“Offenders could be imprisoned and subject to a substantial fine”.
Mr Ahmad is said to have travelled to the UAE for a holiday. He was arrested after watching Qatar play Iraq in an Asian Cup match in Abu Dhabi on 22 January.
Speaking to the BBC World Service programme Newshour, his friend Amer Lokie said Mr Ahmad had called him from a police station on 30 January to tell him about the arrest.
Mr Lokie said: “After he left the stadium he was followed by a couple of people and they assaulted him.”
Mr Ahmad had been wearing a Qatar football shirt and was holding another one in his hands, he said.
“They took away his T-shirt and he went home. Afterwards he went back to police station to report the assault and they held him,” Mr Lokie said.
Asked whether Mr Ahmad had indicated whether the people who attacked him were members of the public, police or security officials, Mr Lokie said: “I was trying to ask him to clarify but he could not clarify because his time was limited.”
“He was just a person who loved sport so much,” Mr Lokie added. ” I don’t think he knew he could get into problems for wearing a T-shirt or supporting a particular team.”
The UAE embassy in London initially said it was unable to comment specifically on the case, adding “allegations of human rights violations are taken extremely seriously and will be thoroughly investigated”.
In a later statement issued through the embassy, a UAE official said Mr Ahmad was a dual Sudanese-British citizen.
The official said Mr Ahmad had gone to a police station to say he had been harassed and beaten up by local football fans for cheering the Qatar team.
“Police took him to hospital where a doctor who examined him, concluded that his injuries were inconsistent with his account of events and appeared to be self-inflicted,” the official said.
They said Mr Ahmad was charged on 24 January, adding: “We are advised that he has since admitted those offences [wasting police time and making false statements] and will now be processed through the UAE courts.”
The tiny oil- and gas-rich Qatar has been cut off by some of its powerful Arab neighbours – including the UAE – over its alleged support for terrorism.
The continuing rift meant there were very few Qatar fans in attendance during its Asian Cup matches.
When Qatar knocked the UAE out in the semi-final, objects and shoes were thrown at their players.
Qatar went on to win the tournament, defeating Japan 3-1 in the final on 1 February.
It said US-supplied armoured vehicles equipped with heavy machine-guns, including M-ATV, Caiman and MaxxPro models, were seen in the hands of three UAE-backed militias – the Security Belt, Shabwani Elite Forces, and The Giants.
Belgian Minimi light-machine guns, Serbian-made Zastava MO2 Coyote machine-guns, and Agrab armoured-truck-mounted Singaporean 120mm mortar systems were also being used by UAE-allied militias in Hudaydah, it added.
Amnesty said the militias were not accountable to any government and that some stood accused of committing war crimes, including during the offensive on Hudaydah, which was halted in December after the UN brokered a local ceasefire.
“Only a handful of countries have done the right thing and stopped the conveyor belt of arms to the Yemen’s devastating conflict,” said Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty’s arms control researcher.
“Others must follow in their footsteps or they will share responsibility for the devastating toll these billions of dollars’ worth of arms transfers are wreaking.”
There was no response from the UAE. But on Tuesday a senior official was quoted by CNN as denying “in no uncertain terms that we are in violation” of US arms export controls, which do not allow the retransfer of equipment without prior US government authorisation.
A farmer in Australia has gone on trial accused of kidnapping and raping a Belgian backpacker in a shed during a two-day ordeal.
Gene Charles Bristow, 54, has pleaded not guilty to attacking the 24-year-old woman in rural South Australia in 2017.
Prosecutors say she was chained up in a pig shed and repeatedly raped after going to the farm believing she had been given work. She was later freed.
Mr Bristow’s lawyers have called the allegations “an invention”.
On the first day of the trial, the District Court of South Australia was told that Mr Bristow had contacted the woman after she wrote on classifieds website Gumtree that she was seeking work.
He then arranged to drive her to his farm in Meningie, 150km (90 miles) south-east of Adelaide, the jury was told.
Prosecutor Michael Foundas alleged that Mr Bristow threatened the woman with a fake gun after they arrived at the farm, before trapping her in an “old, dirty pig shed”.
The jury was told that the woman was repeatedly sexually assaulted in the shed, which was located out of sight from a house that Mr Bristow shared with his family.
“This was a premeditated and thought-out plan,” Mr Foundas told the court in Adelaide.
“A plan to lure a young female backpacker to his farm where the unlucky victim would be held against her will and sexually abused by him,” he said.
The court heard that the woman managed to break free at one point and use her laptop to send messages to relatives and police, who began a search.
However she then re-shackled herself because Mr Bristow had threatened to kill her if she tried to escape, Mr Foundas said.
Prosecutors said Mr Bristow released the woman the next day, driving her to a town, because he was spooked by police search efforts. She was later found by authorities.
The defence team said it did not contest that the woman stayed overnight at the property, but rejected that the woman was held against her will. Mr Bristow also denies that any sexual assaults occurred.
Sylvia Yeko decided to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) three weeks ago at the age of 26 – even though the practice, which used to be performed on teenage girls, was outlawed in Uganda in 2010.
Her circumcision ceremony took place in public – she showed us a video taken on the day. It shows an excited, cheering crowd surrounding Ms Yeko and another woman, whose faces are smeared with a whitish-brown flour.
They lie on bare grass with their legs open as an older woman approaches each in turn and swiftly cuts off their clitoris.
Neither of them screams because to do so would be a sign of weakness and would nullify what this community in eastern Uganda regard as a rite of passage before a woman can get married.
“During this day I felt so proud, I just felt so excited,” Ms Yeko tells the BBC as she watches the footage.
“Before I was circumcised I was taken as any other child, but now I’m someone respected.”
She knows she could face up to five years in prison for being circumcised, but she insists that she wants to be identified.
Those who cut her genitals could be imprisoned for 10 years.
Since December, several of these public circumcision ceremonies have happened in the Sebei region of eastern Uganda – most of them in Kween district, which borders Kenya.
Three people have recently been convicted for practising FGM, including a 15-year-old girl and a woman. Nineteen others are in jail awaiting trial.
FGM is life-threatening. The immediate danger comes from bleeding to death after the genitals have been cut.
Then infections can set in. The women in the video also had their private parts covered with flour, and it’s not clear if the same blade was used for all the initiates.
Later in life, the scars could form keloids, which are growths. Childbirth is also likely to be more difficult.
Nevertheless Ms Yeko has become a sort of celebrity in Sebei – and when I ask if she is concerned that girls and women who follow her example are putting their lives in danger, she says she does not believe FGM is harmful.
Female genital mutilation
Includes “the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”
Practised in 30 countries in Africa, and some in Asia and the Middle East
An estimated three million girls and women worldwide are at risk each year
It is commonly carried out on young girls, often between infancy and the age of 15
Often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour, to prepare a girl or woman for adulthood and marriage, and to ensure “pure femininity”
Dangers include severe bleeding, problems urinating, infections, infertility and increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths
For her the act was not only a cultural rite but also a form of protest against the government’s failure to keep its promises to help educate and advance prospects for women once circumcision was banned.
People in these underdeveloped and poor areas expected to have greater access to social services and infrastructure by giving up FGM.
To make her point, Ms Yeko takes me to Kwosir Girl’s Boarding Secondary School, where a plaque on the wall reads: “Presidential pledge to stop FGM”.
But she says that even though the school was built in the wake of the circumcision ban and was meant to be free for all girls, costs can run up to $90 (£69) a term and are unaffordable for many in her community.
“They better take back their school because we’re not benefiting from the school and we’re not enjoying anything from this school,” she says.
Kween is one of the worst-performing areas when it comes to education. According to government statistics, on average about 6,000 students enrol at primary school level, but by the end of secondary school only 200 students remain in class.
Ms Yeko says she did manage to get an education, but like many young people in the East African nation she remains unemployed.
A university graduate and now the mother of a four-year-old boy, her decision to get circumcised was to make the point that she feels let down by Uganda’s leaders. She even wrote a letter to the police before her cutting ceremony to make sure the authorities knew about it.
‘We are treated like children’
For another woman, who spoke to the BBC about her recent circumcision, the motive was more personal.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, she said she felt ostracised because as a married woman within the ethnic Sabiny community she was prevented from doing certain things because she had not been cut.
“In Sebei, a woman who has not been cut cannot go to the [communal] granary or pick cow dung from the kraal.”
Cow dung is often used to plaster houses, a task often left to women.
“A husband can marry another wife. She might be circumcised and then starts insulting the uncircumcised woman. You are just equated to your children,” she explained.
Yet the mother of three daughters does not intend to circumcise any of them as her hope is that they will be educated and less easily intimidated by the community.
‘She broke the doors’
Uganda’s first female Speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, has been a key campaigner against FGM over the last 20 years. She visits the region every year and commissioned the Kwosir Girl’s Boarding Secondary School.
Ms Kadaga maintains the decision to ban FGM came from the Sebei leaders themselves, who first passed a local by-law in 2009.
“I know that they are unhappy about a number of issues. But I think injuring yourself because there’s no road… it’s also not right. But I think it’s our duty to ensure that they have services,” she says.
The ban has seen the cases of circumcision fall in Uganda. In 2011 1.4% of women were circumcised and by 2016 that had fallen to 0.3%.
But Ms Yeko’s father, Arapkwures Chemegich, who does not support FGM, says being heavy handed about the ban will not work and has created pockets of resistance.
He should know as he tried to stop his daughter from going ahead with her circumcision.
“When we tried to stop her, she actually fought and broke the door,” he says, showing me two doors inside the family hut that were hanging off their hinges.
“I think FGM should be stopped, but the method? They should not have come by force.
He said Denmark stood ready to help with Christensen’s appeal.
It is the first prosecution of its kind since the religious group was banned.
A judge at the district court said the six years in a penal colony was a “minimal sentence”, local news site Oryol Novosti reported.
Christensen’s sentencing comes despite an apparent intervention by Russian President Vladimir Putin in December, who called the allegations of extremism “utter nonsense” and promised to look into the prosecution of members.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Putin’s spokesman argued there must have been “some reason” for prosecuting Christensen other than simply practicing his faith.
In court, however, prosecutors argued that he was actively involved as an organiser of religious activity for the banned group.
Christensen’s prosecution has attracted the support of human rights groups including Amnesty International, who said he had been imprisoned “simply for the exercise of his human rights including his right to freedom of religion”.
It called for his immediate and unconditional release.
Dozens of other Jehovah’s Witnesses are facing criminal charges in Russia, where the group has an estimated 170,000 members.
The movement is a Christian-based religious group which was founded in the United States in the late 1800s. It is best known by non-member for its door-to-door evangelical work in an attempt to recruit new members.
The organisation largely interprets the Bible literally, and rejects many of the teachings of other large Christian churches. In turn, they are not seen by traditional churches as a mainstream denomination.
In the Soviet Union under Stalin, Jehovah’s Witnesses were persecuted for their faith, facing arrests and deportation.
Freedom of religion is guaranteed under Russia’s modern constitution – but exceptions exist under extremism laws.
“We deeply regret the conviction of Dennis Christensen- an innocent man who did not commit any real crime,” a spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia told AFP news agency.
“It is sad that reading the Bible, preaching, and living a moral way of life is again a criminal offence in Russia.”
Media captionWhat happened at Trump’s State of the Union address?
US President Donald Trump has announced in his State of the Union speech that he will hold a second nuclear summit with North Korea’s leader this month.
In an address to the nation with the theme “Choosing Greatness”, he vowed once again to build a border wall.
While appealing for political unity, the Republican president also said “ridiculous partisan investigations” could damage US prosperity.
In a rebuttal, Democrats accused Mr Trump of abandoning US values.
His primetime address came less than a fortnight after he backed down to end the longest ever US government shutdown when Democrats refused to fund a US-Mexico border wall.
Federal agencies could close again if no spending plan is agreed by the end of next week.
What did he say about North Korea?
The president said in his 82-minute speech on Tuesday night that he would meet Kim Jong-un in Vietnam from 27-28 February.
“Much work remains to be done,” Mr Trump said, “but my relationship with Kim Jong-un is a good one.”
Plans for a second summit have been in the works since the two leaders’ historic talks last year.
Mr Trump and Mr Kim’s meeting last June in Singapore was the first ever between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader.
While Pyongyang has not conducted any atomic or ballistic missile tests since last summer, it has yet to agree to dismantle its nuclear weapons programme.
The US envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, is in Pyongyang for talks, paving the way for the second leadership summit.
What might a second summit achieve?
Analysis by Laura Bicker, BBC Newslight, Seoul
Mr Trump’s goal will be to extract pledges from Kim Jong-un without giving too much ground. The Trump administration has said it is not willing to lift sanctions, but it has mentioned helping out the North’s economy.
However, handing over such aid to a secretive state which has yet to declare a list of its weapons facilities or allow in independent inspectors is bound to raise more than eyebrows.
So Mr Trump has to extract a written pledge from Mr Kim. Otherwise these summits will be seen as all show, and very little substance.
As for Mr Kim’s bargaining chips, we have been told he could be prepared to give up his nuclear production site known as Yongbyon.
I’ve also been told by some sources close to Pyongyang that Mr Kim does want to achieve something his father and grandfather never did. A peace treaty.
The prospect of becoming the US president who ended the 68-year long Korean War is bound to be a tantalising one for Mr Trump.
What did he say about unity?
After two years of rancorous partisanship, Mr Trump on Tuesday night repeated calls for political unity that he has made in his last two annual speeches to Congress.
“Together, we can break decades of political stalemate,” he said. “We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions.”
Mr Trump raised potential areas of agreement, such as infrastructure improvements, lowering prescription drug costs and fighting childhood cancer.
But he added: “An economic miracle is taking place in the United States and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations.”
Democrats have launched a flurry of inquiries into the Trump administration since they took over the US House of Representatives last month.
A special prosecutor is still investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, which the president and Moscow deny.
As Mr Trump delivered his nationally televised speech, his chief congressional antagonist was sitting at the rostrum over his shoulder.
The Democratic leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, tweeted afterwards: “It will take days to fact-check all the misrepresentations that the president made tonight.”
A message to his base
It was a speech that was billed as bipartisan, but beneath the flowery language were the same sharp divides and disagreements.
Mr Trump has never really acknowledged his party’s ballot-box defeat in the mid-term elections last November.
By instigating the recently concluded government shutdown, he acted like he still had the political upper hand – even when it was clear to almost everyone that this was not the case.
So this State of the Union address presented a quandary. How can a president reconcile himself to divided government while still asserting that everything is going great for him?
For this president, the answer was to effectively shrug at the setbacks. To focus his message, where it counted, towards his political base.
And to stick with the message that won him the presidency in 2016 and, he appears to believe, will keep him in the White House for another term next year.
How did Democrats respond?
Stacey Abrams, who lost her race last year to be governor of Georgia, delivered the Democrats’ response to Mr Trump.
She was the first African-American woman to give the party’s rebuttal.
Ms Abrams said: “The shutdown was a stunt engineered by the president of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people – but our values.”
She also said that while she is “disappointed” with Mr Trump, “I still don’t want him to fail.”
Democratic female lawmakers who attended Mr Trump’s speech wore white to celebrate the 100th anniversary of American women gaining the right to vote.
They sat stony-faced as their Republican counterparts rose for the applause lines.
But Democrats surprised Mr Trump with a standing ovation when he said there were more women in the workforce and in Congress than ever before.
“That’s great!” said the president, delighted by their reaction. “Really great.”
What did he say about foreign wars?
Mr Trump said his administration was holding “constructive talks” with the Taliban to find a solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.
“The hour has come to at least try for peace,” he added.
The president also said “virtually all” of the territory once occupied in Syria and Iraq by the Islamic State group had been liberated from “these bloodthirsty monsters”.
“It is time to give our brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome home,” he told the chamber.
He said 7,000 US troops had died and more than $7tn (£5.4tn) had been spent by America on nearly two decades of war in the Middle East.
“Great nations do not fight endless wars,” said the president, who campaigned on an ‘America First’ platform.
What did Trump say on border security?
The president devoted much of his speech to border security, vowing once again to build a US-Mexico barrier and calling illegal immigration “an urgent national crisis”.
But he refrained from declaring a national emergency that might allow him to bypass Congress for wall funding.
With another government shutdown deadline impending on 15 February, the president has few options to deliver his signature campaign promise.
Mr Trump told his audience that working-class Americans pay the price for illegal immigration.
The mood in the chamber
At the scene – By Tara McKelvey, BBC Newslight
Despite the president’s call for unity, the reception from Democrats was frosty for most of the evening.
Meanwhile, Republicans shouted their approval – especially when Mr Trump talked about the wall along the southern border.
When the president said: “The state of our union is strong”, members of his party stood and chanted: “USA!”
The Democrats stayed seated. But then the mood changed.
As the president noted the record number of women in Congress, Democrats gave a standing ovation – and they began shouting: “USA!”
Republicans joined in – they all chanted together.
Bitter adversaries experienced a rare, happy moment of togetherness. And the president was right in the middle of it.
Pope Francis made the admission while visiting the Middle East
Pope Francis has admitted that clerics have sexually abused nuns, and in one case they were kept as sex slaves.
He said in that case his predecessor, Pope Benedict, was forced to shut down an entire congregation of nuns who were being abused by priests.
It is thought to be the first time that Pope Francis has acknowledged the sexual abuse of nuns by the clergy.
He said the Church was attempting to address the problem but said it was “still going on”.
Last November, the Catholic Church’s global organisation for nuns denounced the “culture of silence and secrecy” that prevented them from speaking out.
The Pope’s comments come amid long-running allegations of sexual abuse of children and young men by priests at the Church.
What did Pope Francis say?
Speaking to reporters while on a historic tour of the Middle East
on Tuesday, the pontiff admitted that the Church had an issue, the roots of which lie in “seeing women as second class”.
He said that priests and bishops had abused nuns, but said the Church was aware of the “scandal” and was “working on it”, adding that a number of clerics had been suspended.
“It’s a path that we’ve been on,” he said.
“Pope Benedict had the courage to dissolve a female congregation which was at a certain level, because this slavery of women had entered it – slavery, even to the point of sexual slavery – on the part of clerics or the founder.”
Pope Francis said sexual abuse of nuns was an ongoing problem, but happened largely in “certain congregations, predominantly new ones”.
“I think it’s still taking place because it’s not as though the moment you become aware of something it goes away.”
Where is the abuse said to have taken place?
The female congregation dissolved in 2005 under Pope Benedict was the Community of St Jean, which was based in France, Alessandro Gisotti of the Vatican press office told CBS News.
In 2013, the Community of St Jean admitted that priests had behaved “in ways that went against chastity” with several women in the order, according to the French Roman Catholic newspaper La Croix.
In a separate case in India last year a bishop was arrested over allegations that he raped a nun 13 times between 2014 and 2016.
Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who headed the diocese in Jalandhar in the northern state of Punjab, has denied the accusations.
In Chile, reports of abuse of nuns carried out by priests led the Vatican to launch an investigation last year. The women were reportedly removed from the order after highlighting the abuse.
They weren’t off the cuff remarks, but a planned outburst.
The softly spoken politician who holds the authority of all EU countries has just completely condemned a chunk of the British cabinet, wondering aloud: “What special place in hell” there looks like for those who “promoted Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely”.
Be clear, he was not intending to talk about voters who wanted to Leave, but politicians who were involved in the campaign.
He also too had pretty stern remarks for those who’d been on the other side of the argument, accusing those who still want the UK to stay in the EU of having “no political force, and no effective leadership”.
Mr Tusk will be all too aware that he will provoke tempers at home, even laughing about it as he left the stage with the Taoiseach, the Irish leader, Leo Varadkar.
But if you strip away the planned flash of temper, also in his remarks was an invitation to the prime minister to come forward with a different version of the backstop – a “believable guarantee”, a promise that a “common solution is possible”.
That is, on the face of it, in tone at least, more of an opening to the UK to put something new on the table than we have seen from the EU side.
Certainly, Theresa May’s most pressing job is to put something that could work on the table in Belfast, and in Brussels, and to do it fast.
But don’t forget, also at her back, she has Brexiteers that she needs to manage, whose expectations she needs to contain, whose votes she desperately needs.
And a time when cool tempers and compromise are absolutely needed, Mr Tusk’s remarks are likely to whip up the mood instead.
And at the end of their press conference, Mr Varadkar was picked up by the microphones telling Mr Tusk: “They’ll give you terrible trouble, the British, for this.”
Mr Tusk nodded at the comment and both laughed.
Former UKIP leader, and now an independent MEP, Nigel Farage, tweeted back at Mr Tusk: “After Brexit we will be free of unelected, arrogant bullies like you and run our own country. Sounds more like heaven to me.”
Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, who also campaigned for Britain’s exit from the EU, said Mr Tusk’s comments were “extremely regrettable” and “not at all helpful”.
“The man has no manners,” the Conservative minster told the BBC’s Politics Live.
Mr Tusk began his remarks by telling reporters there were 50 days to go until the UK’s exit from the European Union.
“I know that still a very great number of people in the UK, and on the continent, as well as in Ireland, wish for a reversal of this decision. I have always been with you, with all my heart.
“But the facts are unmistakable. At the moment, the pro-Brexit stance of the UK prime minister, and the Leader of the Opposition, rules out this question.
“Today, there is no political force and no effective leadership for Remain. I say this without satisfaction, but you can’t argue with the facts.”
Theresa May – who supported the UK staying in the EU during the 2016 EU referendum but has always insisted that Brexit must be delivered because that was what people voted for – is due to arrive in Brussels on Thursday to seek legal changes to the withdrawal deal she signed with the EU. She hopes these changes will help her get it through the UK Parliament.
Mr Tusk said that the other 27 EU members had decided in December that the withdrawal agreement was “not open for renegotiation”.
He said: “I hope that tomorrow we will hear from Prime Minister May a realistic suggestion on how to end the impasse…. following the latest votes in the House of Commons.”
Mr Tusk said the Irish border issue and the need to preserve the peace process remained the EU’s “top priority”.
“The EU is first and foremost a peace project,” he said. “We will not gamble with peace or put a sell-by date on reconciliation. This is why we insist on the backstop.”
In a message to Mrs May, Mr Tusk said: “Give us a deliverable guarantee for peace in Northern Ireland and the UK will leave the EU as a trusted friend.
“I hope that the UK government will present ideas that will both respect this point of view and at the same time command a stable and clear majority in the House of Commons.
“I strongly believe that a common solution is possible and I will do everything in my power to find it.”
Mr Varadkar said that while he was “open to further discussions” with the UK government about post-Brexit relations the legally-binding withdrawal agreement remained “the best deal possible”.
He said he had agreed with Mr Tusk that the backstop was “needed as a legal guarantee to ensure that there is no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland while protecting the integrity of our European single market and customs union”.
He added that he had agreed with Mr Tusk that “in light of the ongoing uncertainty in London and the fast-approaching deadline” preparations for a no-deal Brexit must intensify.
The man aiming to wrest the Nigerian presidency from Muhammadu Buhari has built a career circling the summits of public life.
Atiku Abubakar has been a top civil servant, a vice-president, and a prominent businessman and philanthropist, making his fortune in the oil sector and giving some of it away to charity.
The highest office in the land has, however, eluded him. On three occasions, he has tried for the presidency and fallen short. On 16 February, the 72-year-old tries again, offering his credentials as a seasoned political operator and serial entrepreneur as the remedy for Nigeria’s ills.
However, his critics point to accusations of financial impropriety against him which they say make him unsuitable for top office in a country where corruption is a huge challenge.
He denies any wrongdoing and says the charges are politically motivated.
If elected, Mr Abubakar will be confronted by soaring unemployment, chronic poverty, a legislature gridlocked by regional rivalries, and a sluggish economy heavily dependent on fluctuating oil revenues.
His campaign is exploiting the contrast between his image and that of an incumbent who has become a target for much of the frustration over the economy.
Mr Buhari’s critics say his personality – austere, aloof and inflexible – has proven ill-suited to the demands of governing Nigeria, even if it helped him win the last election, lending credibility to his pledge to fight corruption.
Mr Abubakar, by contrast, is an affable, enterprising figure, moving adroitly between the worlds of commerce and politics – qualities that, his supporters say, will help him unite the country and revive the economy.
Both candidates are from the mainly Muslim north of the country, and have tried to reach beyond their power base by choosing running mates from the mostly Christian south.
According to Cheta Nwanze, head of research at Lagos-based risk advisory SBM Intelligence, Mr Abubakar’s campaign will hope to attract some of the people who voted for Mr Buhari in the last election – particularly “the educated youth that live in cities and have seen their incomes fall in the last few years”.
Mr Abubakar is the candidate for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the dominant force in Nigerian politics for the last two decades. He was with the PDP when it was formed at the end of a military dictatorship, and has served as vice-president in two of its administrations. However, he has had a tempestuous relationship with the party he helped create, twice having left it for opposition groups.
The charges have never been tried in court, and Mr Abubakar has rejected the allegations of corruption as politically motivated. In January 2019, he visited Washington DC, ending speculation that he was avoiding travel to the US because he might face arrest there.
According to Olly Owen, a lecturer in African studies at Oxford University, Mr Abubakar is the ultimate political insider.
“Back in the 1990s, when they were getting rid of military rule, he was in at the ground floor,” he says. “He is a long-term power-broker, switching allegiances and dictating the nature of elite alliances.”
Both candidates in the election are over 70, but Mr Abubakar’s relative youth – contrasted with Mr Buhari’s rumoured ill-health – is viewed as an asset in a country where most of the electorate is under 40.
Mr Owen says the two men appeal to two distinct tendencies among Nigerian voters – a yearning for clean government and a desire for economic opportunity.
“People are sick of corruption,” he says, but on the other hand they are also “very entrepreneurial”.
Tycoon and veteran power-broker
Born in 1946 in northern state of Adamawa
Co-owner of multinational oil services company that started life in a Lagos shipping container
Oversaw privatisations during two terms as vice-president
Fought against corruption charges, describing them as politically motivated
Founded American University which gave scholarships to some of the “Chibok girls” who survived Boko Haram kidnapping
His father, a devout Muslim, was briefly jailed for trying to stop him from attending a Western-style school
An Arsenal football supporter, he has four wives and 28 children
Mr Abubakar’s reputation in business is linked to the spectacular rise of Intels, the oilfield logistics firm that he co-founded in 1982. From its original office in a shipping container, the company has grown into a multi-national, multi-billion naira operation, employing more than 10,000 people.
He has diverted part of his wealth to charitable causes, most notably establishing the prestigious American University in Adamawa state, northern Nigeria. The university recently offered scholarships to some of the “Chibok girls” – survivors of a high-profile kidnapping by Islamist Boko Haram militants.
Mr Abubakar regards himself as a lucky beneficiary of the Western-style education offered at the university and fiercely opposed by Boko Haram. He was born in Adamawa to a devout Muslim family, and his father, a Fulani tradesman and herder, was briefly jailed for preventing him from attending school.
After finishing his studies, he joined the customs service, serving at Lagos port and airport. “Corruption was rife in Customs but I was not part of it,” he writes. “I saw Customs… as a way of making money for the government.”
While still a civil servant, Mr Abubakar began buying property and farmland for commercial purposes, eventually moving into the emerging market for oil and gas services. “I recognised very early in life that I have a good nose for business,” he writes in a chapter of his autobiography entitled, Making Money.
His career in customs brought him into contact with the military and political elite, two categories that have been interchangeable for much of Nigeria’s recent history. Mr Abubakar grew close to the former army major, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, regarding him as a political mentor.
Against a backdrop of coups and crackdowns, the two men began networking with other regional leaders, hoping to form a credible government-in-waiting.
In 1989, Mr Abubakar quit the civil service to dedicate himself to politics. He made his first presidential run in 1991, as a candidate for the faction that had gathered around Shehu Yar’Adua. He would step down after coming third in the first round, and the election itself was later cancelled by the military government.
The repression intensified in the 1990s under the dictatorship of Gen Sani Abacha. Mr Abubakar was briefly exiled in London, while his mentor, Shehu Yar’Adua, was sent to prison and would eventually die there.
Mr Abubakar returned to Nigeria in 1997 as Gen Abacha relaxed his grip on power. He became vice-president after the elections in 1999 installed the PDP candidate, Olusegun Obasanjo, in the presidency.
During two terms in office, he oversaw a series of privatisations, earning praise as a liberaliser in some quarters, and criticism elsewhere as a crony capitalist.
In his autobiography, he takes credit for reforms of the banking sector, the auction of mobile phone licenses, as well as for an economic boom that enabled Nigeria to pay off much of its debt.
Mr Abubakar says he will bring back the good times if elected president in 2019. However, his ability to keep that promise will be subject to powerful forces outside his control.
“It’s hard to predict what he could achieve,” says the BBC’s Nigeria editor, Aliyu Tanko, “with an economy that depends so heavily on the price of oil.”
As Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari seeks re-election, he must do without the decisive factor behind his victory four years ago – the promise of a clean break from the past.
Back then, he represented a new broom, the symbol of his party. He had never been democratically elected despite having tried three times, and his public image – as a dour, incorruptible disciplinarian – was based on a 20-month stint as military leader, back in the 1980s.
He campaigned as a born-again democrat, vowing to root out corruption, revive the economy and defeat the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency. An electorate worried about corruption, insecurity and the economy took him at his word, making him the first Nigerian opposition candidate to defeat an incumbent president.
Mr Buhari’s victory in 2015 was not just an endorsement of his platform but also an indictment of the politics that preceded him. This election, in turn, will pass judgement on the politics of his term. He can no longer promise a clean break from a past of which he is a part.
His record in office is mixed. Mr Buhari’s critics say that the very attributes that won over voters four years ago – his strictness and inflexibility – have emerged as liabilities. They accuse him of autocratic leanings as well as a disastrous tendency towards inaction. He took six months to appoint his cabinet and has earned himself the nickname, “Baba-Go-Slow”.
Mr Buhari’s supporters can argue that he has largely delivered on campaign pledges such as tackling corruption and cracking down on Boko Haram. But they may struggle to point to concrete achievements in other fields, such as fixing the economy.
The economy slid into recession while he was in office, dragged under by a sharp fall in the global price of oil. The downturn was exacerbated by Mr Buhari’s opposition to devaluing the naira, which led to a severe foreign currency shortage in the first year of his term.
Companies that had to import goods and equipment were forced to rely on a black market in US dollars which had emerged to circumvent the fixed currency rate. Unemployment also doubled – a particularly troubling statistic in a country where two-thirds of the population live below the poverty line.
As a result, many Nigerians will look back on Mr Buhari’s first presidential term as a time when their money worries intensified and their living standards took a hit. His prospects for re-election will be influenced by the extent to which they hold him personally responsible for their hardships.
On the positive side, the president boosted investment in agriculture and infrastructure projects, and oversaw a rise in oil production in the south. He can also take some credit for eventually bringing the economy out of recession, although the recent rise in the global price of oil played the bigger part in this, and the recovery has been sluggish.
Mr Buhari’s tenure has also been marked by intense speculation about his health. Since 2017, the president has often been away from Nigeria, receiving medical treatment. While the 76-year-old has refused to disclose the nature of his ailment, he was forced to deny that he had hired a body double to replace him at public events.
His power base lies with the poor of northern Nigeria, known as the “talakawa” in the Hausa language. In the last election, his nationwide appeal was boosted by the backing of prominent defectors from the then governing People’s Democratic Party (PDP). This time round, his key asset is believed to be his running mate, Yemi Osinbajo, a popular pastor from the largely Christian south of the country.
Born in 1942 to a Muslim family in northern Katsina state
Former soldier, led military regime in 1980s, remembered for strictness – tardy civil servants had to perform frog jumps in public
Won 2015 presidential election, the first opposition candidate to defeat an incumbent, with promise to beat corruption and Boko Haram insurgents
Told wife she belonged in kitchen after she complained in a BBC interview about his government
After long absence from illness, had to deny rumours that he had been replaced in public by a lookalike
Among his successes, Mr Buhari can point to an improvement in security in the north-east. Under his watch, the Nigerian military has retaken territory from Boko Haram militants that had been fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state.
Scores of schoolgirls that were part of a group of nearly 300 abducted by the militants have also been reunited with their families. However, many of the so-called Chibok girls remain missing, and recent attacks by a Boko Haram faction have underscored the fragility of the security gains.
According to Andrew Walker, a Nigeria analyst who has written a book about Boko Haram, the insurgent group has a record of using lulls in the fighting to regroup. “Mr Buhari was able to ride a period of low activity from Boko Haram, which now appears to be coming to an end,” he says.
Nigeria’s security worries are not limited to the north-east. The impoverished north-western state of Zamfara has seen a sharp rise in kidnappings and killings linked to gangs of cattle rustlers, bandits and vigilantes.
Violence has also flared in other parts of the country with a history of ethnic and religious conflicts. Troops had to be deployed in central regions after deadly clashes between farmers and Fulani cattle-herders. Meanwhile, the long-dormant Biafran separatist movement in the south-east has been rekindled.
After four years of the Buhari presidency, Mr Walker says: “More and more Nigerians are asking whether personal integrity alone is enough to maintain the integrity of the country”.
Mr Buhari’s personal reputation for incorruptibility has indeed survived his time in office – a rare feat among Nigerian leaders. However, he has been accused of using corruption investigations as a blunt instrument to neutralise his political opponents.
In January 2019, Mr Buhari suspended Nigeria’s chief justice, Walter Onnoghen, over his alleged failure to declare his personal assets before taking office in 2017. The timing of the move, weeks before the general election, provoked alarm.
As the country’s top law official, Judge Onnoghen would have played a vital role in overseeing potential electoral disputes. However, Mr Buhari dismissed concerns – voiced by foreign observers and opposition politicians – that the suspension had anything to do with the elections.
Dissatisfaction with Mr Buhari’s leadership has also rippled through the ranks of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). In 2018, the APC was weakened by a series of high-profile defections, with dozens of legislators crossing the floor to join the PDP.
An early indication that all was not well came in 2016, when the first lady, Aisha Buhari, told the BBC’s Hausa service that a small clique had hijacked her husband’s administration, assuming responsibility for presidential appointments.
The attack from close quarters was unusual and particularly damning for a leader who had promised to crack down on nepotism.
Mr Buhari responded to the criticism by saying that his wife “belongs in the kitchen”, which did his international reputation no favours.
Mr Buhari was born in 1942, to a large Muslim family in the northern Katsina state. In a 2012 interview, he described a childhood memory of being thrown from the back of the horse with his father and half-brother.
After finishing his schooling, he entered a military academy, joining the Nigerian army soon after the country gained independence from the UK. He received his officer training in the UK. Years later, he would attribute his love of discipline to his schooling and to his military background, crediting these institutions with having taught him the virtue of hard work.
He rose through the ranks of the military while it tightened its grip on post-independence Nigeria through a series of coups. As a colonel, he won admiration for driving back an incursion by Chadian soldiers who had occupied islands in Lake Chad that belonged to Nigeria.
By the end of the 1970s, he had served as a governor of the north-east, and as a de facto oil minister under Olusegun Obasanjo, the military ruler who would return to power decades later as an elected president, a trajectory that Mr Buhari would eventually follow.
In 1983, he became head of state after a coup against the elected government of Shehu Shagari. Mr Buhari would later downplay his role, insisting that the real power lay with the coup plotters behind the scenes, but this account has been disputed.
His regime is remembered for its campaign against indiscipline and corruption, as well as for its human rights abuses. Hundreds of people – including politicians, businessmen and journalists – were jailed under repressive laws. The regime also locked up the Nigerian musical legend and perennial government critic, Fela Kuti, on trumped-up charges relating to currency exports.
On the streets, Nigerians were ordered to queue while waiting for buses, watched over by whip-wielding soldiers, while civil servants who were late for work were publicly humiliated by being forced to perform frog jumps.
The regime’s curb on imports led to job losses and business closures, and a new currency was introduced in an effort to tackle corruption. Prices rose, living standards fell, and after 20 months, Mr Buhari was forced out by another coup, engineered by the army chief, Gen Ibrahim Babangida.
Despite his professed conversion to democracy years later, Mr Buhari has always defended the 1983 coup, arguing that the military only stepped in when “the elected people had failed the country”.
Mr Buhari has been married twice, first to Safinatu Yusuf, and then to Aisha Halilu. He has 10 children.
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