FBI raided home of Nigeria's VP Atiku in Potomac,USA
They reportedly sought records on business dealings ofLouisiana Rep. Jefferson
By Bruce Alpert and Bill Walsh, The Times Picayune of New Orleans(Washington bureau)
Special to USAfricaonline.com,USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
CLASSmagazine, TheBlack Business JournalandIgboEvents
WASHINGTON -- On the same day that federal agents executed searchwarrants on the New Orleans and Washington, D.C., homes of U.S. Rep.William Jefferson, the FBI also raided the Maryland residence ofNigeria'svice president, seeking evidence of possible payments to officials inthat African nation.
A State Department official confirmed the Aug. 3 search of thePotomac, Md., home of Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar and hiswife, Jennifer. The agency referred all questions about the raid tothe Justice Department, which declined to comment.
A source familiar with the investigation said subpoenas showagents were looking for records showing whether Jefferson, D-NewOrleans, paid, offered to pay or authorized payments to officials inthe government of Nigeria or Ghana.
The subpoenas, described to The Times-Picayune, seek documentsrelated to Jefferson's dealings with Abubakar and the vice presidentof Ghana, Alhaji Aliu Mahama. Jefferson returned from a five-dayvisit to Ghana in mid-July, about three weeks before the FBI raidedhis homes.
The subpoenas focus in part on a telecommunications deal Jeffersonwas trying to engineer in Nigeria over the past year, according todocuments and those familiar with details of the investigation.
Jefferson spokeswoman Melanie Roussell said the eight-termcongressman would continue to decline comment on the federal probe.He has only said that he is cooperating with federalinvestigators.
It's not clear how Vice President Abubakar or his wife, a doctoralstudent at American University in Washington, might be connected tothe telecommunications deal. A staffer at the Washington-based AIDSfoundation set up by Jennifer Abubakar said the couple are inNigeria. Efforts to reach them and the vice president of Ghana forcomment were unsuccessful.
Jefferson's attorney, Mike Fawer, has said he believes the FBI hadbeen conducting a sting operation against his client. Quotinganonymous law enforcement sources, The Washington Post reported thatthe operation had been in the works for a year and was investigatingwhether Jefferson pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars frombusiness deals. The Post reported that agents found a large amount ofcash in Jefferson's freezer.
Experts said that the U.S. Justice Department has beenincreasingly focused in recent years on prosecuting cases under the1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars corporations or theiragents from paying, offering to pay or authorizing payment of moneyor anything of value to further their business interestsabroad.
Sources familiar with the telecommunications deal said thatJefferson was attempting to smooth the way for iGate Corp., a smallKentucky company, to introduce its high-speed broadband technology toNigeria's fast-growing telecommunications market.
Legal experts said it is unusual, if not unprecedented, for FBIagents to raid the home of an elected official from a foreign nation.Foreign diplomats normally are given immunity from prosecution. Therehave been some well-publicized cases in which American prosecutorshave been unable to pursue allegations of wrongdoing againstdiplomats, ranging from failure to pay traffic tickets to allegedsexual assaults.
"Sometimes diplomatic immunity can be used as a shield fromprosecution, but not as a shield from investigation," saidMariano-Florentino Cuellar, an associate professor of internationallaw at Stanford University.
But the law isn't so straightforward for visiting foreign electedofficials. Usually, officials request and are given immunity coveringthe time periods of their visits to the United States.
Immunity, however, likely would not be given to an official, evena sitting vice president, for a private residence within the UnitedStates, especially if he wasn't present at the time the materiallisted in the warrant was being sought, according to an officialfamiliar with State Department guidelines on the subject. Theofficial said it is almost certain that the search got the approvalof top Justice and State Department officials given the "possibleeffect on foreign relations" of such a search.
A neighbor said that Abubakar doesn't use the Potomac home morethan a couple of months a year. The sprawling colonial is in one ofthe Washington area's most exclusive communities.
A major player
Abubakar, according to his official biography, was a successfulbusinessman in Nigeria before he was tapped in 1999 by the country'scurrent president, retired General Olusegun Obasanjo, to be vicepresident. Abubakar is considered a likely candidate for presidencyin 2007 and has said that if he decides to run it will be on aplatform that centers on anti-corruption.
His U.S.-based wife, who founded the Gede Foundation dedicated toreducing the spread of AIDS in Nigeria, is a student in internationalrelations. She also is active in establishing an American Universitycampus in Yola, Nigeria, financed largely by her husband. It isexpected to open its doors in September.
Louis Goodman, dean of the School of International Service atAmerican University, said the vice president wanted to use his wealthto "give something back to the Nigerian people."
(Staff writers Gordon Russell and Rhonda Nabonne contributed tothis report)
2006 CALENDAR, FRIDAY May 5, AND SATURDAY MAY 6, 2006: CLASS magazine, USAfrica and USAfricaonline.com (characterized by The New York Times as the largest and most influential African-owned, U.S-based multimedia networks), will hold the USAfrica 14th internationally-acclaimed 2006 BEST OF AFRICA awards dinner in honor of African professionals and our annual Mothers' Day Honors on FRIDAY MAY 5 and on SATURDAY MAY 6, 2006. Nominate some African professionals and community builders. E-mail: Class@Classmagazine.tv. It will be an invitation-only event. The open annual international townhall meeting, USAfrica Forum, will hold on Friday May 5, 2006. USAfrica was founded in May 1992, in Houston, Texas by television broadcaster and multimedia media executive Chido Nwangwu. Contact USAfrica/CLASS event manager Alverna Johnson and Chuck Obazei at 713-270-5500. or 832-45-CHIDO (24436) - E-mail: Class@Classmagazine.tv
Summary: Africa's most acclaimed and fluent writer of theEnglish Language, the most translated writer of Black heritage in theworld, broadcaster extraordinaire, social conscience of millions,cultural custodian and elevator, chronicler and essayist, goodwillambassador and man of progressive rock-ribbed principles, theEagleon the Iroko, Ugo n'abo Professor Chinua Achebe,has recently been selected by a distinguished jury of scholars andcritics (from 13 countries of African life and literature) as thewriter of the Best book (Things Fall Apart, 1958) written in thetwentieth century regarding Africa. Reasonably, Achebe's message hasbeen neither dimmed nor dulled by time and clime. He's ourpathfinder, the intellectual godfather of millions of Africans andlovers of the fineart of good writing. Achebe's cultural contexts are, at once,pan-African, globalist and local; hence, his literarycontextualizations soar beyond the confines of Umuofia and any Igboor Nigerian setting of his creative imagination or historical recall.His globalist underpinnings and outlook are truly reflective of thetrue essence of his Igbo world-view, his Igbo upbringing anddisposition. Igbos and Jews share (with a few other other cultures)this pan-global disposition to issues of art, life, commerce,juridical pursuits, and quest to be republicanist in terms of thevitality of the individual/self. In Achebe's works, the centrality ofChi (God) attains an additional clarity in the Igbo cosmology... itis a world which prefers a quasi-capitalistic business attitude whiletaking due cognizance of the usefulness of the whole, the community.I've studied, lived and tried to better understand, essentially, therigor and towering moral certainties which Achebe have employed inmost of his works and his world. I know, among other reasons, becauseI share the same ancestry with him. Permit me to attempt a briefsentence, with that Achebean simplicty and clarity. Here,folks, what the world has known since 1958: Achebe is good! Eagle onthe Iroko, may your Lineage endure! Therehas never been one like you!
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"This is our moment to stand up for what's right,'' U2 lead singer Bono told the audience in London. ``We can't fix every problem, but those we can, we must,'' he said, mentioning malaria, AIDS and deaths caused by dirty water. U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, host of the G-8 summit, is making African poverty reduction a focus of the meeting. Performers at "Live 8'' -- including Paul McCartney, Cold Play, Madonna and REM -- want to raise popular awareness of the continent's economic deprivation.
The concerts will reach a potential global audience of 5.5 billion people through television, Internet and other media, organizer Bob Geldof said. They occur 20 years after the Live Aid concerts that Geldof also arranged to combat African poverty. Africa is the only continent to have become poorer in the last 25 years, according to the United Nations. More than 300 million Africans live on less than $1 a day, and less than half of children on the continent complete primary school. In the last 50 years, there have been 186 coups and 26 wars in Africa, with more than 7 million people killed, the UN says.
These views were stated during an interview CNN's anchor Bernard Shaw and senior analyst Jeff Greenfield had with Mr. Nwangwu on Saturday November 18, 2000 during a special edition of 'Inside Politics 2000.'