutors have said that a fatal combination of technical problems, bad weather and human errors caused that accident.

Tuesday 29 January 2013


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Rescuers find 3 more bodies in West Sumatra, bringing death from landslides in Indonesia to 19

A government official says rescuers have found three more bodies, bringing the death toll from a landslide in Indonesia's province of West Sumatra to 14, including four children. That raises the national toll to 19.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said Monday that rescuers are searching for six other villagers buried under mud and rocks following the early Sunday landslide in Tanjung Sani village of Agam district. Two of the missing are children.

The other five people were killed Saturday when a rain-triggered landslide swept through a drilling field in neighbouring Jambi Province.

Seasonal downpours cause frequent landslides and flashfloods each year in Indonesia, a chain of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains

Tuesday 29 January 2013


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