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Victims accuse Solomon Folorunsho of Benin-based IDP camp of abuse4 minutes read

Children and relatives recount their experience at a refugee camp in Benin city run by Pastor Solomon

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Benin based camp accused of refugee abuse
A 12 years old girl, internally displaced from the Borno State and who had escaped the Boko Haram insurgency, is seen in this July 5, 2019. - She had initially joined the camp of the International Christian Center Mission (ICCM) in Benin City run by Pastor Solomon Folorunsho, who has been accused of abusive behaviours by some witnesses. She left the camp a few months ago and lives now with her family in an informal IDP camp in the center of Nigeria. (Photo by FATI ABUBAKAR / AFP)

Nigerian evangelical preacher Solomon Folorunsho is at the centre of allegations of abuse concerning his camp in Benin City, southern Nigeria.

Here is what a number of children and relatives, who had all left the camp at the time of their interview, told reporters about their experiences. Their names have been changed for their protection and the quotes edited for clarity.

Folorunsho, commonly known as Pastor Solomon, has denied any ill-treatment of violence. 

Rahila, 16-year-old girl – 

(Rahila is from northeastern Borno state, a hotbed of Nigeria’s jihadist insurrection. She took refuge in a state-run displaced people’s camp in the state capital Maiduguri before deciding to go to Pastor Solomon’s camp.)

I chose Benin (City) because I wanted to experience the good life everyone was talking about. I kept insisting until I was allowed to go.

What I saw at the camp was totally different.

For the two years I spent there, I never spoke to my parents. We had just one cellphone to call home and there was usually a long line. If the credit ran out, that was all for that day. 

There was always someone there, so you could not say anything for fear it would get back to the pastor, who would give you the beating of your life. 

I was one of the girls who carried his (the pastor’s) shoes. Some girls held his phones. Sometimes they undressed him too. A girl who refused to work for him was punished and starved. When he beat you, he wouldn’t stop until you bled seriously.

He had names that he called different girls… He would comment on the size of my butt, and he would say our chests looked like pineapples or stuff like that.

A 12 years old girl, internally displaced from the Borno State and who had escaped the Boko Haram insurgency, is seen in this July 5, 2019.
A 12 years old girl, internally displaced from the Borno State and who had escaped the Boko Haram insurgency, is seen in this July 5, 2019. – She had initially joined the camp of the International Christian Center Mission (ICCM) in Benin City run by Pastor Solomon Folorunsho, who has been accused of abusive behaviours by some witnesses. She left the camp a few months ago and lives now with her family in an informal IDP camp in the centre of Nigeria. (Photo by FATI ABUBAKAR / AFP)

Waziri, 17-year-old boy –

Education was okay, but we went to school on an empty stomach and did not eat until after 2:00 pm. 

My friends and I feared we would not survive, so we found a way to escape.

We had two cartons of soap that we had been given, which we sold to pay for our transport back home.

If you were caught escaping, you were flogged seriously. We were scared, but we managed.

Read: Police in Nigeria free over 300 ‘abused’ students from Islamic school

Hauwa, 12-year-old girl –

I was always hungry, there was never enough food or water. When we complained we got beaten with anything he could lay his hands on.

They said they found demons behind our room, after which we were no longer allowed to go outside.

– Rakiya, 37-year-old mother –

(Five of her six children went to the camp, despite her husband’s reservations. When she travelled there, she found that the youngest apparently had scabies, with sores all over his body. He was out of danger by the time of Rakiya’s interview.)

The pastor’s people came (to Maiduguri) and convinced parents to send their children to Benin City where they would have a good education, with free food. 

At the camp, parents would be given bags of rice, bus fare, jerrycans of palm oil and the like. So when they returned to Maiduguri they would tell other parents, “Benin (City) is good”.

Two of our boys escaped and returned home.

(Six months ago Rakiya went to the camp to find her other children.)

I said I was not leaving unless I saw them. I insisted, and they allowed me into the school the next day.

I thought he (the youngest child) was going to die. I saw three deaths during the three days I spent there.

One night the pastor saw me sleeping outdoors with the children and hit me with a wooden club. 

An internally displaced person (IDP) from Borno State, who escaped the Boko Haram insurgency to join the International Christian Center (ICC), a camp set up by Pastor Solomon Folorunsho in Benin City, where children and staff have complained of hunger and abuse, sits behind curtains in Abuja on July 5, 2019
An internally displaced person (IDP) from Borno State, who escaped the Boko Haram insurgency to join the International Christian Center (ICC), a camp set up by Pastor Solomon Folorunsho in Benin City, where children and staff have complained of hunger and abuse, sits behind curtains in Abuja on July 5, 2019.. (Photo by FATI ABUBAKAR / AFP)

A girl holds his handkerchief for blowing the nose, another one for wiping his face, another one for wiping his shoes. 

She (her oldest daughter, aged 16) said she would stay because she is old enough to endure hardships for the sake of her schooling. She says if she returns she will not have access to education.

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Miss Tourism Zimbabwe contestants involved in an accident

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Miss Tourism Zimbabwe contestants involved in an accident
(Photo credit: newsdzezimbabwe.co.uk/)

Seven out of the 19 Miss Tourism Zimbabwe contestants who were in camp in preparation for the national finals scheduled to hold at Montclair Hotel in Nyanga this Saturday, have been injured in a bus accident that occurred in Vumba on Wednesday night.

The beauty contestants were on their way to Eden Lodge in Vumba where they were supposed to lodge for the night when the accident occurred around 9:00 pm along the Vumba-Mutare highway.

An eyewitness says the driver lost control of the bus when he wanted to negotiate a bend on the slippery road, causing the bus to overturn and land on its left side.

The models were immediately rushed to Murambi Garden hospital in three ambulances. They sustained injuries, but doctors say none is critical, and no death occurred. 

“The girls have been under observation at Murambi Garden hospital and all are stable. There are some injuries, but no death recorded. We’re now making arrangements to have the models transferred to Harare hospitals for further treatment,” One of the organisers said.

“We believe they were all affected, including those who are not physically hurt so they’re all in hospital under observation. It’s sad that such an unfortunate event transpired, however, we thank God because the accident was not fatal.” she continued.

A support team has been mobilized to go assist and take back the models to their respective provinces as the pageant has been postponed indefinitely.

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Nigeria’s electricity workers suspend strike

On Wednesday, electricity workers shut down the headquarters of electricity distribution companies in Ikeja and Marina

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Nigeria’s electricity workers suspend industrial strike
Vice Chairman of NUEE, Musa Ayiga (in red cap) together with other union officials during a protest at the front of JED headquarters in Jos. Photo credit: Daily Trust

Nigerians are breathing a sigh of relief after the nationwide strike by electricity workers was suspended in the early hours of Thursday.

The suspension may be temporary if the issues raised by the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) are not addressed.

On Wednesday, electricity workers shut down the headquarters of Ikeja Electric and Eko Electricity Distribution Company in Ikeja and Marina, Lagos.

The decision to embark on the indefinite strike came after unresolved dialogue between the Federal Government and the NUEE. The dialogue was to deal with the persistent industrial crisis in the sector.

President of the NUEE, Joe Ajaero, in a statement, accused the Bureau of Public Enterprises of failing to address the lingering issues. The statement also highlighted the failure to pay off over 2,000 disengaged workers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria since 2013.

In a separate statement issued by the Assistant Secretary-General of NUEE, Anthony Sule, the 21-day ultimatum given to the Minister of Power, Saleh Mamman, had expired at midnight on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Power had failed to resolve some of the issues affecting members of the union since 2013 when the power sector was privatized.

In what seemed like a rare glimpse of hope, the NUEE, at about 6:06 am early this morning, Nigeria time, tweeted that it has suspended its strike, saying its offices and payment channels have been reopened across the nation.

However, the union said it will not hesitate to resume the strike action if the agreements reached between the leaders of the union and representatives of government are not implemented.

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Nigeria’s Buhari not bothered by description with a military rank over rights violations

News Outfit to address President Buhari as Major General and administration as

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buhari unbothered by Punch calling him Major General

One of Nigeria’s major national dailies, The Punch newspaper has in a scathing editorial on Wednesday said it will henceforth refer to President Muhammadu Buhari with his military rank of Major General, despite his earlier retirement from the military, over rising violations of human rights. But Buhari’s handlers in a statement said they were not bothered. 

It comes on a day when the President’s wife, Aisha Buhari also sent out a statement castigating a presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu for interference in her family’s activities through an act of disobedience to the office of the First Lady. Both events are the hottest topics in most cafés and public areas across the country. 

The editorial with the headline “Buhari’s lawlessness: our stand” and published on Wednesday denounced last week’s invasion of a court premises in the capital, Abuja by Nigeria’s secret police, the SSS to arrest a pro-democracy activist and news publisher, Omoyele Sowore who had been granted bail after previously being held in illegal detention since August 22.

“As a symbolic demonstration of our protest against autocracy and military-style repression, PUNCH…will henceforth prefix Buhari’s name with his rank as a military dictator in the 80s, Major General, and refer to his administration as a regime, until they purge themselves of their insufferable contempt for the rule of law.”

The national daily said the “entire country and a global audience are rightly scandalised by the unfolding saga over Omoyele Sowore and the unruliness of the SSS and the government; but it is only a pattern, a reflection of the serial disregard of the Buhari regime for human rights and its battering of other arms of government and our democratic institutions.”

Buhari’s government reacts

The presidency was swift in its response with Spokesman, Femi Adesina in a statement saying that there was nothing wrong with the decision even though some of the accusations were unfair to President Buhari. 

“A newspaper says it will henceforth address President Muhammadu Buhari by his military rank of Major General. Nothing untoward in it. It is a rank the President attained by dint of hard work before he retired from the Nigerian Army. And today, constitutionally, he’s also Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.” Adesina stated 

Adesina went on to state that rather than being pejorative, addressing President Buhari by his military rank is another testimony to free speech and freedom of the press, which this administration (or regime, if anyone prefers: it’s a matter of semantics) has pledged to uphold and preserve.”

Despite the response, the daily said it will” not adopt the self-defeating attitude of many Nigerians looking the other way after each violation of rights and attacks on the citizens, the courts, the press and civil society, including self-determination groups lawfully exercising their inalienable rights to peaceful dissent.”

President Buhari had previously ruled Nigeria as a military leader between 1984 – 1985 after he took over from the coup that ousted the democratically elected government of late President Shehu Shagari in the Second Republic. 

Then Major General Buhari ran a tight-fisted military junta in his bid to jail corrupt politicians with many of the accused persons jailed by military tribunals for over 100 years, in some circumstances. Many activists and journalists were not left out in the crackdown on dissent during that period.

Ironically, it was the same anti-corruption posture that got Buhari democratically elected in 2015 after his All Progressives Congress (APC) coalition defeated then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) due to agitations for the purging of corrupt politicians in the country.

The State Security Service (SSS) under President Buhari has recently been accused of high-handedness and serial abuse of court orders and Gestapo-style raid on residences of judges, parliamentarians and opposition leaders. 

Leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim el-Zakzakky and his wife have spent over three years in detention in violation of court orders granting them bail and ordering their release. A former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, has also been held in detention since 2015 in defiance of several court orders, including one by the ECOWAS appellate court that declared his continued incarceration illegal. 

“Under Buhari, the SSS has become a monstrous and repressive secret police, acting often with impunity. Buhari bears responsibility for the state of repression because, as president, he can stop it today,” the Punch wrote. 

The newspaper denounced Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, stating that he had suddenly forgotten “how, as opposition spokesman in 2014, he was harassed by the SSS and accused of “loitering.”(He has) been vigorously pressing for anti-hate speech laws to restrict social media. Abdullahi Sabi, a senator, along with others, has re-presented a hate-speech bill: their sole purpose is to insulate officials from criticism and compel unquestioned acceptance of Buhari’s draconian misrule.”

The national daily said it believes that “Buhari can still redeem himself and his out-of-control security agents and reclaim his past facade of tolerance.”

Nigerians divided over editorial 

The editorial has since become a major subject of discussion among Nigerians with many people divided on the matter, including those in government. 

Speaker of the regional Oyo State House of Assembly governed by the national opposition PDP, Honourable Adebo Ogundoyin in his reaction said:

“Today’s @MobilePunch editorial, its resolution to henceforth prefix @MBuhari with Major General & refer to his administration as a regime in protest against autocracy is another huge feat renewing our hope in the media as a strong voice ready to hold govt. accountable & responsible.” 

Dr Thompson Udenwa called for caution by the newspaper. “Call him whatever you want, but no Nigerian leader in our most recent democracy has exemplified true respect for democracy and its institutions like President (Major General) Buhari has. #Thread” 

Journalist Fisayo Soyombo said “Many of you are happy with @MobilePunch this minute, but what will you do if/when the lawless agents of this govt come after the paper and its editors? Will you look the other way, because you’re not in PUNCH’s employ, or will you be ‘alive’ enough to offer solidarity?” 

One commentator even asked for the resignation of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a Professor of law. Boye Steve wrote “This is a great and brave piece of editorial. We all need to stand up against this tyranny. I call on the VP, as a constitutional law professor, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, to resign from this despotic regime now.” 

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