Feature

COVID-19, Kankara schoolboys’ kidnap, U.S. election, others shaped 2020

In this report, Ndubuisi Ugah with agency reports, highlights some of the major landmark events that shaped and made 2020 a most memorable year

JANUARY

The year began on a sombre note when the outlawed terrorist group, Boko Haram reportedly killed 30 persons, injuring 35 others in Gamboru, Borno State. Prior to this, some suspected gunmen reportedly killed 19 people, burnt their homes and other personal effects in Tawari, Kogi State. Nigeria celebrated the 50th anniversary of the end of the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970), while on January 24, Lassa Fever reportedly killed 29 in 11 states. The nation lost a prolific writer, Prof. Chukwuemeka Ike and actor, Toyosi Arigbabuwo, to the cold hands of death on January 9 and 13, respectively. Death came knocking as basketball legend, Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, alongside seven others were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Southern California. Kobe was a generational leader who received his flowers while living and even after his death. Immediately the news filtered through the airwaves, Staples Centre which coincidentally was host to the Grammy Awards on that day, saw an influx of flowers- yellow and purple.

FEBRUARY

The Lagos State Government, in its bid to check the frequent violations of its road and traffic laws, announced the ban on commercial motorcycles on February 1. Similarly, the U.S $300 million (£230 million) seized from former Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha’s laundered accounts will be returned to Nigeria. A stolen bronze statue from Ifẹ, Osun State, was ceased at the Mexico City International Airport and returned to Nigeria, even though it was later found to be a fake. The Federal Ministry of Health also confirmed that an Italian citizen, who works in Lagos, was confirmed as the first case of COVID-19 in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa. Senator Ignatius Datong Longjan and highlife trumpeter, Chief Victor Olaiya, also passed away.

MARCH

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which is still ravaging the entire world, emerged as the biggest happening in the Year 2020. First identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, the pandemic soon assumed a dangerous dimension, when he World Health Organization (WHO) declared it as a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’ in January 2020 and a pandemic in March 2020. As of December 22, 2020, about 77.3 million cases have been identified, causing global, social and economic disruptions in its wake, thereby causing the largest global recession since the great depression. It has led to the postponement or cancellation of events, widespread supply shortages exacerbated by panic buying, agricultural disruption and food shortages, and decreased emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases. The feud between the Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi, Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, took a turn for the worst as the former emir was dethroned for ‘disrespect to lawful instructions’. In the same vein, about 15 people were feared killed, and about 50 buildings destroyed in the Abule-Ado explosion in Lagos State. The Nollywood family also lost Pa. Kasumu, while powerlifter and Paralympic champion, Ndidi Nwosu and footballer, Ifeanyi George, passed on. At least, 50 Nigerian soldiers killed in Boko Haram ambush.

APRIL

A rare occurrence as 21 employees of ExxonMobil from Akwa Ibom State were arrested for violating state quarantine standards in Rivers State, but were released when the union threatened industrial action. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) took N1.47 trillion ($3.8 billion) from lenders as additional cash reserves for failing to meet regulatory targets. A jurist and former Minister of Justice, Mr. Richard Akinjide and late Afrobeat king, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s drummer, Tony Allen, died the outgone year.

MAY

A controversial plan to close Koranic schools in the 19 northern states and send ‘almajirai’ (pupils) home allegedly results in the spread of COVID-19. Reports said 65 of the boys tested positive in Kaduna, 91 in Jigawa, eight in Gombe, and seven in Bauchi State. The family of Uwavera Omozuwa family in the hashtag: – #JusticeForUwa, began trending, with an appeal for help to track down her rapists and killers in a church in Benin City, Edo State.

JUNE

One of Nigeria’s Instagram celebrities, Ramon Olorunwa Abbas (aka Hushpuppi), was arrested alongside 12 others by the Dubai Police Force in a special operation tagged “Fox Hunt 2.” After six raids, the suspects were caught while asleep in a viral video. The police found over $40 million in cash, 13 automobiles worth $6.8 million, 47 smartphones, hard disks and about two million emails of victims. Although the source of his wealth was sometimes questioned by inquisitive Nigerians, the social media celebrity was a source of inspiration to his two million influencers. Hushpuppi was identified as one of the brains behind the Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams, hacking corporate emails, redirecting financial transfers and stealing bank details. Before his arrest, the former second-hand clothes trader in Lagos, conspired to launder funds worth $14.7 million cyber-heist from a foreign financial services firm. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) accepted the nomination of two-time Nigerian minister, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as its Director- General. Also, an Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to First Lady, Aisha Buhari, was arrested after shooting at a presidential nephew and aide, Sabiu Yusuf, when the latter refused to go into self-isolation after a trip to Lagos. The United States-based streaming company, Netflix agrees to pair up with filmmaker and owner of EbonyLife TV (ELTV), Mo Abudu, to create two new TV series and several films. Celebrated reggae singer and songwriter, Majek Fashek, politician, former Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, Nollywood actor, Ogun Majek, chief judge of Kogi State, Nasir Ajanah and Parakoyi of Ibadanland and businessman, Chief Bode Akindele, died also.

JULY

Nigeria’s first celebrated female pilot, Tolulope Arotile, dies from injuries sustained in a domestic accident. The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) in Abuja and Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos re-established domestic flights after a three-month shutdown. A retired American woman was rescued by a Police Intelligence Response Team after being held hostage for 15 months by a 34-year-old man in a hotel. The man had extorted US$48,000 from the victim. Regrettably, Militants from the Islamic State West Africa Province, which broke away from Boko Haram several years ago, claimed responsibility for killing of five aid workers, who were kidnapped in June. Politician, Ismaila Isa Funtua, vetran actor, Jimmy Johnson, die

AUGUST

Politician, former Senator, Buruji Kashamu, dies from COVID-19 related complications. Similarly, chemical engineer, former managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Joseph Thlama Dawha and politician, former Governor of Gongola State, Wilberforce Juta, also died in 2020. A renowned musician, Yahaya Sharif- Aminu (22), is sentenced to death by hanging in Kano State for blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad. Two persons died in clashes between security forces and Biafran separatists, while the army regained control of Kukawa, Borno State, where the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) had taken hundreds of captives on August 18. The world stood still when the news of the death of black actor, Chadwick Boseman, best known for playing the superhero Black Panther, went viral. Boseman’s role as T’Challa / Black Panther earned him a spot on the 2018 Time 100 as one of the world’s most influential people. Boseman was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, which eventually progressed to stage IV before 2020. Boseman died at his home as a result of complications related to colon cancer on August 28, 2020, with his wife and family by his side.

SEPTEMBER

Ajibade Babalade, who played for Shooting Stars and the national team, died of cardiac arrest, while actor, Jimoh Aliu and the Emir of Zazzau (since 1975), Alhaji Shehu Idris, passed away, respectively.

OCTOBER

Nigerians and indeed, the rest of the world will not forget in hurry the #EndSARS protest. The protest was of numerous cases of extra-judicial killings which saw thousands of young Nigerians take to the street protesting for the disbandment of the notorious police unit, SARS. The protests took place in several cities across Nigeria and gained international attention with similar demonstrations organised by the Nigerian Diaspora in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Ireland and other countries. The hashtag #End- SARS became the number one trend on social media and also sparked reactions from public figures such as Cardi B, Rihanna, Trey Songz, Big Sean, Jidenna, John Boyega, Kanye West, Victor Osihmen, Drake, Diddy, Lewis Hamilton, Marcus Rashford, Odion Ighalo amongst others. The protests came to a climax with the “Lekki massacre” on October 20, when officers of the Nigerian Army reportedly opened fire on the protesters at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos State. United States Navy SEALs from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group rescued a 27-year-old American hostage held captive by armed gunmen near a border town with Niger Republic. Revered poet, J. P. Clark, dies at the age of 85.

NOVEMBER

Democrat’s presidential candidate, Mr. Joe Biden, was elected as the 46th President of the United States. Biden was elected alongside his running mate, Kamala Harris, made history when she was picked as his running mate. Biden’s triumph concluded an extraordinary election that was expected to set modern records for turnout, despite being held amid a pandemic that has upended life across the United States. Biden and Harris’s emergence at the polls put paid to President Donald Trump’s second term ambition. Historically, Harris became the first Asian-American to emerge on a major presidential ticket, being the daughter of an Indian mother from Chennai, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who was a cancer researcher and Jamaican father, Donald Harris, who lectured at Stanford University. Nigerian-British-born heavyweight champion, Anthony Joshua, defeated Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev, in the ninth round of their heavyweight world title boxing match at Wembley Arena in Northwest London. State governments across the Federation inaugurated panels to investigate the alleged torture of innocent Nigerians by SARS operatives, while some witnesses also claim that soldiers shot civilians during the peaceful protest in Lagos on October 20. About 110 civilians and peasant farmers were killed and six wounded while they worked in their rice fields in Koshebe village .

DECEMBER

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) finally suspended its nine-month industrial action, following successive governments’ inability to improve on the educational system and meet their demands for “Funding for Revitalisation of public universities, payment of earned academic allowances, Visitation panels to universities and renegotiation of 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement.” Amnesty International claimed that 10,000 civilians have died while in police custody since the beginning of the Boko Harum insurgency in 2011. Bandits kidnap about 334 schoolboys of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State. Seventeen of the schoolboys escaped from their captors before the remaining schoolboys were released on December 18. Four days after, 80 Muslim schoolboys were kidnapped and then released in Katsina State. Political columnist, entrepreneur and journalist, founder of Leadership, Sam Nda- Isaiah, traditional ruler, Olu of Warri (since 2015), Ikenwoli Godfrey Emiko (COVID-19) and film producer and director, ‘Seizure’, Chico Ejiro (cardiac arrest), failed to survive 2020.

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