Category Archives: Politics Today

Abe’s Resignation cause chaos among candidates in fight for successor. [Japan]

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The race to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe kicked off informally on Saturday, with several contenders announcing their plans to stand; a day after Japan’s longest-serving leader announced his resignation.

Abe said he was suffering a recurrence of ulcerative colitis, the condition that forced him to cut short his first term in office, but that he would stay on until his successor is decided.

Exactly how the process will unfold was still unclear, with local media reporting on Saturday that several options were being considered.

Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party could opt for a more traditional leadership election, involving lawmakers but also members of the party nationwide.

But the urgency of the situation, as well as the constraints imposed by the coronavirus outbreak, could see the party instead opt to poll only its lawmakers and regional representatives — a faster process.

A decision on how the election will be held, and when, is expected early next week, along with more clarity on who will stand for the post.

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A few would-be candidates have already thrown their hats into the ring, including party policy chief Fumio Kishida, a mild-mannered former foreign minister considered Abe’s personal choice for successor, and ex-defense minister Shigeru Ishiba, who is seen as more popular with voters but commands less party support than some other candidates.

Finance Minister Taro Aso, himself a former prime minister and long considered a likely successor to Abe, has announced he will not stand.

Other possible candidates include powerful chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga, viewed by many as a frontrunner, and current defence minister Taro Kono, a social-media-savvy former foreign minister who is seen as something of a longshot.

File; Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wears a face mask as he enters a venue for his news conference in Tokyo on May 25, 2020. – Japan lifted a nationwide state of emergency over the coronavirus on May 25, gradually reopening the world’s third-largest economy as government officials warned caution was still necessary to prevent another wave. (Photo by KIM KYUNG-HOON / POOL / AFP)

One woman is among those expected to stand so far: Seiko Noda, a former cabinet minister whose chances are thought to be slim.

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No Drastic Changes
Whoever comes out on top, analysts said, little major shift in policy is expected.

“Key policies –- diplomacy and economic measures — won’t be changed drastically,” Shinichi Nishikawa, a professor of political science at Meiji University in Tokyo, told AFP.

“His successor could be a caretaker,” effectively, Nishikawa added, given that the LDP will hold another leadership election in September 2021, with general elections likely the following month.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto, an honorary professor of international politics at the University of Tokyo, said Abe’s successor would not produce any surprises but would face “big challenges”.

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Most immediate will be the ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic, with heavy criticism of Abe’s government so far for policies viewed as contradictory and slow.

But there are also diplomatic challenges on the horizon, including on relations with China.

Ties had been warming, but with rising tensions between Beijing and Washington and concerns domestically about issues including the coronavirus outbreak and the situation in Hong Kong, the next prime minister faces a balancing act.

Abe is also leaving office with the issue of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics still unresolved. The Games were postponed by a year over the pandemic and are now scheduled to open in July 2021, but questions remain about whether the event can be held safely.

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And the next prime minister will inherit an economy that had swung into recession even before the coronavirus crisis hit and may face further hits if additional waves of infection force business shutdowns again this winter.

Tokyo markets slumped on Friday on news of Abe’s resignation but recovered slightly before the end of trade, and economists said disruption would be minimal because the economic policy was not likely to change.

“We believe the current monetary easing policies and expansionary fiscal policies will continue for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic,” wrote Naoya Oshikubo, senior economist at SuMi TRUST.

“Thus the impact on the market should be limited in the mid-to-long term.”


#Newsworthy…

Mali crisis: The Junta postpone first meeting.

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Mali military rulers said on Saturday they were postponing their first meeting over the transfer of powers due to “organisational reasons” nearly two weeks after ousting the president in a coup.

The junta had invited civic groups, political organisations and former rebels to consultations on Saturday, but said in a statement that the meeting was postponed to a later date.

A protest coalition that had campaigned against former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the June 5 Movement, had not been invited to participate in the meeting.

The group has demanded that the military junta give it a role in the transition to a civilian rule which the military has promised, though without a timetable.

Malian Air Force deputy chief of staff and military junta spokesperson Ismael Wague (C) holds a press conference in Kati on August 19, 2020, a day after the military arrested Malian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and he officially resigned.
ANNIE RISEMBERG / AFP

After an escalating series of mass protests, young army officers mutinied on August 18, seizing Keita and other leaders and declaring they now governed the country.

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The coup shocked Mali’s West African neighbours and ally France, heightening worries over instability in a country already struggling with an Islamist insurgency, ethnic violence, and economic malaise.

Mali’s influential imam Mahmoud Dicko, a key player in the mass opposition protests that led to Keita’s ouster, said Friday that the new military rulers did not have “carte blanche”.

His comments came as a new document published on the Malian government’s Official Journal said the junta’s head had been effectively invested with the powers of a head of state.

West African leaders, meanwhile, on Friday demanded an immediate civilian transition and elections within 12 months as they considered sanctions.


#Newsworthy…

Donald Trump in his highest regard to Japan’s Shinzo Abe amid resignation.

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United States President Donald Trump on Friday paid his “highest respect” to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and voiced concern over his “great friend” resigning for health reasons.

“I want to pay my highest respect to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a very great friend of mine,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as he returned from a campaign rally in New Hampshire.

“We’ve had a great relationship and I just feel very badly about it, because it must be very severe for him to leave.”

“He loves his country so much and for him to leave, you know, I just can’t imagine what it is. He’s a great gentleman and so I’m just paying my highest respect,” Trump added.

Abe announced earlier he was ending his record-breaking tenure, kicking off a leadership race in the world’s third-largest economy.

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He said he was suffering a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis that forced him to cut short the first term in office, and that he no longer felt able to continue as prime minister.

The two leaders have met several times during the US president’s term, and staffers have hailed the “unprecedented” relationship between Trump and his “golf buddy.”

US President Donald Trump speaks with reporters aboard Air Force One as he flies from Manchester, New Hampshire to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, August 28, 2020, following a campaign rally.
SAUL LOEB / AFP

A Japanese diplomat said last year the frequency of contact demonstrated the “unprecedented level of close personal relations” between the pair.

Trump announced in September last year that the two allies had taken a major step towards sealing a comprehensive new trade deal, after a year of negotiations between the global economic powers.

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Abe was forced to leave office just one year after becoming the country’s youngest-ever prime minister but has since become Japan’s longest-serving premier.

Speculation about his political future had intensified after two recent hospital visits for unspecified health checks, but the resignation was nonetheless a surprise.

He had been expected to stay in office until the end of his term as LDP leader in September 2021.

Even as recently as Friday morning, the government spokesman had appeared to dismiss concerns about Abe’s health and suggested he would stay on.


#Newsworthy…

Belarus elections: Don’t intervene – European Union urges Russia.

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The EU urged Russia on Friday not to intervene in Belarus after President Vladimir Putin vowed military support for the country’s embattled leader.

As EU foreign ministers meeting in Berlin discussed the crisis, President Alexander Lukashenko — facing unprecedented protests calling for him to quit — accused the West of trying to topple him in order to weaken Moscow.

Meanwhile neighbouring Ukraine, which saw its own pro-Russian leader toppled after bloody protests in 2014, has offered refuge to Belarusians fleeing a regime crackdown.

The EU has rejected the official results of an August 9 presidential poll in Belarus, which saw Lukashenko re-elected with 80 percent of votes, and is preparing sanctions against his regime for electoral fraud and a violent crackdown on opposition protesters.

Putin on Thursday said he stood ready to send in his military to stabilise Belarus after weeks of huge demonstrations calling for Lukashenko, often dubbed “Europe’s last dictator”, to quit and hold new elections.

“I have heard many times from Russia the mantra that this is a domestic internal affair for Belarus and they do not want external interference. I suppose it’s also valid for themselves,” EU foreign affairs high representative Josep Borrell said.

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“It is solely for the Belarusian people to determine their own future,” he added, urging Russia to “respect the wishes and democratic choices of the Belarusian people.”

French President Emmanuel Macron was blunter, telling reporters in Paris that the “worst thing would be Russian intervention” in Belarus.

There “could be no repeat of what happened in Ukraine”, Macron added.

After an uprising in 2014, Russia annexed the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and pro-Moscow forces declared breakaway republics in Ukrainian regions in the east.

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‘Springboard to Russia’
Putin on Thursday also called on the Minsk authorities and the opposition to “find a way out” of the crisis peacefully, but the threat of military intervention by the Kremlin has raised the spectre of the crisis on the EU’s doorstep taking a darker turn.

Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet state for 26 years, renewed his claims that the West wanted to see the back of him for its own ends.

“Belarus is just a springboard to Russia, as always,” he said, according to the state news agency Belta.

“Unlike Hitler, who sent his army to Moscow, they are trying to destroy the government in place here and replace it with a new one that will ask another country for military assistance and deploy troops.”

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EU foreign ministers meeting in Berlin gave their backing to a list of some 20 individuals to be hit with asset freezes and travel bans for their role in rigging the Belarus election or cracking down on demonstrators.

Borrell said the list would encompass “individuals at high political level”, but it looks unlikely to include Lukashenko himself, despite calls from some countries for him to be targeted.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas talk before a press statement on August 28, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.
Kay Nietfeld / POOL / AFP

‘Deeply alarming’
The EU is supporting offers by the OSCE to broker a negotiated end to the crisis and hitting Lukashenko in person is seen as counterproductive to these efforts.

The OSCE on Friday described the post-election violence in Belarus as “deeply alarming” and called on Minsk to accept its offer to support dialogue and avoid a “nightmare”.

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The current OSCE chair, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, said the sooner dialogue started “the better it is for everyone”.

Macron said Putin had told him Russia was open to OSCE mediation but Lukashenko was opposed.

“He (Putin) has to make efforts to help us in this direction,” the French president added.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Belarusians seeking to enter “Ukraine in an attempt to flee the crisis” would receive entry permits from his country’s border guards.

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He said they will be given preferential treatment and be exempt from a month-long entry ban over spiking coronavirus cases.

The demonstrations that erupted in Belarus after the election and the violent police crackdown that followed have prompted comparisons with Ukraine’s pro-Western uprising in 2014.

Lukashenko’s notorious security services violently broke up peaceful protests after the vote, arresting nearly 7,000 people in a clampdown that sparked widespread allegations of torture and abuse in police custody.

Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya fled to neighbouring EU country Lithuania after claiming she beat the 65-year-old leader and calling for the protests.


#Newsworthy…

Just in: High Court Reinstate 3 Suspended Ondo Assembly Members

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An Ondo State High Court sitting in Akure has reinstated the Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Iroju Ogundeji and two other lawmakers.

The affected lawmakers were recently suspended by the leadership of the House over alleged misconduct.

Apart from reinstating the lawmakers, the court also ordered the House to immediately pay all their entitlements with a sum of N5 million compensation to each of them.

In his ruling, the presiding judge, Justice Ademola Bola insisted that it was illegal to prevent an elected legislator from duly representing his or her constituency.

According to Justice Bola, the suspension of the lawmakers violated sections 90, 91, 106 and 117 of the 1999 constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The Deputy Speaker and the other two suspended lawmakers were among nine members of the House who declined to sign the impeachment notice of the Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi two months ago, after the latter defected from the All Progressives Congress to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

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Following their suspension, the lawmakers through their lawyer, Banjo Ayelakin, approach the court to challenge what he described as their unlawful suspension by the parliament.

The suit has the House of Assembly, the Speaker, the Majority Leader, the Deputy Majority Leader, the Parliamentary Secretary, and the Clerk of the House as defendants.

Justice Bola in the verdict ruled that the suspension of the Lawmakers violates sections 90, 91, 106 and 117 of the 1999 constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria.

This comes a month after the lawmakers were suspended over an alleged unruly behaviour.


#Newsworthy…

Mali crisis: Buhari attends ECOWAS summit.

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President Muhammadu Buhari has attended the second extraordinary summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Heads of State and Government over the socio-political situation in Mali.

The summit had in attendance, all Presidents in the region alongside the ECOWAS President, Jean Claude Kassi Brou.

Noble Reporters Media gathered that the discussions centered on finding a lasting solution to the political instability in Mali.

The government of President Ibrahim Keita was recently toppled in a bloodless coup earning the country sanctions from ECOWAS.

The military junta in place, National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), requested a 3-year term in office after which they would return the country to civilian rule.

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Several talks between the new Junta and ECOWAS for a return to civilian rule ended in deadlocks after a high-level delegation led by former President Goodluck Jonathan to Bamako failed to secure its demand.

There hasn’t been a response to this request yet from ECOWAS, but it is expected that this will be discussed at this extraordinary summit.

Meanwhile, Mali’s military leader hinted on Thursday that former President Ibrahim Keita had been freed after he was detained in the August 18 coup.

Physically present at the statehouse in Abuja to attend the meeting were the Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Gambari; alongside the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; the Minister of Defence ‎Bashir Magashi and the Director-general of the National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar.


#Newsworthy…

Corruption: Brazil Governor, Wilson Witzel Sacked.

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Brazil’s High Court of Justice removed Rio de Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel from office Friday, as police raided his official residence in a probe into accusations he stole emergency funds to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The raids also targeted the far-right governor’s wife and inner circle. Among those arrested was Pastor Everaldo, an evangelical preacher and leader of Witzel’s Christian Social Party (PSC).

Helicopters circled over the stately governor’s residence, Laranjeiras Palace, starting at dawn as federal police executed a sweeping series of search and seizure orders and arrest warrants.

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The court ruling suspends Witzel, 52, from office for at least 180 days as authorities investigate claims he took a reported 274.2 million reals ($50 million) in kickbacks.

“This criminal organization acted and continues acting to embezzle and launder funds in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, sacrificing the health and even lives of millions of people,” Justice Benedito Goncalves wrote in his ruling.

Prosecutors say Witzel, an erstwhile ally of President Jair Bolsonaro, set up a slush fund for bribes as soon as he took office in January 2019.

The investigation is mainly focused on allegations his administration stole emergency funds for field hospitals, ventilators and medicine to fight the new coronavirus.

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“I’m being politically massacred because there are powerful interests who don’t want me governing this state,” Witzel said in a televised address from his official residence.

File photo: Rio Governor Wilson Witzel addresses the media at his official residence in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on August 28, 2020. CARL DE SOUZA / AFP

“The president has made extremely serious but frivolous accusations against me because he thinks I’m going to be a presidential candidate” in Brazil’s 2022 elections.

Rio is second only to Sao Paulo in infections and deaths from the virus in Brazil, which is in turn the country hit second-hardest in the world, after the United States, with nearly 3.8 million cases and 120,000 people dead.

Allegations of massive corruption in Rio have swirled since the start of the pandemic.

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Of the seven field hospitals the state contracted to respond to the health crisis, only two actually opened.

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019, Rio de Janeiro’s Governor Wilson Witzel (C) arrives for a press conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after eight-year-old Agatha Sales Felix died during a police operation at the Alemao complex slum. MAURO PIMENTEL / AFP

Witzel was already facing impeachment in the state legislature over the accusations.

Witzel helped Bolsonaro win an election in 2018, but has since clashed with him repeatedly, including over the governor’s insistence on imposing coronavirus lockdown measures against the president’s wishes.

Including Witzel, five of Rio de Janeiro’s past six governors have now been jailed or implicated in crimes.


#Newsworthy…

Angela Merkel devastated amid Shinzo Abe resignation.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday she “regrets” the resignation of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on health grounds, hailing his “fight for multilateralism”.

Merkel said she and her fellow veteran leader in the Group of Seven industrialised nations had a “shared foundation of values”.

“I, of course, regret his resignation and wish him all the best for his health,” she told reporters. “We always worked very, very well together… He was always someone who committed himself to the fight for multilateralism.”


#Newsworthy…

US Election: Trump accept Republican nomination; tag Biden threat to ‘American Dream’

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President Donald Trump tore into his election challenger Joe Biden as a threat to the “American Dream” in a bruising speech Thursday accepting the Republican nomination for a second term against a backdrop of racial tensions and the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

The former celebrity real estate developer spoke at a grandiose event staged at the White House — the first time a president has ever held a party convention at the executive mansion — and followed up with a vast fireworks display on the National Mall.

In his 70-minute address, Trump went after Biden as hard as he could, attacking him by name dozens of times in an attempt to define the veteran centrist former vice president, who leads in polls ahead of the November 3 election, as a radical leftist.

“No one will be safe in Biden’s America,” he said.

“This election will decide whether we save the American Dream,” Trump said, rejecting Biden’s main campaign slogan about saving America’s soul.

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“He’s the destroyer of America’s jobs and given the chance, he’ll be the destroyer of American greatness.”

The relentless verbal assault contrasted with Biden’s own acceptance speech at the Democratic nomination last week, which lasted only 25 minutes and, while delivering caustic critiques of the Trump presidency, avoided mentioning his name.

Despite Trump’s warnings of chaos, his bid for reelection is already taking place amid levels of turmoil the country hasn’t seen for decades.

Covid-19 has killed more than 180,000 Americans so far, while the nation’s painful reckoning over racial justice was playing out outside the White House where a Black Lives Matter protest, complete with shouting and vuvuzela trumpets, was audible inside the fences.

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– Trampling over etiquette –

Trump spoke from the White House’s South Lawn, which he had transformed into a flashy event centre for the final night of the Republican convention.

Trampling over long-running presidential custom to separate the so-called “people’s house” from political campaigning, Trump had some 1,500 white chairs laid out in front of the stage bedecked with rows of US flags and two giant video screens.

The immense fireworks displayed featured Trump’s name written in fiery letters in the sky.

Before Trump appeared from the White House in a made-for-Hollywood moment alongside his wife Melania, warm-up speakers including his powerful daughter Ivanka prepped the message of Democratic mayhem.

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And when Trump finally came to deliver the main speech, he did not hold back.

“If the left gains power, they will demolish the suburbs, confiscate your guns,” he said, branding Biden as a man with a history of “betrayals” and “blunders.”

Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak said the party had hit the right buttons at its four-day convention. “Trump significantly broadened his coalition this week. He will get a considerable polling bump,” he tweeted.

But Biden mocked Trump’s apocalyptic warnings.

“When Donald Trump says tonight you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America, look around and ask yourself: How safe do you feel in Donald Trump’s America?” Biden tweeted.

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– Law and order? –

The hardline message comes as the country reels in shock at the videotaped shooting by a police officer of an African American man during an attempted arrest in front of his children — and at the sometimes violent protests erupting afterwards.

Days of demonstrations and rioting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, have transformed the small town into a national arena for America’s tensions over racial justice, police violence, and gun rights. When a teenaged vigilante — reportedly a Trump fan — allegedly killed two people and seriously wounded a third at a protest Tuesday night, the perfect storm was complete.

Struggling in opinion polls after what almost two-thirds of Americans say is his unsatisfactory handling of the Covid-19 crisis, Trump is latching on to what he calls the “law and order” strategy.

Democrats assert that police forces across the country are plagued by institutional racism. Trump is leading Republican pushback, banking on the idea that Americans will be angrier at scenes of rioting than at police abuses.

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“If Biden is elected, along with the Democrats who are unwilling to speak out against this anarchy, then the crime wave will intensify and spread from cities and towns to suburbs and beyond,” Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and current personal lawyer to Trump, said in his warm-up speech.

“When President Trump is re-elected the damage will stop,” he said.

– Milking the violence? –

In addition to soaring racial tensions, the United States is still struggling to master the coronavirus outbreak or get schools and businesses back fully open.

But Trump emphasized what he said had been his administration’s constant success, predicting a vaccine would be available “this year.”

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“Together we will crush the virus,” he said.

At the Republicans’ South Lawn party, there was no effort to enforce social distancing and many people did not wear masks.

Biden’s team accuses Trump of being derelict on the coronavirus. On the race front, Biden goes further.

“He views this as a political benefit to him,” Biden told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) on Thursday. “He is rooting for more violence, not less. He is pouring gasoline on the fire.”


#Newsworthy…

Just in: Japan PM, Shinzo Abe Resigns Over Health Issues

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Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Friday he will resign over health problems, in a development that kicks off a leadership contest in the world’s third-largest economy.

“I have decided to step down from the post of the prime minister,” he told a press conference, saying he was suffering from a recurrence of the ulcerative colitis that ended his first term in office.

Abe said he was receiving a new treatment for the condition, which needed to be administered on a regular basis which would not leave him with sufficient time to discharge his duties.

“Now that I am not able to fulfil the mandate from the people with confidence, I have decided that I should no longer occupy the position of the prime minister.”

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Abe is expected to stay in office until his ruling Liberal Democratic Party can choose a successor, in an election likely to take place among the party’s lawmakers and members.

File photo: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference at the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo on April 17, 2020, ./AFP

There is no clear consensus on who will succeed him, with likely candidates including Finance Minister Taro Aso and chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga.

Abe, who stepped down as prime minister just one year into his first term, in 2007, offered his apologies for the second resignation.

“I would like to sincerely apologise to the people of Japan for leaving my post with one year left in my term of office, and amid the coronavirus woes, while various policies are still in the process of being implemented,” Abe said, bowing deeply.


#Newsworthy…

Mali crisis: Buhari hails ECOWAS 12-months ultimatum for transition to civilian rule

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President Muhammadu Buhari has given his backing to the declaration by the Economic Community of West African States demanding a 12-month transition process to civilian rule in Mali.

President Buhari who attended the ECOWAS Heads of State and Governments virtual meeting on Friday, charged the military junta to set an acceptable timetable for a return to democratic government.

In his remarks quoted in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, President Buhari maintained that Mali is in a fragile state which poses an imminent danger to the citizens and the ECOWAS sub-region.

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He added that the military leadership should be flexible in negotiations by putting the interest of all Malians and the harmony of the sub-region into consideration.

“For the people of Mali, specifically the leadership, embracing Democracy and Good Governance is crucial to the country’s political stability. Mali cannot, therefore, afford to stand alone, hence the need to come to terms with the realities of an acceptable and workable transition compact that inspires the confidence of all Malians.

“With regards to other areas being negotiated, Nigeria believes that the people of Mali and the military leaders need to appreciate the fragility of their country and the imminent danger which it poses to the citizens of Mali as well as the ECOWAS sub-region, “the President said.

He urged the military leadership to focus on securing the country, faced with severe security threats from its northern part, instead of an incursion into governance.

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President Buhari celebrated the news that former President of Mali, Ibrahim Keita, has been released from detention and is in good condition. He however called on the military leaders to free the remaining senior officials still in detention.

“I urge the military leadership to consider: the immediate release of all the remaining senior Government officials in detention, without pre-conditions; a transition process, to be completed in not more than 12 months, and which shall include the representatives of Malian stakeholders.

“This is a critical consideration for the new government to enjoy the cooperation and collaboration of regional and international community, and to allow the easing of sanctions imposed on Mali.”

The Nigerian President added that it is critical for the new government to enjoy the necessary cooperation.

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“In this connection Nigeria will, alongside ECOWAS, provide necessary logistics support to facilitate the conduct of elections to re-establish democratic governance in Mali.”

President Buhari thanked Dr Goodluck Jonathan for mediating in the crisis, and commended Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic for convening the Extraordinary Summit.

The government of President Ibrahim Keita was recently toppled in a bloodless coup earning the country sanctions from ECOWAS.

The military junta in place requested a 3-year term in office after which they would return the country to civilian rule


#Newsworthy…

Belarus elections: Russian Putin pledges military support for Lukashenko.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed military support for embattled Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday, while urging a peaceful resolution to unrest and demonstrations that erupted after a disputed election.

EU ambassadors in the capital Minsk on Thursday denounced a crackdown on the opposition in the wake of the presidential poll, in which 65-year-old Lukashenko claimed a landslide reelection with some 80 percent of the vote.

The Belarusian strongman’s relationship with Putin had soured ahead of the August 9 ballot because Minsk refused closer integration with Russia — and even claimed Moscow had sent mercenaries across the border to organise riots.

Yet Putin on Thursday promised military backing for Belarus and said Russia had set up a reserve group of law enforcement officers to deploy if the post-vote situation deteriorated.

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“It won’t be used unless the situation starts to get out of control,” Putin said, unless “extremist elements … begin setting fire to cars, houses and banks, begin seizing administrative buildings”.

But Putin also called on the authorities in Minsk and the opposition to “find a way out” of the crisis peacefully.

He conceded there were problems in Belarus, saying, “otherwise people wouldn’t take to the streets”.

The Russian leader’s calls for calm came after the European Union and ambassadors of member states in Minsk condemned a crackdown on government critics seeking new elections and Lukashenko’s resignation.

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– ‘Unacceptable’ prosecution –

The opposition created a Coordination Council to oversee the peaceful transition of power after their leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya fled to neighbouring Lithuania fearing reprisals.

Lukashenko ordered a criminal probe into the opposition’s attempts to “seize power” and several of the presidium’s members have been detained or summoned for questioning.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation via teleconference at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on May 11, 2020. – President Vladimir Putin on May 11, 2020 said Russia’s non-working period imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus will be lifted from May 12. (Photo by Alexey NIKOLSKY / SPUTNIK / AFP)

Maria Kolesnikova, an aide of Tikhanovskaya and member of the council, was summoned by investigators for questioning on Thursday. She said she invoked her right not to testify against herself.

The group’s most prominent member, Nobel Prize-winning author and outspoken government critic Svetlana Alexievich, was questioned by investigators on Wednesday and also refused to answer questions.

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Two of the presidium’s members this week were sentenced to 10 days each in police detention for organising unsanctioned rallies and disobeying law enforcement orders.

“The European diplomats emphasised that prosecution of Coordination Council members on grounds presented by the authorities is unacceptable,” a joint statement said.

EU nations have also vowed to sanction individuals they say were involved in vote-rigging and the violent crackdown on protesters.

The EU ambassadors in Minsk on Thursday said that: “Belarusians are asking for an open dialogue with their own authorities about the future of their country,” urging “a peaceful and democratic process, underpinned by independent and free media and a strong civil society”.

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– ‘Diplomatic war’ –

Lukashenko has dismissed calls to resign or host new elections, instead accusing Western countries and Russia of stirring political unrest.

The authoritarian leader on Thursday said the ex-Soviet country’s European neighbours had declared a “diplomatic war” and were meddling in Belarus’s internal affairs.

Last week he described demonstrators as “rats” in a video that showed him carrying an assault rifle, after more than 100,000 people took to the streets to demand he stand down.

His notorious security services rounded up nearly 7,000 participants in peaceful rallies that erupted in the days after the vote, and hundreds of detainees claimed they were abused by police in custody.

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Local and international rights groups have urged the UN to investigate allegations of systematic torture at the hands of security services.

Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old political newcomer who ran in place of her jailed husband, called for historic demonstrations and mass strikes following the election.

Workers at state-owned factories initially downed tools and joined the walk-outs in large numbers, but fewer employees have kept up participation due to pressure from the authorities, activists have said.

Industry Minister Pyotr Parkhomchik said Thursday that there were no ongoing strikes and that “all assembly lines have been restarted.”


#Newsworthy…

Buhari felicitate with Nigerian, Kaycee Madu on his appointment as Minister of Justice in Canada.

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President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday congratulated Kaycee Madu, the first Nigerian-born individual to be appointed Minister of Justice in a Canadian government.

Madu made history on Tuesday after he was appointed Minister of Justice and Solicitor General for the Government of Alberta, in Canada, becoming the first African to be so honoured.

He is also the Provincial Secretary and Keeper of the Great Seal of the Province of Alberta.

In a statement signed by Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, President Buhari described the honour as “landmark and historic,” saying it once again pedestals people of Nigerian descent as go-getters, who distinguish themselves in different walks of life.

The President added that, as the first Black Justice Minister and Solicitor-General in Canada, Madu has written himself into history books, and urges Nigerians, both at home and abroad, to remain good ambassadors of their country.


#Newsworthy…

By-election: We will accept only credible candidates – APC

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The All Progressives Congress (APC) has said it will only accept credible candidates for the October 31 concurrent legislative by-elections scheduled to be conducted across eight states of the Federation.

APC Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary National Convention Planning Committee Chairman, Governor Mai Mala Buni, gave the warning while inaugurating the Party’s Screening and Appeal Committees for the by-elections at the APC National Secretariat, Abuja, according to a statement released on Thursday by spokesman Yekini Nabena.

The Committees are saddled with the responsibility of screening APC Candidates for the by-elections.

Buni, who was represented at the inauguration on Wednesday by the APC Caretaker Committee secretary, Senator John Udoedeghe, further stated that the party was moving in a new direction and would ensure that things were done properly.

FILE: APC Caretaker Committee Chairman and Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, at the APC National Secretariat in Abuja on June 29, 2020. (Noble Reporters Media //)

He charged the members of the Committees to be fair to all the aspirants and ensure that only those with impeccable records in their careers were chosen as APC candidates.

Responding on behalf of the other members, Prof. Stephen Ocheni assured that the members of the Screening and Appeal Committees would discharge their assignment with fairness and a sense of responsibility. Ocheni who was a former Minister expressed gratitude to the national leadership of the Party for the confidence reposed in them and for giving them the task to perform on behalf of the Party.

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Below is the party’s schedule of activities for the legislative by-elections:

– Screening of Aspirants: Wednesday August 26th, 2020 – Thursday August 27th, 2020.

– Publication of Claims and Objections: Friday 28th August, 2020

– Screening Appeal: Tuesday 1st, September, 2020

– Primary Election: Thursday 3rd, September, 2020

– Election Appeal: Saturday 5th, September, 2020


#Newsworthy

Mali crisis: Junta says Boubacar Keita has been released.

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Mali’s new military rulers said Thursday that former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who was detained during the country’s coup on August 18, had been freed.

The junta, which calls itself the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), said on Facebook it was “informing public and international opinion that former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has been released and is currently in his residence”.

Keita’s release had been a key demand of Mali’s neighbours and international organisations, including the African Union and European Union.

“President IBK is free in his movements, he’s at home,” a spokesman for the junta, Djibrila Maiga, told AFP, referring to Keita by his initials, as many Malians do.

Outsed president of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita

A Keita relative, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the 75-year-old former leader had returned overnight to his house in the Sebenikoro district of the capital Bamako.

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Keita, prime minister Boubou Cisse and other senior officials were seized by rebel troops led by young officers who staged a mutiny at a base near Bamako.

In the early hours of August 19, Keita appeared on national TV to announce his resignation, saying he had had no other choice, and wanted to avoid “bloodshed”.

The release of Keita and other leaders has been demanded by Mali’s neighbours and allies and international organisations.

Former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, heading a team from the regional bloc ECOWAS, was given access to Keita last Saturday, and said he seemed “very fine.”


#Newsworthy…

Mali crisis: Boubacar no longer interested in Power – Jonathan tells Buhari.

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The ousted Malian President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, says he is no longer interested in returning to his former office.

This was according to Nigeria’s former President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, who visited the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Wednesday.

Dr Jonathan, who is ECOWAS Special Envoy to Mali, was at the Villa to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari on the crisis in the West African country.

The meeting comes ahead of an extraordinary virtual summit by ECOWAS Heads of State and Leaders scheduled to take place on Friday.

Briefing the President on his recent visit to Mali, Dr Jonathan disclosed that his team was allowed to meet with the ousted President who confirmed that he resigned from office voluntarily.

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The former president also brought President Buhari up to speed on dialogue with the military coup leaders seeking to stay in power for three years, before holding elections in the country.

“They call themselves National Committee for the Salvation of the People,” Dr Jonathan was quoted as saying in a statement by President Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina.

He added, “We asked them to allow ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to return to his personal residence where he would be given tight security, but they said he could travel abroad and not return to answer questions they may have for him.

A photo taken on August 26, 2020, shows former President Goodluck Jonathan with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

“We also told them that what would be acceptable to ECOWAS was an interim government headed by a civilian or retired military officer, to last for six or nine months and a maximum of 12 calendar months.

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“The Interim Government would then organise elections to restore full constitutional order.”

According to the former president, the military leaders in Mali want ECOWAS to lift sanctions put in place as it is already affecting the country.

In response, he said, “But we told them that the authority to do such was only in the hands of ECOWAS Heads of State.”

President Buhari, in his remarks, stressed that the priority in Mali now should be securing the country which he said was largely occupied by terrorists.

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“About two-thirds of Mali is occupied by terrorists, and it makes common sense to secure the country, rather than pursuing individual interests,” he stated.

The President was, however, hopeful that the sub-region would take a common position on the issue when the leaders meet on Friday.

A photo taken on August 26, 2020, shows former President Goodluck Jonathan walking with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

He also believes the ECOWAS leaders will arrive at an amicable and generally acceptable position to all interested parties.

Recently, a series of protests erupted in the streets of Bamako, Mali’s capital despite rainfall and pleas from mediators to stay home, demanding the resignation of ousted President Keita.

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The Malian leader was later overthrown by mutinying troops on August 18, amid the lingering unrest in the country.

He was arrested and taken into custody along with the country’s Prime Minister, Boubou Cisse, as well as other senior government officials.

The coup has sent shockwaves around the West African sub-region, sparking fears that one of its most volatile states could collapse.

A day after he was forced out of office, President Keita bowed to pressure and announced that he had stepped down to avoid “bloodshed”.


#Newsworthy…

Just in: Buhari presides over virtual FEC meeting.

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…swears in 12 permanent secretaries


President Muhammadu Buhari has presided over the 13th weekly virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the State House in Abuja.

Before the commencement of the meeting on Wednesday, he swore-in 12 permanent secretaries at the Council Chambers which was witnessed by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo.

The Head of Service of the Federation (HoSF), Dr. Folade Yemi-Esan had in June issued a statement concerning their appointment.

The newly appointed permanent secretaries and their states are Belgore Shuaib Mohammad Lomido,(Kwara); Akinlade Oluwatoyin, (Kogi); Ekpa Anthonia Akpabio, (Cross River); Alkali Bashir Nura, Kano; Ardo Babayo Kumo, (Gombe) and Anyanwutaku Adaora lfeoma, (Anambra).

President Muhammadu Buhari swears in 12 permanent secretaries

Others are: Udoh Moniloja Omokunmi, (Oyo); Hussaini Babangida, (Jigawa); Mohammed Aliyu Ganda, (Sokoto); Mahmuda Mamman, (Yobe); Meribole Emmanuel Chukwuemeka, (Abia) and Tarfa Yerima Peter (Adamawa).

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The President also swore in commissioners for Federal Civil Service Commission, Idahagbon Henry, Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Usman Hassan.

The newly sworn-in secretaries

Ministers physically present at the council meeting are Niger Delta; Godswill Akpabio, the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami; Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed; Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mohammed Bello and Water Resources, Sulieman Adamu.

Also physically attending the meeting are the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha; the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari; and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (rted).

Meanwhile, the Head of Service of the Federation, Yemi-Esan, and some ministers virtually joined from their various offices.


#Newsworthy…

Ivory Coast’s Alassane Ouattara files candidacy for elections – calls for peace

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Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara called for peace after clashes that have claimed at least eight lives as he filed his candidacy on Monday for elections less than three months away.

Clashes broke out after Ouattara, who initially said he would not stand again, changed his mind following the sudden death of prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, his anointed successor.

“I know I can count on all my fellow citizens to ensure that this election is peaceful and that Ivorians can make their choice in peace, without violence,” Ouattara said as he left the headquarters of the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) in Abidjan, flanked by most members of the government.

“We will submit to the verdict of our citizens. The citizens will remember our record, which is an exceptional record over the past nine years… I have a vision of stability, security, peace and happiness for Ivorians,” he said.

The constitution limits presidents to two terms, but 78-year-old Ouattara and his supporters argue that a 2016 constitutional tweak reset the clock, allowing him to seek a third.

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Six people were killed and about 100 were injured in demonstrations that erupted after Ouattara announced on August 6 that he would seek re-election following Gon Coulibaly’s death in July from a heart attack.

At least two more were killed at the weekend in clashes at Divo, 200 kilometres (120 miles) from Abidjan, after Ouattara formally accepted his nomination by the ruling RHDP party.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara wearing a protective mask attends a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the country Independance from France on August 7, 2020 at the presidential palace in Abidjan. SIA KAMBOU / AFP.

Opposition and civil society groups say Outtara’s move to stand again in the October 31 vote amounts to a “coup”.

The world’s top cocoa grower remains scarred by a brief civil war that erupted after 2010 elections, when then president Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede to the victor, Ouattara. Months of violence claimed around 3,000 lives.

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– Gbabgo barred –

Challengers to the incumbent include 86-year-old former president Henri Konan Bedie for the main opposition party PDCI.

Two former ministers and Ouattara allies, ex-foreign minister Marcel Amon-Tanoh and ex-education minister Albert Toikeusse Mabri, are also running.

But election officials have rejected appeals by Gbagbo and former rebel leader Guillaume Soro to be allowed to compete.

Gbagbo was freed conditionally by the International Criminal Court (ICC) after he was cleared in 2019 of crimes against humanity.

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His return to Ivory Coast would be sensitive before the presidential election. His Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party urged him to throw his hat in the electoral ring.

Soro, a former rebel leader, has been forced into self-imposed exile in France in the face of a long list of legal problems at home.

He was a leader in a 2002 revolt that sliced the former French colony into the rebel-held north and the government-controlled south and triggered years of unrest.

He was once an ally of Ouattara, helping him to power during the post-election crisis in 2010. The two eventually fell out.


#Newsworthy…

Belarus elections: European Union to punish 15 to 20

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The EU is likely to sanction between 15 and 20 individuals for their role in electoral fraud and a crackdown on protesters in Belarus, a senior official said Tuesday.

The bloc has been preparing asset freezes and travel bans over the crisis that has unfolded in the ex-Soviet republic and after an emergency video summit last week EU Council President Charles Michel said a “substantial number” of people would be targeted.

The European Union is trying to find ways to get strongman President Alexander Lukashenko to listen to the unprecedented protests that followed his hotly disputed August 9 re-election, which the bloc has rejected as not free or fair.

EU foreign ministers meeting for informal talks in Berlin on Thursday and Friday are expected to give political approval to a list of targets, before the list is formally approved soon afterwards.

Asked how many names were on the list, a senior EU official said it would likely be “something between 15 and 20”, but the final total would depend on legal verification carried out by the EU’s lawyers.

Because sanctions listings can be challenged all the way up to the European Court of Justice, the EU subjects each one to rigorous checks to make sure they are legally watertight.

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European leaders including Michel, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have all sought to persuade Russia to help bring about a peaceful conclusion to the Belarus crisis.

The senior EU official said the “very interesting tango between Russia and Belarus” in recent years, in which Lukashenko has resisted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to get him to join a political-economic union, had disrupted the Moscow-Minsk dynamic.

After drifting away from Putin, Lukashenko was now suddenly seeking his support, the official said, complicating European efforts to get Putin to encourage the Belarus leader to start talking to the opposition.

“Is Putin usefully prodding Alexander Lukashenko in the way of this dialogue? My answer has to be no — he is in a different business,” the official said.


#Newsworthy…

Kogi Election: Court dates August 31 for Musa Wada’s appeal.

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Supreme Court sitting in Abuja has fixed August 31, 2020, for the judgement in the appeal filed by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Musa Wada.

Mr. Wada is challenging the election victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Yahaya Bello as the Governor of Kogi State.

His party (PDP) insisted that its candidate won the November 16, 2019 governorship election while Mr. Wada claims that the election that brought in Mr. Bello as governor of the state was riddled with serious electoral infractions.

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In May, Mr. Wada lost his petition at the election tribunal which sat in Abuja

In the judgment of two to one, delivered by the Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Kashim Kaigama, the tribunal held that the petitioner had failed to prove the allegations of over-voting, massive thumb printing, voter intimidation, and other electoral malpractices.

The tribunal also awarded a cost of one million naira to be paid by the petitioners, PDP and Musa Wada to INEC, Yahaya Bello, and APC who are the respondents.

Thereafter, Mr. Wada lost his appeal before the Court of Appeal, being dissatisfied with the judgement, he approached the Apex Court.


#Newsworthy…

774,000 Jobs: Scheme Politically Motivated – PDP flare, makes rejection.

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Caucus in the House of Representatives has rejected the 774,000 jobs from the Special Public Works Programme of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.

The party, in a statement by the leader of the Caucus, Rep. Kingsley Chinda dissociated itself from the scheme, describing it as politically motivated.

He accused the APC-led government of misusing Nigeria’s scarce resources with the intention to expend N52 Billion under the guise of “creating employment” for only three months.”

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Read Full Statement Below:

The PDP Caucus in the House of Representatives has unequivocally rejected and dissociated itself from the Special Public Works Programme of the Buhari led APC Administration.

The caucus signed by its Chairman Kingsley Chinda (PDP Rivers) is strongly admonishing its members to ignore the letters written to Senators and House of Representatives members by APC State Coordinators of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) on behalf of the Minister of State (Labour and Employment), asking for the nominate of  30 and 25 individuals respectively from each Local Government Area in their constituency.

The statement reads ” The Caucus  considers this correspondence –  a condemnable attempt to bribe and hoodwink the institution of the National Assembly into complicity in the misapplication of Nigeria’s scarce resources for the implementation of a questionable, misguided, absurd and arguably unlawful scheme that alarmingly intends to expend N52 Billion under the guise of “creating employment” for only three months.”

“This regrettably is the most unsustainable employment scheme implemented by any government”

“While the caucus espouses the eradication of poverty and the creation of gainful and sustainable employment for the burgeoning population of unemployed Nigerians under this administration, it flies in the face of reason and common sense why this government insists on expending enormous resources for the implementation of a politically motivated transient Programme, dubiously shrouded as “employment” having no empowering or enduring benefit to ordinary Nigerians especially when several viable and veritable job and wealth-creating alternatives exist for the application of the funds.”

Rep Chinda said “Elementary division of the approved Programme budget of N52billion by 774 LGA’S in Nigeria implies expenditure of N67.184million (about $150,000) in each LGA of Nigeria which if applied judiciously and transparently will suffice for the establishment of a Viable Industry in each LGA”

“He added that for several years to come will provide gainful, enduring and sustainable direct and indirect employment for more than 100 skilled and unskilled poor unemployed Nigerians per LGA and provide an invaluable opportunity for future growth, skill acquisition and economic development.”

“New International Labour Organization (ILO) data reveals that Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMES) account for a staggering 70% of employment worldwide, as they constitute more than 90% of enterprises in all developing countries of the world and in addition to creating employment, they are the engines of economic growth and social development contributing up to 70% of the GDP of all countries in the world (ILO 2019).”

” According to World Bank estimates, 600 million jobs will be needed by 2030 to absorb the growing global workforce, which makes SME development a high priority for many governments around the world (The World Bank 2020) and should ordinarily be of extreme priority to the Nigerian Government”.

“From the estimated sum of N67.184million intended to be expended in each LGA of Nigeria, N1million per SME can be utilized for the creation and development of 67 SME’S per LGA who will engage in viable and lucrative businesses in the Agriculture, mining and other value chains that in most instances would be peculiar to each individual LGA and create gainful employment for up to 3 or more poor Nigerians per SME.”

“Even in emerging markets and developed countries of the world, Micro Enterprises which are usually categorized as having less than 10 employees constitute between 75% to 95% of businesses in the country (OECD 2020, The Company Warehouse n.d.), it can very confidently be inferred that these enterprises probably constitute up to 99% of the businesses in Nigeria”.

The creation and development of 67 SMES in each LGA will provide at least 134 actual sustainable jobs per LGA and 103,716 nationwide. The impact on Nigeria’s economy and GDP will be astronomical and will set Nigeria on the path to economic growth and development. The gains to Nigerians and Nigeria’s socio-economic growth and development can be sustainable and enduring if the Nigerian government (Executive and Legislature) tackles the three cardinal challenges faced by SME’S which according to the International Labour Organization (ILO 2019) include Regulatory Environment.

Access to Finance and Skills shortages by instituting, amending or repealing legislation to avoid complex rules and regulations that impede SME growth, consistent provision of significant financial intervention to SME’S and adequately funding NDE, SMEDAN and other relevant government agencies to continuously provide sublime entrepreneurship training and skill acquisition.

This is common sense and not rocket science! The inability of the Buhari-led APC administration to conceptualize viable ideas for the expenditure of N52billion for the benefit of ordinary poor Nigerians as has been eloquently elucidated by the PDP Caucus of the House of Representatives emphasizes the dearth in cerebral capacity and acumen within the administration to proffer solutions to the myriad of issues bedevilling the nation and informs its inability in more than 5 years to record significant achievements in the administration’s focal campaign tripod of Security, Corruption and Economy.

The Minister of State (Labour and Employment) further bolstered this obvious deficiency when in an attempt to explain and defend the administrations reasons for initiating the Special Public Works Programme, during his speech on Thursday 28 May 2020 displayed alarming ignorance in erroneously likening the Programme to initiatives utilized by industrialized nations like the United States, during the Great Depression and later adopted by Colonial African and Asian countries to tackle poverty and spur economic recovery, growth and development (Premium Times 2020).

“While the concept behind the Buhari administration’s Special Public Works Programme appears to be similar, fundamental differences exist in the initiation, implementation and duration when compared to the innovative programmes utilized by industrialized nations during the great depression and similar initiatives by African and Asian nations as alluded to by the Honourable Minister.”

“These programmes were usually instituted by formal legislation creating dedicated sources of revenue for engagement of poor unskilled workers in the development of specific significant public infrastructure for an extended period for the benefit of current and future generations.”

“The remuneration of workers was either equal to or more than the related countries minimum wage (depending on skillset) with extensive opportunities for skill acquisition while responsibility for implementation of such programmes was domiciled with the heads of the relevant agencies.”

“On April 8, 1935, the US Congress approved the Emergency Relief Appropriation Bill which funded the Works Progress Administration (WPA) one of the agencies under the New Deal programmes created by President Franklin Roosevelt to relieve the economic hardship of the Great Depression, this National Works Program employed more than 8.5 million people on 1.4 million public projects before it was disbanded in 1943 after 8 years (as shown in the Library of Congress 2020, Wikipedia n.d.). Many famous American Landmarks like The Camp David Presidential Estate in Maryland were built under the WPA (Wikipedia n.d.). Similar Public Works Programmes in China (Elegant, S., Ramzy, A. 2009), India, Ethiopia and Rwanda (Zimmermann, 2020) and recent collaborations between ILO and several countries around the world are instituted by formal legislation with dedicated consistent funding,  targeted at development of major public infrastructure for extended periods with extensive opportunities for skill acquisition and are either permanently part of the countries extant laws (like India) or have been in existence for decades (like China, Ethiopia and Rwanda).

” None of the countries mentioned by the Minister instituted Public works programmes for three months with no guaranteed consistent source of funding, no specific public infrastructure intended to be developed, no available opportunity for skill acquisition, no plan for implementation or coordination between MDA’S, no transparent identification of unskilled poor target population, politicisation of recruitment procedure and payment of remuneration less than the minimum wage of the country”

“The Buhari administration’s insistence that the Special Public Works Programme is an employment intensive scheme implies that the monthly stipend of N20,000 proposed by this administration as remuneration for target workers is a violation of the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act 2019 enacted under this same administration which stipulates in Section 3(1-3) that every employer shall pay a minimum wage of not less than N30,000 to each worker every month, the minimum wage shall be the minimum total amount of money an employer of labour is required to pay the lowest-paid worker or employee monthly and any agreement for the payment of wages less than the national minimum wage are void.”

“The powers to grant exemptions conferred on the Minister of Labour and Employment in Section 4(2) of the act requires an order through the National Labour Advisory Council and published in the Federal Government Gazette taking into consideration reports from National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission or other such body that may make representation for such exemption”

“The PDP caucus is unaware of the constitution of the National Labour Advisory Council by this administration till date as is statutorily required and as was demanded for by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) since 2018 or any subsisting order for exemption published in the Federal Government Gazzette which if in existence is another violation of the Act having not been issued through the National Labour Advisory Council. There is also no record of any report from the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission or any other body making representation to the Minister for exemption from the provisions of the National Minimum Wages Act.”

” The President who endorsed the payment of N20,000 for implementation of this programme, the Minister who has hijacked and is superintending its implementation and the NDE’s Director General who is the agency’s accounting officer is in violation of extant provisions of the National Minimum Wages Act and should be sanctioned according to provisions of Section 9 of the Act. Ironically the Act never envisaged that the Minister who in Sections 11-13 is saddled with the enforcement and monitoring of the implementation of the Act would be its chief violator.”

“The probable illegality of this Programme is further emphasized by certain actions of the Minister of State Labour and Employment which appear to be in violation of the NDE Act. All powers bestowed on the Minister in the Act are clearly on the substantive Minister, the Minister of States assertion about being the supervising Minister of the NDE is alien to the Act, any internal policy’s or directives within the Ministry flowing from Nigeria’s flawed Ministerial appointment system cannot supersede provisions of formal legislation”

“The initiation and appropriation of funds for the Special Works Programme under the NDE and not the Ministry was based on the statutory mandate of the agency and confers responsibility for implementation on the agency. According to Section 20 of the Procurement Act, the NDE Director-General is the agency’s accounting officer and will be held accountable for the expenditure of funds appropriated for the agency”

” The NDE DG’S public outcry about being oblivious of the processes instituted by the Minister of State for implementation of the Programme indicts the Minister who in excising the implementation of this Programme from the Management of NDE has arrogated powers to himself not conferred on him by the NDE Act and prevented the DG from performing his statutory functions and assuming responsibility for the expenditure of funds allocated to his agency.”

“In his 28 May 2020 speech, the Minister of States reference to provisions of Section 16(1) as justifying his creation of Special Committees known as State Selection Committees across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT is flawed and at variance with that provision of the Act which indicates the substantive minister can from time to time constitute a Special Committee of the Directorate and not special committees”

“Considering the cost implication of the creation of this Special Committee as stipulated in Section 16(2) of the Act which allows the NDE Board to prescribe allowances payable to organizations and persons elected as members of the Special Committee of the Directorate, the Act does not suggest the creation of several committees across the 36 states which will unreasonably incur expenditure on behalf of the government”

“The skewed composition of members of the State Selection Committees in favour of APC members, political thugs and party stalwarts confirms the suspicion that these State Selection Committees are conduits for misappropriation of Nigeria’s Commonwealth for settlement of APC members and for the prosecution of a false employment narrative and façade”

“The PDP Caucus of the House of Representatives as members of the National Assembly do not exonerate themselves from responsibility in the approval of funds for implementation of the misguided Special Public Works Programme and unreservedly apologize to Nigerians for the planned misapplication of their scarce resources”

“The recent revelations from the House of Representatives probe of the NDDC, the surreptitious introduction and questionable consideration of the controversial Water Resources Bill;  the attempt to railroad the House into the passage of the plagiarized Infectious Diseases Bill and the clandestine consideration and passage of the CAC Act are a few examples of the current dictatorial, biased and divisive modus operandi of the APC led 9th National Assembly were decisions are taken on behalf of members without their full knowledge or participation, issued hinging on statutory functions and privileges are concluded upon by individual members in leadership positions and were opposing views are unwelcome and stifled”.

“The Caucus has resolved to employ legislative and lawful processes including the institution of legal action were necessary to address any encroachment on the performance of our statutory functions and fundamental human rights.”

“The blatant and brazen disregard of a co-equal arm of government and elected representatives of the Nigerian people by the Minister of State who was grandstanding before the Nigerian people and the tacit approval of his actions by the President in authorizing his continued implementation of this skewed programme regardless of definite pronouncements by the National Assembly and apparent violations of legislation in this regard confirms the Buhari administration’s aversion to the Rule of law, constitutional provisions and institutions and disinterest in the wellbeing of the Nigerian people.”

“The ulterior motives of this administration in the implementation of this programme are obvious and no longer left to conjecture! This is an APC initiative intended to enrich APC stalwarts by creating opportunities to pilfer Nigeria’s resources under the guise of creating employment.”

“The intended allocation of slots to elected political officials as suggested by the Minister are as follows; Governors – 40, Senators – 30, House of Representatives Members – 25, Ministers – 50, House of Assembly Members – 20, Council Chairmen – 20, Religious organizations and organized bodies – 20, which gives a total of at most 205 in each LGA. What is the plan for engagement of the balance of about 795 individuals and how will ordinary Nigerians who are not stalwarts or members of the APC participate in this scheme when the State Selection Committees were selected by this APC administration and are composed of APC members?”

“Multiplication of N20,000 by 1000 persons in each of the 774 LGA’S of the country gives a total of N46.44billion as the actual amount to be utilized for the programme in three months leaving a balance of N5.56billion when deducted from the total approved sum of N52billion. Why is there a surplus of N5.56billion and what is this amount intended to be utilized for in three months when the CBN is supposed to make payments directly to the accounts of beneficiaries? ;

“Are the banks who are supposed to handle registration and collation of data of beneficiaries selected through a transparent process in line with extant laws of Nigeria or were they simply selected because they are cronies of the Minister of State and this administration? Is this administration admitting its inability to fight corruption and indicting its own agencies by inferring that transparency of the process can only be guaranteed through banks? ;

“Will the government be charged by the banks for the provision of services that should ordinarily be carried out by the relevant government agency? Are there really any public works identified to be maintained by 1000 persons in each LGA for three months when most LGA’S in Nigeria hardly have any infrastructure? The questions are innumerable!”

“This programme has obviously not been very well thought out and is destined for failure from the onset. It will, unfortunately, be a monumental waste of the nation’s resources and another sad footnote in the chequered history of the Buhari Administration! We admonish the government to jettison the planned three-month Special Public Works Programme for more sustainable alternatives that will utilize related funds to the benefit of Nigerians.”

“This is a defining moment for the APC leadership of the National Assembly whose inaction has elicited the appellation of a lame-duck legislature from the Nigerian populace who have lost faith in the ability of the 9th assembly to hold this administration accountable for their actions.”

“The only path to redemption for the 9th Assembly is to refuse to fund the programme subsequently until the executive engages the legislature appropriately.”

God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

REP. O. K. CHINDA.

(LEADER, PDP CAUCUS)

23rd  August, 2020


#Newsworthy..

[Lagos] PDP calls Sanwo olu to public debate on IGR.

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The Lagos State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has criticised the administration of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

Following a meeting of the State Executive Committee, the party challenged the present administration to a public debate on the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and acclaimed expenditures of the state government.

According to the State Publicity Secretary, Taofik Gani, this formed part of the resolutions of the party reached at the end of its meeting held on Monday.

It faulted the ruling APC over purported claims that it has given advice and progressive suggestions to the governor, both privately and publicly in the interest of the resident.

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The opposition party accused the APC of failing and extorting the people, describing the party as “very arrogant and incompetent,” as well as not fit and proper for the present challenges in the state.

It also resolved to take up the ruling party – vote for vote, and strategy for strategy ahead of the forthcoming bye-elections and the general elections in 2023.

The PDP stressed that the inadequacies identified in the Sanwo-Olu led administration would be its winning asset going into any future election in the state.

It noted that those aspiring for elective posts would commence their screening on Tuesday, saying the PDP remained resolute as a united party to winning the bye-elections in the state.

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The meeting also congratulated the newly set-up South West Caretaker Committee, saying it has confidence in the committee to steer the geo-political zone of the party to electoral victories.

It assured aspirants in the bye-elections that there would be a level playing field and urged them to accept the results of the screening and primaries in the spirit of sportsmanship.

The party also asked them to direct all valid information concerning the PDP to the officially recognised party secretariats at the state and local government area (LGA) levels.

It warned individuals who act reactionary, especially those coming from outside the state to steer clear of Lagos or be publicly exposed and disgraced.


#Newsworthy…

Orji Uzor Kalu Seeks Tenure Extension For Yobe Governor.

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The Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, has urged the leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to extend the tenure of the Governor Mai Mala Buni led Caretaker Committee of the party to March 2021.

He made the request to the party’s National Executive Council (NEC) in a statement by his spokesperson, Kunle Oyewumi, on Monday.

Kalu, who is a former governor of Abia State, believes there is no need for a ‘fire brigade approach’ on the proposed convention scheduled for December.

“It is with deep patriotic concerns and the future growth of our great party that I am appealing to the National Executive Council to consider extending the tenure of Governor Mai Mala Buni led APC Caretaker Committee to March 2021, against the December proposed period.

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“This is to give the caretaker committee members the needed time to put things in order and hand over properly to new leadership in the end,” he said.

The lawmaker stressed the importance of winning the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State, saying it was paramount to the party at the moment.

He was worried that the caretaker committee was not offering its best due to time constraints, adding that majority of the participants would be very busy with their national tasks during the December proposed period.

Kalu noted that lawmakers in the National Assembly and ministers would also be focused on budget preparation and defence and would not be in a better position to offer their best to the party.

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He said, “I don’t see any need of fire brigade approach for them to hand over to new leadership by December.

“The committee is expected to focus their attention on Edo State because the Edo State election will determine the strength of any new leadership.”

According to the former governor, holding the convention in December will also not give the party the desired results needed.

He stated that some of the ministers would also need to travel to their wards and make adequate preparations for the party’s congress.


#Newsworthy…