Monday, 30 March 2015

Photo of the female INECstaffl who died in bike accident in Benue

On Saturday, I told you guys about a female INEC ad-hoc staff who died after the bike she was riding in was involved in an accident. (Read here). New details have emerged about the accident. The name of the lady who lost her life is Blessing Agidi Ode (pictured above) a 200l student of the University of Agriculture, Makurdi.

And contrary to reports, the bike rider didn't die. He like the lady, was also an INEC Ad-hoc staff. He is receiving treatment but in critical condition. The neck handle of the bike removed while on top speed. See photo from the scene of accident and the survivor in hospital after the cut...

Landlords and local councils give names of 100,000 tenants to Irish Water

Irish Water has been given the names of more than 100,000 tenants, which means they can now be sent water bills in the coming weeks
Irish Water has been given the names of more than 100,000 tenants, which means they can now be sent water bills in the coming weeks
IRISH Water has been given the names of more than 100,000 tenants, which means they can now be sent water bills in the coming weeks.
Local authorities and landlord owners of multiple properties were ordered to hand over the details last month, in advance of the utility issuing demands for payment to some 1.5 million households across the State.

AIT boss, Raymond Dokpesi intimidates voters in Edo

President-elect to emerge today –Jega

INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru JegaThe Independent National Electoral Commission has said that despite the extension of Saturday’s elections till Sunday in some parts of the country, the results of the presidential poll will be declared on Monday(today).
INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, gave the assurance   as some of results from wards, local government areas and states continued to emerge on Sunday.
For instance, results from Osun and Ogun states showed the All Progressives Congress Presidential candidate, Maj.Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, defeating President Goodluck Jonathan.
But in Ekiti State, Jonathan had an easy ride as he beat the APC candidate.
Jega, who gave journalists an update on the conduct of the polls in Abuja, said that as of Sunday evening, results of the elections had only been completely collated in two states, one of which was Ekiti.
He said, “Some people assume that when I said 48 hours( for the release of the results), it starts from the morning the elections commenced. It is 48 hours after elections have ended, like yesterday(Saturday).
“You start counting 48 hours from yesterday (Saturday) when substantial majority of the polling units ended elections.”
The INEC chief expressed satisfaction over the conduct of the   polls, which he said held in a substantial number of polling units across the country, including the troubled North-East zone   where   internally displaced persons   voted in   Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states.
“We are pleased that the elections went on smoothly in a substantial number of polling units across the country, including the North-East where the commission was also able to conduct voting for Internally Displaced Persons in the three states of Adamawa, Yobe and Borno,” Jega said.
He said that out of more than   150,000 card readers used for the conduct of the polls , only 300   failed, representing   about 0.25 per cent of the total number of machines.
“It is also gratifying to note that the card readers worked well in the majority of polling units, even though there were areas where difficulties experienced necessitated additional guidelines to allow for manual accreditation of voters, as announced yesterday (Saturday),” Jega said.
He stated that manual accreditation was done in some polling units in   Osun, Kebbi, Ekiti, Adamawa, Borno, Jigawa, Anambra, Akwa Ibom and Ebonyi states.”
Jega said the elections were extended and   concluded on Sunday in nine states and the Federal Capital Territory.
Taraba State has the highest number of 116 polling units where the polls were extended.
Other states where the number of polling units where the elections were extended are Lagos (90), Kebbi (16), Adamawa (25), Niger (six ), Yobe (37), Borno (eight), Jigawa (37), Kano (13) and FCT (two).
He also rejected the claim by the spokesman for the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation,   Femi Fani-Kayode, that his party had won in certain number of states.
Jega, who said Fani-Kayode should be asked the source of his figures, stated that as of the time he was addressing the journalists on Sunday evening, collation had only been concluded in two states. He said that   the results from the two had yet to arrive Abuja in the manner that it could be announced.
The chairman said, “You said somebody in one of the parties said the PDP is winning in 23 states. I don’t know the sources of his information. I know result have not been collated in 23 states.
“May be you should direct the questions to him and let him explain.”
He   advised journalists “to be careful about reporting this kind of information that is being put out there by people who are clearly partisan.”
He also debunked speculation that he was under pressure to declare results of the presidential election inconclusive.
“We are not under any pressure to declare inconclusive elections. In fact, I wonder who will be interested in declaring the election inconclusive. I think candidates will be interested in being declared winners and not to have the election declared inconclusive,” Jega said.
The INEC boss said his office had on Sunday morning received petitions from the APC in Rivers State calling for outright cancellation of the elections   in the state.
He assured the petitioners that the commission would consider all the complaints, including the allegation of presence of some underage voters and substitution of some members of the commission’s ad hoc staff with untrained partisan persons in Rivers and Lagos states.
However, results from Osun State showed that Buhari recorded   victory in 22 out of the 24 Local Government Areas   so far announced by the state INEC. He had 264,734 votes.
Jonathan,who won the remaining LGAs – Ife Central and Ife East – scored 192,288 votes.
The   results were announced in Osogbo by the returning officers for each of the LGAs on Sunday.
Also in Ogun State, the APC presidential candidate defeated Jonathan in 13 out of the 20 LGAs whose results were announced by INEC.
He polled 308, 290 votes while Jonathan scored 207,950 votes.
The APC candidate for the Ogun Central Senatorial District,   Lanre Tejuoso, defeated   PDP’s Abisola Sodipo-Clark, the wife of an Ijaw national leader, Edwin Clark.
Tejuoso scored 115, 197 votes while Sodipo-Clark had 30,036 votes. The sitting senator for Ogun Central and Social Democratic Party’s candidate, Olugbenga Obadara, got 15,124 votes.
Jonathan, however, had it easy in Ekiti State where he polled 176,466 votes from 16 councils in the state. Buhari garnered 120,331 votes.
The result was announced by the state Returning Officer, Prof. Adebiyi Daramola, to party officials on Sunday.
It was also a sweet victory for the PDP as it won all the three senatorial and six House of Representatives seats in the state.
Impliedly, by implication two of the APC   senators – Anthony Adeniyi and Olubunmi Adetumbi – who contested the poll   will not join their colleagues in the eight National   Assembly.
Gbenga Olofin, the third APC candidate for Ekiti Central was defeated by Fatimat Raji-Rasaki, wife of a former Lagos State military administrator, Brig.-Gen. Raji Rasaki of the PDP.
Those elected for the House of Representatives seats are Kehinde Agboola, Ayotunde Oladimeji, Thaddeus Aina, Olamide Oni, Akin Awodumila and Segun Adekola.
In Kogi State, Buhari was leading by polling 108,817 votes from six LGAs as against Jonathan’s 84,555 in five LGAs.
The APC candidate also won in Dekina, the LGA of Governor Idris Wada with 18, 819 votes to Jonathan’s 13,885 votes. He also won in Amadu Alli’s LGA of Idah with 10,445 votes to Jonathan’s 6,113.
But there was a mild tension in parts of Imo State on Sunday as armed officials of the Department of State Services, the Police and the Army barred journalists from collation centres in the state.
At the collation centre in Owerri Municipal Council Secretariat, journalists were turned back from the gate by stern looking security operatives who asked them to go back   and wait until the results were announced.
All efforts to reach the Resident Electoral Commissioner, George Ada, were abortive as his telephone was switched off.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Why I Married More Than One Wife – Veteran Actor, Jide Kosoko

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Perhaps, one of the most popular veteran actors in the movie industry right now who has as much presence in the Yoruba films as in English films is no other than Prince Jide Kosoko. He is an actor who has been around for more than six decades. He is so talented he is considered by colleagues to be a chameleon when it comes to assuming characters to translate his roles.
In this engaging interview, the Prince of Kosoko Royal Family of Lagos chronicles the history of film productions in Nigeria, his family, and the art of acting.
There have been   arguments over when Nollywood came into existence. In your own view, when did the film industry emerge in Nigeria ?
Nollywood is more than 20 years old as against what people think. They make reference toLiving in Bondage (1992) which was not the pioneer film in Nigeria. I produced Asiri nla that same year. Film production in Nigeria started in the 60s but most of the films were documentaries.
Do you mind taking us down the memory lane?
Professor Wole Soyinka produced Kongi Harvest which did not have a commercial viability then. Commercialised film-making in Nigeria started in 1976 with Ajani Ogun produced by Dr. Ola Balogun . This film experimented on the already existing Yoruba theater created by the likes of Herbert Ogunde, Baba Sala, Duro Ladipo, Kolawole Ogunmola , Ogungbe, etc. who were as at that time,acting on stage.
Ajani Ogun was in celluloid and that was the first film that started the revolution of film-making in Nigeria. Other films like Ija Ominira, Aiye, etc. also followed suit.
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The process of film production could not be completed in Nigeria because our laboratories lacked the equipment needed for the post production, so many producers had to travel abroad. In 1985 when the economic Structural Adjustment Programme of the country started, many film producers could not make enough money to travel abroad for the post production of films. Along the line, Alade Aromire broke the jinx and produced a film using a video projector. Although the production was of low quality, it recorded a huge success like the celluloid.
After this, I produced Asiri Nla and Adebayo Salami produced Asewo to re meka in 1992 to improve on the low quality. Tunde Kelani followed with Ti oluwa nile. And that started the second revolution, improving on what was on ground. In the late 90s the third revolution started. Living in Bondage by Kenneth Nnebue & Okechukwu Ogunjiofor started the incursion of other tribes into the industry.
Kenneth Nnebue had produced Aje niya mi and other films for NEK Videos before Living in Bondage. Living in Bondage did have its impact on the Nigeria film industry, in terms of equipment, post production etc., but can never be a point of reference when thinking about when Nollywood came into existence.
You started acting when many parents did not believe in the industry. How did you manage?
I started acting professionally in 1964 at age 10. But I starred in a professional production which was even before film production. My parents were not happy with my choice of career just like other parents. But I was rascally as a child. I engaged in things that many of my mates never could dare. My parents felt I was to be entertained as a royal prince and not the other way round.
What do you think influenced your choice of career?
My passion for acting. Also, I lived in the same vicinity with Papa Hubert Ogunde on the Island and had some of his children as friends. I used to admire how people shouted his name whenever he drove round the street and I prayed to be like him. So, when the opportunity came, even as a child, I grabbed it with both hands.
What do you think you would have become if you didn’t go acting?
Sincerely, I don’t know if I could have succeeded outside the creative world. Acting and entertainment is my calling.
What are the things you consider before accepting roles?
I have gotten to a stage where I cannot afford to be part of a bad production. The first thing I consider is the quality of the script. I also put who the producer is into consideration. A bad producer will only deliver a bad production because he will not be able to get able hands to work with. The director and the caliber of actors and actresses invited to narrate the story are also other factors to consider.
Which film sold you to the world?
One film doesn’t bring an actor to limelight rather continuity does. When people see a particular face in good productions, they will note the face and as time goes on, they will reckon with the face. And that is how the fame comes. That is why I detest some of my colleagues who believe they can turn one actor to a celebrity overnight. A continuous process of quality film productions brought me to limelight.
You are an authority in the film industry, a role model to many actors and actresses, one of the pioneers in the industry, one of the few Nigerians who have been able to participate both in Yoruba and English films. What does all these mean to you?
They mean dedication, hard work and most importantly, God’s blessing.
And how has your work affected your life?
It has robbed me of my privacy. The moment you become a public figure, your life becomes other people’s business. You have to pretend to be a gentleman even when you are a rascal. We learn to stage-manage our lives even when we are not on set. Many of us have learnt to live a fake life to suit and keep our fans, people who see us as role models.
How have you been managing your role as a father, husband, actor, role model, etc., over the years?
These are different sectors of my life. I know my responsibility as a father. I have eight of my kids who have graduated from the University. I make the money from being an actor to play my role as a father and husband. I try my best to remain focused and hardworking to remain a role model to many people.
Some of your children and fans were not happy when you took two wives. What’s your comment?
I never envisaged being a polygamist though I am a product of one. My parents didn’t support it too. My first wife was a business woman. I craved for somebody who was in the same field with me. In those days, the best advice you got was from your better half and that was how the second woman came to be. Along the line, I lost the two to childbirths within 11months interval.
I had seven children as at that time, so I didn’t plan remarrying or having more children again. But after much persuasion from my doctor and relatives, I decided to have a woman with the agreement of not having more children but a complete African woman will not agree to that. One thing led to the other and I got two women again. So being a polygamist was not intentional but God’s design over which I do not have power.
Do you mind sharing those things that led to your marrying two women again?
The situation that surrounded marrying my wives made me go for the two.
What has been the worst thing ever written about you and how did you react?
Bad reporting is just bad. I can’t place my hand on the worst. I have decided not to react because I believe I am bigger than them. Also, the more I react, the more copies they sell. I need not cry over split milk at this level.
Many are of the opinion that actors are very promiscuous. What’s your take on that?
That is far from the truth. In fact, our’s is one of the professions whose members are very disciplined. People tend to make noise out of everything we do as public figures. That is not to say we do not date or sleep with each other. The profession is a blessed one and people should please see the good side of our profession too. We educate, entertain, admonish, enlighten the world through our artistic works.
What is new in your plate?
I am working on a movie titled Kobiowu meaning measurement. It is like a semi-epic movie and I intend shooting by April.
The Nigeria film industry has more than one professional body. Do you think having an umbrella body to regulate the profession will be better?
I think so. Associations are being regulated by a guild in every nation of the world. And their guilds are under a council which serves as the executive. Just like some people believe that the National Film and Video Censors Board are regulating the film industry in Nigeria, this is not true because that is outside their jurisdiction.
The film industry needs a body managed by the film-makers and not a parastatal owned by the government. The National Film and Video Censors Board classify our films but they do not serve as a regulatory body. We need our own council and an umbrella body which will soon emerge.
Are you as funny in real life as you are in movies?
Life itself is a stage; it is just natural, it comes with the genes. I won’t call myself a comedian, but an actor must be versatile. You act any role given to you, you act the script you are given. Some people would say “Jide Kosoko, you are a crossover artiste, you act in English movies and you also act in Yoruba movies.” It is the script that I’m given that I act.
How many children do you have?
I can’t be precise but my children are more than a dozen.

For African migrants, trek to Europe brings risk, heartbreak

In this Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 photo Jean-Paul Apetey …
VELES, Macedonia (AP) — This is the moment when Sandrine Koffi's dream of a new life in Europe ended — and her nightmare of an infant lost in the Macedonian night began.
As club-wielding police closed in, the 31-year-old from Ivory Coast couldn't keep up with her fellow migrants. Not after more than a week of treacherous hikes through mud and bone-chilling rain; of leaky tents, stolen food and fitful sleep; of loads too heavy to bear.
Koffi had given her 10-month-old daughter, Kendra, to a stronger person to carry as the 40-member group of West Africans walked with trepidation into Veles, Macedonia. They hoped, because it was pitch dark and miserably cold, that no one would see them and raise the alarm. But after a 10-day trek over 150 kilometers (90 miles), their luck ran out.
Officers captured Koffi and deported her with most of the group back to Greece. Others who escaped carried Kendra all the way to the Serbian border. That was more than two weeks ago. Now, the mother cannot stop crying for her distant daughter — or wondering why they can't travel like "normal" people.
"I feel like I'm not a human being," Koffi told The Associated Press from the migrants' safe house in Greece, where she and her daughter had arrived last month in hopes of being escorted through the Balkans to Hungary and, eventually, to family in Paris. "Why is it necessary to separate a mother from her child? Why is all of this necessary?"
Each month, a tide of humanity pours through the hills of Greece, Macedonia and Serbia in hopes of entering the heart of the 28-nation European Union through its vulnerable back door in the Balkans. This is the newest of a half-dozen land and sea routes that Arab, Asian and African smugglers use to funnel migrants illegally from war zones and economic woes to opportunities in the West.
Most don't make it on their first attempt. Nor their third or fifth. Many, it seems, just keep trying — and failing — over and over.
The AP followed a group of migrants to document the challenges of the Western Balkans route, witnessing key events on the journey: the confrontations with police and locals, disagreements with the smuggler leading them and among themselves, and other difficulties along the way.
The flow of migrants has grown from a trickle in 2012 to become the second-most popular path for illegal immigration into Europe, behind only the more dangerous option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Frontex, the EU agency that helps governments police the bloc's leaky frontiers, says it appears nothing will deter migrants from trying the long walk that starts in northern Greece. Their monitors have detected more than 43,000 illegal crossings on the Western Balkans route in 2014, more than double the year before. And 2015 already looks on pace for a record number, with 22,000 arrivals in Hungary in the first two months.
One pivotal point for the route is Turkey, a magnet for refugees of wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The Turks provide easy travel visas to residents of most of Asia and Africa, too.
Another is EU neighbor Greece, where migrants can claim asylum and usually, after a short detention, are permitted to travel freely within the country. But few intend to stay in Greece, with its debt-crippled economy and locals' antipathy to the migrants.
"Europe has not faced a situation like this since World War II, with so many conflicts happening so near to home, with fallen states from Libya to Syria and unrelenting conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Frontex spokeswoman Ewa Moncure. "And it's a lot easier to take a boat from Turkey to Greece than to cross the open Mediterranean. Thousands drown taking the other route."
"Never in my life was I even on a boat," says Jean Paul Apetey, a 34-year-old Ivorian with a reputation as a sharp-witted opportunist. And so, when smugglers ask him if he wants to pilot the vessel to Greece in exchange for a free ticket, he goes straight to the stern engine of the rigid inflatable boat, overloaded with 47 migrants, and acts as if he knows what he is doing.
Smugglers rarely ride on one-way journeys, facing prison if caught. Instead, they charge 1,000 euros ($1,100) or more per passenger, rich compensation for the sacrifice of a boat.
The smugglers point Apetey to a Greek island in the distance — he doesn't know if it's Kos, Samos or Lesbos because he had no map — but boasts of reaching the target in 17 minutes flat. "I have many witnesses," he says proudly.
The walls are sweating in the safe house in Thessaloniki, Greece, a windowless basement apartment with no furnishings, two bedrooms and a camp-style cooker on the floor. It's the end of February, and an African smuggler has brought 45 clients to this base camp to escort them on off-road paths through Macedonia to Serbia. Among the group are 11 women, including two with 10-month-old children.
The smuggler, a former soldier, agreed to allow an AP journalist to accompany them on condition he not be identified because what he's doing is illegal.
He goes from migrant to migrant, checking their readiness for the journey to Serbia. By car, it would take less than five hours. On foot, it's an estimated 10 days.
When some giggle at his questions, he sets a stern tone: "Shut up. This isn't a joke once you're out there. If you think it's funny, I'll send you back to Athens."
He's taken three other groups on the route, and charges those on this trip a wide range of prices, depending on their ability to pay but averaging around $500. Discounts apply if they help him keep the others supplied and disciplined. Kids go free.
Most are French speakers from Ivory Coast, Mali, Cameroon and Burkina Faso. Only a few speak English. One — a Congolese whose communist parents named him Fidel Castro — speaks both.
All are hungry, so a Malian woman named Aicha "Baby" Teinturiere boils macaroni on the camp stove, adding to the humid air. The smuggler sends others to stock up on sleeping bags, socks and gloves for those who haven't brought the necessities.
Some are confident of reaching Germany or France. Sekou Yara is not.
The 28-year-old Malian has failed three times to breach EU immigration checks at airports, costing him at least 3,000 euros. This is his first attempt on foot, and he has mixed feelings.
"I left many people whom I love so much. I left my wife and our 4-year-old child," said Yara, frustrated at sacrificing so much only to be stuck in Greece, where he says migrants can't find jobs and sometimes must dig for food in the trash.
"It is shameful to live like this. I just want a normal life," he said.
Yara's trip doesn't last long. The next morning, he and another Malian are arrested shortly after the 45 arrive at the Thessaloniki bus station. Unlike the others, those two have no ID papers.
The smuggler deliberately keeps his distance at the station, communicating by phone to reduce chances of being spotted as a trafficker. Tell police you're going to Athens, not the border, he instructs them. Don't all sit together; spread out.
In every direction are migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea, all looking suspicious. Some hide in toilet stalls as the police canvass the crowds, checking documents. At least 20 from other groups are taken to a nearby police station.
Fear of arrest keeps the West Africans from boarding their intended morning bus north to the frontier town of Polikastro. It's not illegal for documented asylum-seekers to board a domestic bus in Greece, so nerves eventually settle, and all 43 get on four later buses: Greeks in front, Arabs in the middle, and blacks in the back.
They're a half-day behind schedule as the last members arrive in Polikastro. The hatred of some locals toward the Africans is clear near the town square as women prepare to boil water for the babies' formula. A motorist drives over their bags, smashing the milk powder and cooking gear as he curses them.
The easy part of the trip has ended.
The first day's hike from Polikastro takes the group along a rail line, and they must navigate a rickety wooden bridge, hoping no train comes. Within the first hour, both women carrying infants become weary.
"This is my souvenir!" jokes Apetey as he agrees to carry Sandrine Koffi's daughter, Kendra. Another man takes Christian, the 10-month-old son of a Cameroonian woman, Mireille Djeukam. Kendra was born in Turkey, Christian in Greece. Both have relatives in Paris.
After 10 hours, the 43 reach the border with Macedonia before midnight. They don't bother with tents, preferring sleeping bags in the open air.
The smuggler doesn't want the full group to cross the border in daylight, but they're already short of supplies — and the cheapest local shop is on the Macedonian side. So he leads three men on a reconnaissance trip through the trees. A border patrol vehicle sits on a hilltop but doesn't move.
The three others crouch down in the woods as he heads alone into the supermarket. A cashier inside warns the smuggler to hide because police are shopping in another aisle.
After a tense wait, he emerges with six trash bags full of bread, canned sardines, juice and water.
That night, the group crosses the border and a highway. Each approaching set of headlights is feared to be police. The chill means it's time to sleep in the 10 tents they've brought.
At the campsite, Hilarion Charlemagne illustrates his journey with a collection of cellphone SIM cards.
"This one is from Togo, where I was a refugee for one year and eight months," the 45-year-old Ivorian teacher says, identifying others as from Mali, Mauritania and Algeria. He tells of being turned back at the Moroccan border because he lacked 500 euros; of working as a tutor for an Algerian family for a month; of trying to reach Europe by boat five times and managing to reach Greece on the sixth attempt.
Charlemagne and others have another way to remember the countries they've visited: recounting the racial epithets hurled at them in a half-dozen languages.
The group is startled by a Macedonian shepherd and his snarling dog. Tents are hurriedly packed. But in the rush, one of the smuggler's helpers has lost his cellphone. Angry accusations are levied, and everyone is searched without success.
The trek resumes at night. They scramble over an exposed ridge and sprint across a road junction, hiding in long reeds. They catch their breath under a full moon.
A Malian woman, 34-year-old Miriam Toure, falls with a cramp. Two young soccer players in the group offer her a sports massage as she howls in pain. A man with a chronic leg injury, Mohamed "Mo-Mo" Konate, applies some ointment he uses for himself.
Nothing works, so men take turns carrying Toure, joking she's only faking to get a piggy-back ride. After a half-hour, they're worn out and she's told to walk or stay behind. She limps barefoot, weeping silently while trying to keep up.
Passing through cabbage fields, some stuff the greens in their backpacks. They jostle to refill bottles when passing a tap bearing an Orthodox sign and the inscription "holy well." Around 4 a.m., in the rain, they pitch tents — difficult in the dark — under a freeway overpass marked by graffiti from Afghan migrants.
After sunrise, several members accuse each other of stealing their food, drink and bags as they slept. The smuggler threatens to return them to Greece, where Syrian smugglers will charge them triple for the journey. Apologies are demanded and given.
Nearby, Charlemagne reads from the Book of Job.
That night, the rain turns to snow, and the tents start to break. Sheltered campsites on the trail are occupied by other migrant groups, and the crying of the two infants is incessant. Some question whether the children, so cold and hungry, could be at risk of death if they continue.
They keep following the Vardar River north, but near a village abandon the 41-year-old "Mo-Mo," who cannot continue even with his cane.
Food is so scarce that sardines are rationed to one can daily for three people. On the sixth day of walking, they reach the town of Nogotino, two days behind schedule and with a freezing wind howling. At 1 a.m., Sandrine Koffi passes out and slides down a muddy embankment. She is revived, and they walk another hour.
Mireille Djeukam, the other woman traveling with a child, has tried and failed to pass through EU airports about 10 times already, but finds this trip much harder.
"It's very hard. Too hard," she said. "If I knew it was this difficult, I wouldn't have done it. I'm not used to this type of walking. I'm always in the back."
The youngest and fittest men grumble under their breath that they might be in Serbia already if not for the women and children.
Laughter amid such suffering seems impossible, but a limping Miriam Toure brings down the house with an exasperated question: "Where is Macedonia?"
As the group reaches Veles, the first major Macedonian town on the route and 145 kilometers (87 miles) into their hike, Djeukam cannot go on because of her aching legs. The group leaves her and 10-month-old Christian at an Orthodox church.
The 40 remaining try to stick to Veles' riverside railway, but around 10 p.m. they are confronted by youths. They run onto a road, startling motorists. Two police arrive, brandishing clubs and beating stragglers. Five are caught, including Sandrine Koffi.
In the melee, members of the group drop their gear and scatter. A woman breaks an ankle and is hospitalized in the Macedonian capital, Skopje. By 3 a.m., the smuggler has found only eight of his clients.
The next day, Aicha "Baby" Teinturiere returns to Veles to search for her bags and stumbles into the police. She claims, falsely, to be looking for her baby; she has none. The police believe her and agree to help search — and in the process discover and arrest many of her comrades.
By the end of the 10th day, all but 13 are in custody and put on trucks back to Greece with scores of others from Syria, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
But Teinturiere is not among them. The sympathetic police set her free so she could keep searching for the make-believe child.
Two days later, the West Africans reach a smuggler's safe house in the border town of Lojane, Macedonia. Teinturiere is given responsibility for caring for Kendra until Koffi can complete the trip.
Others, mostly the strongest men in their 20s, cross into Serbia, where they meet the next smugglers, who charge them 100 euros each to drive them hidden in trucks to the Hungarian border. Three weeks into the journey, the first few make it to Hungary and send triumphant messages to friends.
The smuggler returns to Thessaloniki with his deported clients. He organizes a second trek combining new migrants with many from the original group, including Koffi and the first person arrested on the previous trip, Sekou Yara.
They depart a week later but run into a police ambush south of Veles. All are returned to Greece.
Another attempt to complete the 250-kilometer (150-mile) journey on foot has begun this week. Joining the smuggler are at least 20 veterans of the last two failures, including Koffi.
Her focus used to be on reaching her husband, mother and other relatives in Paris. Now, she prays simply to make it far enough to be reunited with her child. There's no joy left in her heart, only a sense of being duped, over and over.
"In Turkey, I was told: 'You just take a train, it will be easy,'" she said. "It was a lie."
Dalton Bennett traveled with the migrants through Greece and Macedonia. Pogatchnik reported from Berlin.


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