Tag Archives: Happening

Clampdown on People’s Gazette over ‘misinformation?’

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Ogundipe on the other hand said they are in touch with MTN, Glo and Airtel executives to resolve the disruption.

When Peoples Gazette, an online Nigerian news outlet, published a story last October detailing how the son of President Muhammadu Buhari’s chief of staff Ibrahim Gambari, now allegedly leads the strongest power bloc in Nigeria’s presidency, its publishers never thought it would warrant an intense witch-hunt.

Samuel Ogundipe, who founded the news outlet after leaving Premium Times, is not an alien to the Nigerian Government trying to stifle voices of scrutiny.

On the 27th of January, Ogundipe said access to its website has been restricted by mobile telecommunications companies including MTN, Glo, and 9mobile.

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Accessing the website using Airtel data service was intermittent as at presstime. Readers using the telecommunications listed could only access the website with the use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).

“This disruption, we are increasingly learning from top federal sources, was based on a directive, from the Nigerian government to MTN, Glo Mobile and other telecom firms, that sought an immediate blacklist of our web address as well as all other alternative domain names,” People’s Gazette publisher Samuel Ogundipe said in a statement.

“Our internal assessments and notes from our readers indicate a total restriction on our website for people connecting via MTN, Glo Mobile and Airtel, i.e.: a vast majority of Nigerian Internet users.”

The newspaper resolved to using alternative URLs in the wake of the restriction. But a source said those URLs were immediately blocked by the telecom firms.

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However, it is currently publishing from Gazettengr.com.

“I think they have realised that if they clamp this down, we just switch to another one,” a source at the newspaper said.

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Titled “Gambari’s son leads new cabal as Farouk Gumel disappears from Aso Rock,” the story that landed People’s Gazette in the bad book of a power bloc in the Nigerian Government, detailed how the son of the recently appointed Chief of Staff Ibrahim Gamabari, Bolaji Gambari, took over the portfolio of his father due to his health.

The online news outfit claimed Gambari is the one running the affairs of the State House without being officially appointed by the Nigerian government.

PG said they got the information from a top source in the state house. “Mr. Gambari has found himself authorising administrative regulations and fixing top secret executive briefings barely five months after President Muhammadu Buhari appointed his father, Ibrahim Gambari, as the chief of staff,”a part of the story read.

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“It would be considered an excellent list of responsibilities for Mr. Gambari, but for the fact that he has been deemed as patently unqualified for such.”

PG claimed it came under severe security pressure shortly after the story was published. It said the clampdown on its website began after it refused to accept bribe to pull down the story.

“But the harassment were rebuffed since the Gazette does not entertain discussion about deleting an already published story,” the news outlet said.

PG said after the story was published the officials who called in to express displeasure about the report did not indicate any interest in rebutting any elements of the story.

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The action against PG dampens the fundamental objectives contained in Section 22 of the Constitution that gives the press, and other agencies of the mass media the duty to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria said in a statement on Friday.

Samuel Ogundipe: Founder of Peoples Gazette after leaving Premium Times.

“This administration has in many ways proven to be against press freedom and internet freedom carrying out moves interpreted as a clampdown on democracy, in a democratic system,” PIN’s communication officer Valery Njiaba said in the statement.

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“Paradigm initiative in its consistent commitment to protect and defend digital rights condemns in the strongest terms these acts by the Nigerian government through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).”

Njiaba said Freedom of the press is one of the cornerstones of democracy, one that must fiercely protect.

“Any attempt at shutting down the press is outrightly illegal and a violation of the freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without inference, protected by section 39 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria(As amended).”

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Njiaba said the organisation has engaged the NCC in the past on the same subject and will continue to do so.

“All hands need to be on deck to push back on what has now become the government’s playbook in shutting down opposing voices,” Njiaba said.

“Paradigm Initiative and many other concerned organizations are willing to support platforms that are victims of government censorship to get judicial redress. We call on all meaningful Nigerians to support these efforts at curtailing the excesses of the government and its attack on the freedom of the press and the Internet.”

He also urged the Nigerian authorities to respect and enforce their citizens’ right to access to information, the rights of freedom of expression and opinion as assured and protected by the 1999 Nigerian Constitution(as amended).

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“While we continue efforts to restore regular access to Peoples Gazette’s website, we would like to encourage readers to consider the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to bypass prevailing censorship in the meantime,” Ogundipe said.

“All our stories will also be replicated on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GazetteNGR. We also encourage our readers to create or replicate their own digital solidarity platforms for sharing stories by Peoples Gazette.”

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#Newsworthy

US Capitol riot probe link to foreign Gov’ts

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Bitcoin payments can be traced because they are documented on a public ledger.

The FBI is investigating whether foreign governments, organisations or individuals provided financial support to people who helped plan and execute the January 6 attack on the Capitol, a news report said on Sunday.

As part of the investigation, the FBI is examining payments of $500,000 in bitcoin, apparently by a French national, to key figures and groups in the far right before the riot, one current and one former FBI official told NoRM‘s known Media.

The payments were documented and posted online last week by a company that analyses cryptocurrency transfers.

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The current FBI official was quoted as saying the bitcoin transfers appear to have been made by a French computer programmer who took his own life on December 8 last year after triggering the transfers, according to French media.

The cryptocurrency payments prompted the FBI to examine whether any of the money was used to fund illegal acts, which, if true, raises the possibility of money-laundering and conspiracy charges, the FBI official said.

On December 8, Chainalysis reported the donor sent 28.15 BTC – worth about $522,000 at the time of transfer – to 22 separate addresses, many of which belong to far-right activists.

The Chainalysis blog post, first highlighted by Yahoo News, said far-right podcaster Nick Fuentes received the most money, 13.5 BTC – worth about $250,000.

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Separately, a joint threat assessment issued last week by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and various other federal and DC-area police agencies noted since the deadly January 6 riot, “Russian, Iranian, and Chinese influence actors have seized the opportunity to amplify narratives in furtherance of their policy interest amid the presidential transition.”

Russian state and proxy media outlets “have amplified themes related to the violent and chaotic nature of the Capitol Hill incident, impeachment of President Donald Trump, and social media censorship”, the unclassified intelligence report said.

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“In at least one instance, a Russian proxy claimed that ANTIFA members disguised themselves as supporters of President Trump, and were responsible for storming the Capitol building.”

Chinese media, meanwhile, “have seized the story to denigrate US democratic governance, casting the United States as broadly in decline – and to justify China’s crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong”.

The examination of possible foreign influence related to the Capitol riot, which involves the FBI’s counterintelligence division, comes after years of what current and former FBI officials say is mounting evidence that Russia and other foreign adversaries have sought to secretly support “political extremists” on the far right and far left.

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‘Mutual affection’

Law enforcement officials and security analysts say there has long been “a mutual affection between Western white supremacists and the Russian government”, as two scholars put it in a February paper on the JustSecurity website.

Some senators were concerned enough about the issue that they inserted a requirement in the 2021 defence bill that the Pentagon “report to Congress on the extent of Russian support for ‘racially and ethnically motivated violent extremist groups and networks in Europe and the United States’ – and what can be done to counter it”.

Fuentes, who spoke at pro-Trump rallies last year in Michigan and Washington, DC, told the ProPublica news organisation he was at the “Stop the Steal” rally on Wednesday, January 6, but did not follow the mob into the Capitol.

One group of Fuentes’ supporters, which calls itself the Groyper Army, was filmed running through the Capitol carrying a large blue flag with the America First logo, ProPublica reported.

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“We’re looking at and treating this just like a significant international counter-terrorism or counter-intelligence operation,” Michael Sherwin, the US attorney in Washington, DC, said at a news briefing last week.

“We’re looking at everything: Money, travel records, looking at disposition, movement, communication records.”

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: India launches world’s largest vaccination drive.

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The sheer scale has its obstacles. For instance, India plans to rely heavily on a digital platform to track the shipment and delivery of vaccines.

India launched one of the world’s largest coronavirus vaccination drives on Saturday as the coronavirus pandemic spread at a record pace and global COVID-19 deaths surged past two million.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who addressed healthcare workers through video conferencing, will not immediately take the vaccine himself as India is initially prioritising nurses, doctors and others on the front line.

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“We are launching the world’s biggest vaccination drive and it shows the world our capability,” Modi said in his address. He implored citizens to keep their guard up and not to believe any “rumours about the safety of the vaccines”.

“Please do not start being careless once you get vaccinated, do not take off your mask or forget social distancing,” said Modi.

But public health experts point out the internet remains patchy in large parts of the country, and some remote villages are entirely unconnected.

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For workers who have pulled India’s battered healthcare system through the pandemic, the shots offered confidence that life can start returning to normal. Many burst with pride.

“I am excited that I am among the first to get the vaccine,” Gita Devi, a nurse, said as she lifted her left sleeve to receive the shot.

“I am happy to get an India-made vaccine and that we do not have to depend on others for it,” said Devi, who has treated patients throughout the pandemic in a hospital in Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh state in India’s heartland.

India gave the nod for emergency use of two vaccines: one developed by Oxford University and UK-based drug-maker AstraZeneca, and another by Indian company Bharat Biotech on January 4. Cargo planes flew 16.5 million shots to different Indian cities last week.

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Health experts worry the regulatory shortcut taken to approve the Bharat Biotech vaccine without waiting for concrete data that would show its efficacy in preventing illness from the coronavirus could amplify vaccine hesitancy.

At least one state health minister has opposed its use.

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India’s health ministry has bristled at the criticism and said the vaccines are safe, but maintains that health workers will have no choice in deciding which one they get.

According to Dr SP Kalantri – director of a rural hospital in Maharashtra, India’s worst-hit state – such an approach was worrying because he said regulatory approval was hasty and not backed by science.

“In a hurry to be populist, the government [is] taking decisions that might not be in the best interest of the common man,” Kalantri said.

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Against the backdrop of the rising global COVID-19 death toll – it topped two million on Friday – the clock is ticking to vaccinate as many people as possible. But the campaign has been uneven.

India is second to the United States with 10.5 million confirmed cases, and ranks third in the number of deaths, behind the US and Brazil, with 152,000.

More than 35 million doses of various COVID-19 vaccines have been administered around the world, according to the University of Oxford.

While the majority of COVID-19 vaccine doses have already been snapped up by wealthy countries, COVAX – a UN-backed project to supply shots to developing parts of the world – has found itself short of vaccine, money and logistical help.

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As a result, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist warned it is highly unlikely that herd immunity – which would require at least 70 percent of the globe to be vaccinated – will be achieved this year.

As the disaster has demonstrated, it is not enough to snuff out the virus in a few places, experts say.

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#Newsworthy

Nigerians mock Buhari Gov’t after Pigeons released during Armed forces remembrance refuse to fly.

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The action as expected sparked a debate on social media on Friday.

Nigerians have taken to social media to mock President Buhari after the doves, otherwise known as white pigeons, released by him at the Armed Forces Remembrance Day ceremony, refused to fly despite multiple attempts.

The President had opened the birdcage at the National Arcade, picked up one of the doves, and thrown it into the air but the bird landed atop the cage and refused to fly.

Buhari, who was eager to let the white pigeons fly, opened the roof of the cage in a bid to send them all out but the birds remained adamant and decided to sit on top of the cage’s roof.

The President, who appeared tired of trying, soon left the birds and returned to his seat. Moments after the President had left, however, some of the birds flew.

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Reacting on twitter, one Odoemena sarcastically wrote “there must be sanctions, those birds were given sleeping drugs to embarrass the president”

One Oyindamola wrote “Nothing moves in this country, not economy, not even pigeons”

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One Wunmi wrote “Just like the Nigerian citizens, these pigeons are very hungry and do not have the strength to fly”

The ritual of releasing doves is to commemorate the life of a departed loved one and is common at significant events like funerals or memorials. It also signifies peace.

In 2014, the doves refused to fly when former President Goodluck Jonathan freed them. The Spiritual Director of the Adoration Ministry Enugu, Rev Fr. Ejike Mbaka, described the incident at the time as a sign that God had abandoned Jonathan.

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The refusal of the birds to fly on Friday, however, sparked thousands of comments on social media.

A former presidential aspirant of the All Progressives Congress, Adamu Garba, said the birds should be eaten if they cannot do what they were trained to do.

“The pigeons are tired and overtime became lazy, they don’t want to fly the spirit of The Nigerian Flag. We should roast them at Suya joint and deploy Crowwe for action,” he said.

Social media personality, Morris Monye, said the Department of State Services would have arrested the pigeons for embarrassing the President if they could.

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“I guarantee you… If it was possible, the DSS would arrest the pigeons for such an affront on the President. But really, is there peace, harmony, and security in the land?” he asked.

A former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, who is a known critique of the President, also tweeted, “Hmmm. Even the pigeons in Nigeria.”

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#Newsworthy

Top Story: Anti Gov’t Protesters in Thailand back on street.

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Anti-gov’t protesters renew calls for parliament’s dissolution, rewriting of constitution and protection of dissidents.

Pro-democracy protesters are gathering in Thailand’s capital, in what is expected to be the largest rally in weeks of anti-government demonstrations and the biggest since a military coup in 2014 that brought Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to power.

Thousands of protesters on Saturday forced their way onto the campus of Bangkok’s Thammasat University, an institution that has long symbolised democracy in the country’s shaky political history. Later, they made their way into the adjacent Sanam Luang field near the royal palace.

The rally is expected to draw tens of thousands of people, with protesters planning to stay out until Sunday. Police said they would deploy thousands of officers.

“Today, we will continue to push for our demands,” said Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak. “As citizens, we should be able to fight for our rights. You cannot stop us. We have now broken through these first gates and we will continue to break through until we have democracy,” added the student activist as he mobilised a large group of protesters on the outer limits of the university.

Moments earlier, tensions had risen as a scuffle broke out between an anti-government protester and a security guard.

Democratic reforms
The student-led, anti-government movement has been calling for three significant changes to Thailand’s power structure: the dissolution of parliament, the rewriting of the military-drafted constitution and an end to the intimidation of dissidents.

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Protesters believe that their votes in last year’s long-delayed general election have been disregarded after Prayuth, a former army general, stayed on as prime minister with the backing of an unelected Senate and smaller parties, despite the pro-military Palang Pracharat party finishing second.

Following the 2014 coup, Prayuth scrapped the country’s constitution and had the military write a new charter that increased the king’s powers and allowed the military to appoint the 250-member Senate that was to have a say in selecting the new prime minister.

Protesters have also been openly discussing Thailand’s powerful monarchy in public, with some calling for it to be reformed and have its political power reduced. This level of public criticism and debate is unprecedented in modern times, as the kingdom’s royal institution is protected by strict lese majeste laws that can carry prison sentences of up to 15 years.

The anti-government movement has been brewing since mid-July, but its origins began when Thailand’s top court in February moved to dissolve the popular Future Forward Party (FFP). Led by charismatic billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the FFP won the third-highest number of parliamentary seats in the March 2019 election and was seen as a threat to the political establishment.

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The coronavirus pandemic momentarily halted the movement in March but protests resumed as cases started to fall. And in June, the disappearance of Wanchalerm Satsakit, a well-known activist who was abducted in plain sight outside of his apartment in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, was the spark that pushed people to take to the streets.

The initially youth-led demonstrations have since grown consistently larger, drawing citizens from all age groups and walks of life amid rising discontent over Thailand’s widening economic inequality.

Mook, 21, a recent university graduate, said she was participating in the protest to fight for “a better future”.

“We’re unhappy with the government, it’s very simple,” she told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media. “Last year, when I was in university, it became obvious to us [other students] how difficult our future will be if we don’t ask for this [three demands],” she said.

“So today, I’m joining this activity because I think Thailand desperately needs democracy.”

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Police estimate up to 50,000 people could show up at Saturday’s protest, but student leaders believe there could be up to 100,000. Some are worried of an impending crackdown as Prayuth recently warned protesters to not “violate the palace”.

“I’m coming here to help the young people,” said Peeja Plahn, 53. “Many of them have not seen political rallies like this and they won’t know what to do if things get bad. We’re here to support their cause, but we’re also here because this government doesn’t work,” he added.

“Thailand needs to move on.”

At least 28 activists have been arrested on various charges, including sedition, since the protests began months ago.


#Newsworthy…

Nigerian youths reject fuel price, electricity pay hike.

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Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSYL), has condemned the recent hike in fuel price and electricity tariff by the Federal Government.

In a statement at the weekend by its President- General, Goodluck Egwu Ibem, and Secretary General, Kanice Igwe, the body regretted the development.

“COSEYL, the apex socio-political youth group in the South East, regrets the sudden hike in the cost of utility bills at a time when palliative support should have been given to consumers,” the statement said.

File photo of Oando filling station in Nigeria.

The coalition added: “More lamentable is the statement credited to the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Timipre Sylva) that government was deregulating the downstream and midstream sector of the petroleum industry and that the policy does not represent nor reflect its position.

“COSEYL wishes to remind the Federal Government that we now have what is termed under-recocery payment where the Federal Government, through the NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation) markets solely the products through NNPC’s marketing subsidiary, Petroleum Products Marketing Company, PPMC.

The marketers – most of whom belong to the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) buy at ex-depot price and resell to the final consumers.”The group criticised IPMAN for saying it does not have any standing order regarding price modulation.


#Newsworthy…

BBNaija: Check-out ‘the’ beautiful lockdown house | Photos

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This season’s theme tagged ‘Lockdown’ is already off to a rousing start.

A look inside the BBNaija season 5 house reveals a vibrant display of colours and increased attention to creative detail in the design aesthetic.

The redesigned house features improved lounge, bedrooms, kitchen, garden and dining areas.

A significant improvement to the house is a separate lounge area for the Head of House (HoH).

The swanky new HoH area includes a private lounge and bedroom that sits on an upper level above the common areas.

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Previous seasons of BBNaija only had a separate bedroom and bathroom for the HoH.

The new living area for Head of House goes a step further in reinforcing the power and importance of the title.

Also new to the house is a beauty and grooming studio and a redesigned arena for the famous Friday night games.


#Newsworthy…

Crisis looms: Taiwan lawmakers exchange blows | Details

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Taiwanese lawmakers threw punches and water balloons inside the legislature on Friday, the third parliamentary brawl in a fortnight, over the nomination of the head of a top government watchdog.

A legislator from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was caught on camera punching an opposition party member during a vote on nominee Chen Chu.

Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers later threw water balloons at the speakers’ podium, forcing their DPP colleagues to don plastic raincoats and hold up cardboard shields.

The parliament in Taipei was once notorious for mass brawls, and has been the scene of frequent protests.

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Scuffles broke out over reform policies and pension cuts when President Tsai Ing-wen first took office four years ago.

Such confrontations had since subsided, but in the last fortnight they have returned with abandon over the decision to nominate Chen, 70, to head the Control Yuan, an investigatory agency that monitors the other branches of government.

Taiwan’s main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) legislator Lu Ming-che (L) fights with ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Wu Ping-jui (C) as the KMT protest against Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s nomination of Chen Chu, former secretary general of the President Office, for the chairwoman of the Control Yuan, the country’s watchdog body of other branches of government, as scuffles broke out during voting at the parliament in Taipei on July 17, 2020. Sam Yeh / AFP

The KMT is opposed to her appointment, which requires approval from the DPP-dominated parliament.

The party also claimed that 24 out of 27 people nominated for membership of the Control Yuan have close ties with the DPP in the “worst ever” nomination list for the agency.

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“We demand a new review and we demand the nominations be withdrawn,” KMT chairman Johnny Chiang told supporters gathered outside the Control Yuan building, also in the capital.

Legislators from Taiwan’s main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) scuffle as the KMT protest against Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s nomination of Chen Chu, former secretary general of the President Office, for the chairwoman of the Control Yuan, the country’s watchdog body of other branches of government, as scuffles broke out during voting at the parliament in Taipei on July 17, 2020.

Chen is a long-time human rights advocate and was jailed for six years when Taiwan was a dictatorship under the KMT.

Despite the morning’s melee, voting went ahead and Chen’s nomination was approved.

She has said she will quit the DPP after her nomination is approved, to maintain the impartiality of the position, and accused the opposition of smearing her with unfounded accusations.


#Newsworthy…

Pakistan govt yes up to 10% increase in Medicine prices

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There is no escape route or back alley for the people of Pakistan as they are now supposed to pay more for each and everything. The latest move in this unending series is the seven to 10 percent further increase in the medicines’ prices which has been authorised by the PTI government.

Noble Reporters Media on Saturday learnt that the price hike has been allowed and justified under consumer price index under which the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) issued a notification after amending the drug pricing policy.

Moreover, this notification allowing the drug manufacturing companies to increase the prices is issued on the recommendation of the federal government and the DRAP Policy Board.

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The notification says the manufacturers and the importers now can increase the prices of basic medicines by seven percent, while this hike is 10 percent in the case of others.

Another alarming feature of the notification is that the DRAP will now increase the prices of the drugs every year on the basis of consumer price index which in the current scenario is expected to rise.


Hence, there is very little chance of any reduction after this yearly review as the inflation is on the rise due to multiple factors, including the devaluation of the rupee.

The drug manufacturers mostly depend on imported ingredients and the devaluation is certainly increasing the cost, not to mention the imported medicines as the price hike is obvious in that case.


#Newsworthy…

Lebanese engaged with alarming crackdowns

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Rights organisations say 3,599 people were arrested on charges of defamation between 2015 and May 2019.


Lebanese authorities are engaged in an “alarming” crackdown on critical free speech aimed at suppressing widespread demands for accountability over corruption and mismanagement, 14 rights organisations said on Monday.

The newly formed Coalition to Defend Freedom of Expression in Lebanon said 3,599 people were interrogated on charges of defamation between 2015 – when large anti-government protests took place – and May 2019.

That is an average of about two people questioned per day by just one of the country’s main four security agencies – the Cybercrimes Bureau. The Lebanese Army, General Security and State Security also regularly interrogate and detain activists.

New arrests have spiked since October 2019 when the country witnessed its biggest-ever mass protests. At least 60 people were investigated for social media posts alone since demonstrations ushered in a new wave of outspoken criticism of the country’s ruling class.

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Attack on prominent Lebanese activist raises concerns
“Lebanon’s politicians have failed to provide for citizens’ most basic needs, and their corrupt practices have squandered away billions of dollars of public funds,” said the coalition in a statement.

“Yet, instead of heeding protesters’ calls for accountability, the authorities are waging a campaign of repression against people who expose corruption and rightfully criticise the government’s significant failings.”

Lebanon is still seen as a rare beacon of critical free speech in a region where dictators and autocrats ruthlessly enforce the official state narrative.

But signatories to the statement – including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, local watchdogs ALEF and Legal Agenda, independent media platforms Megaphone and DARAJ Media as well as an alternative media syndicate – warn this status is in jeopardy.

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‘Police state’ fears
“We’re very concerned that Lebanon is becoming a police state,” Doja Daoud, a Lebanese journalist and founding member of the Alternative Media Syndicate, told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media). “Those in power are trying to lower the ceiling of freedoms so much that it may crash onto our heads as they try to hide the truth of their corruption.”

Lebanon regularly ranks among the world’s most corrupt countries. Its ruling class of former military leaders and business tycoons have long been accused of plundering state coffers and mismanaging the economy, pushing the country into a disastrous financial crisis.

In addition to the crackdown via courts and security services, several activists have been beaten by supporters of establishment parties in recent weeks.

These include Bashir Abo Zeid, the editor of an independent newspaper named after the October 17 protests, and Wassef Harake, an outspoken anti-establishment activist and former independent candidate for parliament.

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“They definitely don’t want strong independent media and free expression to hold them accountable,” Daoud said. “We’re raising our voices now because soon, we fear we may not be able to speak.”

Coalition members described as “jarring” a large army presence outside the venue where their launch event was held on Monday, including armoured vehicles and gun-wielding soldiers.

The number of arrests has jumped following anti-government protests that started in 2015 [File: Bilal Hussein/AP]

Intimidation tactics
Among the violations documented by the coalition are “a range of physical and psychological interrogation tactics” by authorities that people affected “believed were intended to humiliate, punish, and deter them from publishing content deemed to be insulting to or critical of powerful people”.

“The prosecution and security agencies acted improperly – and sometimes illegally – to intimidate and silence people charged in these cases,” the coalition said.

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Lebanon’s constitution guarantees freedom of expression but sets limits within the law, including defamation of public officials, punishable by up to one year in prison, in addition to insulting the president or religious rituals which carry a maximum of two year and three-year sentences, respectively.

Insulting the Lebanese flag or army is also punishable by up to three years in prison.

These laws, many of them older than the country’s independence from France in 1943, are enforced by prosecutors today.

Lebanon has detained at least 100 activists since October
On June 15 the country’s top prosecutor ordered a security agency to investigate social media posts deemed offensive to the president.

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Soon after, Michel Chamoun, a government critic, was arrested for criticising the crackdown.

Parliament and government are together working to amend the country’s aged media laws, saying they want to bring them into the digital age.

The coalition warned it was not privy to discussions and said the most recent draft they obtained included increased penalties on some charges. They urged authorities to abolish criminal defamation and recognise the public interest of criticising officials involved in wrongdoing.

“At this critical juncture for the country, Lebanon needs laws that protect people exposing corruption and misconduct rather than punishing them,” the coalition said.


#Newsworthy…

Africa Anti-corruption Day: Buhari calls on Asset Recovery

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President Muhammadu Buhari has urged African leaders to ensure the immediate actualization of the Common African Position on Assets Recovery (CAPAR), as the continent celebrates Anti-Corruption Day, July 11, 2020.

In a letter to South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, Chairman of African Union, the Nigerian leader asked for a re-commitment to the anti-corruption war by leaders on the continent to engender an “integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international arena.”

The President laments that “the massive corruption being perpetrated across our national governments has created a huge governance deficit that has in turn created negative consequences that have worsened the socioeconomic and political situation in Africa.”

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The letter by President Buhari reads in part:

“As Your Excellency is aware, the continental fight against corruption has been premised on an irreducible minimum that can pave the way for Africa’s transformation. In this effort, the emphasis has been on the continent’s collective determination to forge resilient partnerships among our national governments, civil society organizations and other interest groups, such as women, youth and the physically challenged, to ensure improved socio-economic, political and security development and ultimately, the improvement of our continent.

Nigeria President, Muhammadu Buhari

“The concern of the African Union is that the massive corruption being perpetrated across our national governments has created a huge governance deficit that has in turn created negative consequences that have worsened the socio-economic and political situation in Africa.

“Your Excellency may recall that these continental concerns led our colleagues at the African Union, to appoint my humble self as the African Union Anti-Corruption Champion. I believe that the efforts and focus of the Nigerian Government at home, partly informed this decision as well as the need for Africa, as a continent, to recommit herself to the fight against corruption and the imperative to free resources for meaningful development.

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“I am, therefore, in full support of the call for the issuance of a continental message to commemorate this day, on July 11, 2020, to re-commit the African Union to the continental fight against corruption, including through a robust approach to assets recovery, hence the need for a strategic framework on a Common African Position on Assets Recovery (CAPAR).

“Happily, in February 2020, at the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, CAPAR was adopted. In my view, the African Union must go beyond the mere annual celebration of the Africa Anti-Corruption Day by moving swiftly to operationalize the African Common Position on Assets Recovery by all member states. This is an excellent way to drive Africa’s Agenda 2063, for an ‘integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international arena.’

“As current Chair of our Union, I sincerely commend to you, this suggestion that seeks to call our leaders in Africa to recommit ourselves to this very important task of reclaiming our continent from the vice of systemic corruption.
“Please accept, Your Excellency and Dear Brother, the assurances of my highest consideration.”


#Newsworthy…

Ondo govt react to workers planned strike

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The workers had on Friday threatened to embark on strike action over the failure of the state government to pay some of their emoluments and accumulated salary arrears.


Despite threats by workers in Ondo State to embark on a strike action, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu has said that the reasons given by the workers for their planned act were not new to his government.

The workers had on Friday threatened to embark on strike action over the failure of the state government to pay some of their emoluments and accumulated salary arrears.

But Akeredolu said the issues and demands raised by the agitated workers in their letter were not peculiar to Ondo State.

Speaking on behalf of Governor Akeredolu, Commissioner for Information in the state, Donald Ojogo, said, “It is on record that as at today Ondo State ranks among those with a higher level of worker-friendliness in Nigeria.

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“Our inherited liabilities as well as unforeseen occurrences notwithstanding, this culture of commitment shall be heightened.

Ondo Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu

“In this regard, Mr Governor will meet the leadership of all such concerned bodies between Monday 13 and Wednesday 15 of July 2020. This is with a view to engendering a very robust engagement and interface.

“Government, therefore, uses this medium to appeal to all workers to await the outcome of these series of engagements aimed at deepening industrial harmony.”


#Newsworthy…

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Rivers: Fishermen butcher Manatee sea cow | Video

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Fishermen in Adada Community, Odual Kingdom, Rivers State in Nigeria, caught, killed a Manatee Sea Cow with a spear and began buttering the animal for community consumption.

Manatee, otherwise known as the sea cow, is a marine mammal, considered to be among the world’s endangered species which are not to be killed.

A Twitter user, by name Julius Diamond (@juliusdiamondd), posted on the social media site a video and photos of the manatee / sea cow when it was caught and while it was butchered and cut in pieces.

He wrote;

Community jolliment: Fisherman kills Sea Cow with Spear in Adada Community, Odual Kingdom, Rivers State.

All households in the community usually get a share of the meat.

Congratulations sir.

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Watch video below.

In January 2018, some villagers in Sapele in Delta State, South-south of Nigeria.reportedly caught the sea cow (manatee) and cut it to pieces for community consumption. That year, Edem Eniang, a biodiversity conservationist in Nigeria, described the killing of the manatee as a big loss and a shame to Nigeria.

Mr. Eniang, who is a senior lecturer and a specialist in Wildlife Resources Management ‏at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, said he was aware of the incident and that he has notified other interested experts around the world.

“It is not only in Sapele; in Lagos State alone, three manatees have been killed since December, last year, to this January,” he told Media on Monday.

“There is also a story of a stranded whale in Ondo State. A young whale got stranded by a seashore. While it was still alive, Nigerians only found it necessary to stand on top of it to take selfies and posted it online.

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“They started butchering the whale when it was still breathing.

“And the most painful components, aside from the killing of the manatee and the whale, if you read people’s commentary online, you will find out, very sadly, that 70 per cent or more of the Nigerian population are stark illiterate as far as conservation is concerned,” Mr. Eniang said.

Mr. Eniang appealed to the Nigerian media to help enlighten the people on the importance of conservation.

Nigeria is mentioned among the countries where the hunting of manatee is reported to be worst in Africa.


#Newsworthy…

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Lagos govt seek residents’ cooperation to rebuild Otto-Wolfe road

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The Lagos State Government on Friday appealed to residents of Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government Area to cooperate with it during the reconstruction of the Otto-Wolfe/Mba-Cardoso Road.

Dr Idris Salako, the state Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, made appeal at a stakeholders’ meeting at the council’s secretariat in Ajegunle.

He was represented by a director in the ministry, Mr Bola Aliu.

Noble Reporters Media repirts that Otto-Wolfe/ Mba-Cardoso Road links Apapa-Oshodi Expressway and serves as a major bypass connecting Ajegunle through Boundary to Lagos Island.

Contract for the 3,550-metre road was awarded to Messrs Banci Nig. Ltd. in March 2020 with a completion period of 18 months.

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Salako said the state government required the residents to remove all encumbrances on the way of the project because the road was vital for rapid economic growth.

“It is important that we all give our full cooperation for the project to come into fruition so that we can reap its many benefits.

“In this regard, your total support is very essential,” he urged.

Salako said the Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration was committed to even infrastructure development of the state.

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“The reconstruction of the road represents another giant leap that will enhance the transportation and socio-economic development of this community and its environs.

“The administration of Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu has, as a matter of deliberate policy, articulated the THEMES Agenda and maintained a consistent focus on improving the intermodal transportation system of the state,” Salako said.

Salako said the state government had within 13 months constructed and rehabilitated many major roads to ease transport across the state.

He said that the stakeholders’ meeting was held to establish mutual understanding and cooperation required for the smooth execution of the project.

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The Special Adviser to the Governor on Works and Infrastructure, Mrs Aramide Adeyoye, said that the project was intended to bring succour to the people of the area by enhancing connectivity and socio-economic activities.

Adeyoye promised that the government would do its best to minimize inconveniences during the construction.

Mr Lukman Olumoh, Lawmaker, representing Ajeromi-Ifelodun Constituency 1 in the state House of Assembly, lauded the government for the project.

He assured of the community’s cooperation during the road construction.


#Newsworthy…

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WTO: Final Eight Candidate

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The nomination process for the office of the director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has finally closed, and all the candidates for the WTO top job are now known.

There are eight candidates in the race; three from Africa, two from Europe, one from the Middle-East, one from North America, and one from Asia.

In the race are three women — Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Amina Mohammed and Yoo Myung-hee — and four men. If any of the women win, she would become the first female WTO DG since the organisation was set up 25 years ago.

Noble Reporters Media reviewed the biography of all seven candidates and here is how they stand:

JESÚS SEADE KURI

Jesús Seade Kuri
COUNTRYMEXICO
Age73
OccupationChemical Engineer, economist, diplomat, politician
Current jobUndersecretary for North America in Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs
EducationChemical Engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM); master and PhD in economics from the University of Oxford
Previous international jobsWorld Bank chief economist; founding deputy director-general of the World Trade Organization; senior advisor at the IMF; vice-president of Lingnan University in Hong Kong
Previous local jobsNorth American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiator for Mexico
Current international jobsProfessor of Economics at Lingnan University in Hong Kong
AwardsN/A
Selling pointExperience in the creation of WTO and at its highest level of governance
WTO experienceWorked at the WTO from inception till October 1998
Quotable quote“Digital trade is an opportunity to expand availability, choice and lower the price.”
Quick factSpeaks all official languages of the WTO — English, Spanish and French

TUDOR ULIANOVSCHI

Tudor Ulianovschi
COUNTRYMOLDOVA
Age37
OccupationPolitician, diplomat
Current jobSenior Vice President at Grasshopper Energy
EducationA Ph.D. candidate at the Free International University of Moldova
Previous international jobsPermanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva; President of the Trade and Development Board at UNCTAD, Vice President of the General Assembly at WIPO, President of the Steering Committee on Trade at UNECE.
Previous local jobsForeign minister of Moldova; Moldovan Ambassador to Liechtenstein and Switzerland;
Current international jobsNone
AwardsMoldova distinguished personality of the year – 2018 by VIP Magazin; Man of the Year 2019 by Aquarelle media
Selling pointExperience at the highest level of the WTO
WTO experienceChair of the Balance of Payments Committee of the WTO; Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization
Quotable quote“No one should be left behind; this is not just a simple phrase, it is important to have an inclusive approach.”
Quick factThe diplomat who speaks English, Russian, French,  Arabic and Romanian has 15 years of experience in diplomacy and international trade

MOHAMMAD MAZIAD AL-TUWAIJRI

Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri
COUNTRYSAUDI ARABIA
Age60
OccupationPilot, banker, politician
Current jobRoyal Court advisor in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
EducationB.Sc Aeronautics at King Faisal Air Force Academy, MBA from King Saud University
Previous international jobsGroup managing director, deputy chairman and CEO at HSBC, UAE.
Previous local jobsFormer minister of economy and planning; managing director and CEO of JP Morgan, Saudi Arabia; head of risk management, Saudi British Bank.
Current international jobsNone
AwardsN/A
Selling pointRepresenting a large bloc — middle east and north africa
WTO experienceNone
Quotable quoteN/A
Quick factIf he wins, he would be the first WTO DG from an Arab nation

AMINA MOHAMED JIBRIL

Amina Mohamed Jibril
COUNTRYKENYA
Age58
OccupationLawyer, diplomat, and politician
Current JobCabinet Secretary for Sports, Heritage, and Culture in Kenya
EducationLLM in International law from the University of Kiev, Ukraine and Postgraduate diploma in International Relations from the University of Oxford, UK.
Previous International JobsChair of the International Organization for Migration, chair of the World Trade Organization’s General Council, assistant secretary-General of the UN and deputy executive director at UNEP.
Previous local JobsCabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs; Cabinet Secretary for Education
AwardsKnight of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity (Cav.O.S.S.I.); Life Member of the Red Cross Society; Honorary Doctorate from KCA University; Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun (2017)
Selling pointExperience at the highest level of the WTO
WTO ExperienceShe ran for the office of the DG in 2013 but lost to Roberto Azevedo, the current DG
ControversyRan against the AU candidate for the WTO top job in 2013 — both lost
Quotable quote“The best years of this organisation (WTO) are not in the past, they are in its future; there is always a golden past, but the best is never in the past”
Fun factShe speaks Somali, English, Russian, Swahili and has a working knowledge of French

LIAM FOX

Liam Fox
COUNTRYUNITED KINGDOM
Age58
OccupationMedical doctor, politician and diplomat
Current jobMember of the British Parliament since 1992
EducationStudied Medicine at the University of Glasgow
Previous international jobsNone
Previous local jobsSecretary of state for international trade; secretary of state for defence; general practitioner (Medical doctor); chair of the Conservative Party; parliamentary under-secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs; lord commissioner for treasury.
Current international jobsNone
AwardsN/A
Selling pointExperience in international trade
WTO experienceNone
Quotable quote“Above all, trade has been the greatest liberator of the world’s poor, harnessing the forces of globalisation to spread prosperity and lift millions from poverty.”
Quick factFox supported Brexit, and may not get EU votes

YOO MYUNG-HEE

Yoo Myung-Hee
COUNTRYKOREA
Age53
OccupationLawyer, politician
Current jobMinister of trade
EducationJuris Doctor from Vanderbilt University Law School, and masters in public policy from Seoul National University
Previous international jobsNone
Previous local jobsPresidential spokesperson; deputy minister for FTA negotiation; First Secretary (2007-2008) and then Counsellor (2009-2010), Korean Embassy in China; Director-General for Bureau of Trade Policy
Current international jobsNone
AwardsN/A
Selling pointExperience negotiating trade at the highest level of governance in and out of the WTO
WTO experienceNone
Quotable quote“South Korea can become a bridge, connecting developing countries and advanced countries”
Quick factShe is regarded as the “devil’s advocate” in Korea, due to her aggressive trade negotiations, and she is the first woman to become minister of trade in Korea — after 70 years of male domination.

ABDULHAMEED MAMDOUH

Abdulhameed Mamdouh
COUNTRYEGYPT
Age68
OccupationLawyer, diplomat
Current jobSenior Counsel at King & Spalding LLP
EducationJuris Doctor degree at Cairo University
Previous international jobsDirector of the Trade in Services and Investment Division of the WTO; secretary of the WTO Council for Trade in Services since the establishment of the WTO in 1995.
Previous local jobsTrade negotiator with the diplomatic service of Egypt
Current international jobsVisiting Professor at Queen Mary London University
AwardsLifetime Achievement Award by The Coalition of Service Industries
Selling pointExperience at the highest level of the WTO
WTO experienceWorked at the WTO from inception in 1995 till October 2017
Quotable quote“Successful relationships don’t only depend on the extent to which we agree, but mostly on how we deal with our differences.”
Quick factSpeaks Arabic, English and French

NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
COUNTRYNIGERIA
Age65
OccupationDevelopment economist, diplomat
Current jobChair, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
EducationBachelor’s in economics from Harvard University and PhD in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Honourary degrees from over a dozen universities worldwide.
Previous international jobsMD of the World Bank; co-chair of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation; UN Secretary General’s high-level panel on the post-2015 development agenda
Previous local JobsTwo-time minister of finance in Nigeria; minister of foreign affairs. The first female to take up both jobs.
Current International JobsBoard member at Twitter, Standard Chartered Bank, and African Risk Capacity; co-Chair of the Global Commission for the Economy and Climate; member Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) international advisory board; IMF external advisory board; AU special envoy.
AwardsGlobal Finance Minister of the Year 2005 by Euromoney; Top 100 Most Influential People in the World for 2014 by TIME Magazine, 2014; Top 100 Global Thinkers 2011, 2012 by Foreign Policy; the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the World by Forbes Magazine 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014; National honours from Nigeria, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire.
Selling pointExperience at the highest level of the World Bank, and easily one of Africa’s most trusted technocrats
WTO ExperienceNone
Quotable quote“The best way to help Africans today is to help them to stand on their own feet. And the best way to do that is by helping create jobs.”
Quick factKidnapper who held her mother captive requested her resignation as minister of finance for her role in seeking transparency with fuel subsidy payment in Nigeria. She refused.

#Newsworthy…

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FG announces traffic diversion point amid 3rd mainland bridge closure

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The Federal Government has announced the different phase’s points of diversion of traffic during the partial closure of the Third Mainland Bridge for repair works.

Federal Controller of Works in Lagos, Engr Olukayode Popoola, who disclosed this during a press conference at Alausa, appealed to motorists and Lagos residents to cooperate with government and appropriate agencies during the 6 months partial closure which is expected to start on July 24.

Engr. Popoola revealed that there would be diversion of traffic in 2 phases during the partial closure of the bridge between Friday, July 24, 2020 and January 24, 2021.

He said the First Phase of the diversion, which will last for 3 months of repairs of the Oworonsoki bound lane of the Third Mainland Bridge, would be for morning traffic from 12:00 am to 1:00 pm from Oworonshoki to Lagos Island on the Lagos Island-bound lane, while the afternoon traffic from 1:00 pm to 12:00 am would be from Lagos Island to Oworonsoki on the Lagos Island-bound lane.

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Engr. Popoola said the Phase 2 of the diversion, which would last also for three months of repairs of the Lagos Island-bound lane of the Third Mainland Bridge, would be for morning traffic from 12:00 am to 1:00 pm from Oworonsoki to Lagos Island on the Oworonsoki bound lane, while the afternoon traffic from 1:00 pm to 12:00 am would be from Lagos Island to Oworonsoki on the Oworonsoki bound lane.

Popoola said, “Motorists are advised to also ply these alternative routes: First, from Carter Bridge through Iddo through Oyingbo to join Adekunle ramp inward Oworonsoki. Secondly, from Ijora Olopa through Western Avenue to Ikorodu Road.”

On his own part, the Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde said priority will be given to those driving from Mainland to the Island in morning and afternoon to use the Third Mainland while those driving against traffic will use the alternative routes.

Dr. Oladeinde assured motorists that Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) will work with Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in all the alternative routes to ensure that motorists have a smooth journey during the partial closure of the bridge.

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The commissioner advised those who don’t have any genuine reason to be on the road to stay at home to reduce vehicular movement during this period while adding that the public vehicles would be available and affordable for road users.

Dr. Oladeinde also advised people of Lagos State to use alternative transport such as ferries. He said there will be an increase in the number of fleets by the Lagos Ferry Services in the morning for people from Ikorodu and Mile 2 as alternative transportation.

Also speaking, Engr. Aramide Adeyoye, said Lagos State Government has commenced necessary preparatory works on all the alternative routes in the state to make them motorable for the commuters.

She also warned trucks and vehicles that are not road worthy or serviceable to stay away from Lagos roads.


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: Kenya set to reopen to international flights

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Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday announced a “phased reopening” of the country, with the resumption of international flights from August 1 as well as the lifting of internal travel restrictions.

The move comes as pressure mounts to kickstart the country’s ailing economy after nearly four months of coronavirus restrictions that have devastated key industries such as tourism.

Kenyatta said in a televised address that “international air travel into and out of the territory of Kenya shall resume effective 1 August 2020.”

He also announced the lifting of a ban on movement in and out of the capital Nairobi, the port city of Mombasa and northeastern Mandera.

However, a curfew from 9pm to 4am will remain in place for another 30 days, effective immediately.

Kenya has recorded 7,886 cases of the virus and 160 deaths — the highest official figures in East Africa — and has seen a steep increase in numbers in recent weeks.

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Fewer than 200,000 people have been tested in a population of 51 million people.

In June, Kenyatta had said that before lifting restrictions, the country would need to have contained infections with numbers headed downwards; the health care system must be prepared to deal with a surge in infections, and the capacity for surveillance and contact tracing must be in place.

He said Monday that experts looking at those conditions determined “we have not met the irreducible minimum 100%”.

However, they agreed “we have reached a reasonable level of preparedness across the country to allow us to reopen,” he said.

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Kenyatta also warned the reopening was “conditional”.

“Any trends that signal a worsening of the pandemic, we will have no choice but to return to the lockdown,” he said.

Kenyatta also announced that places of worship will be allowed to reopen, but with a maximum of 100 people attending.

He urged citizens to continue to implement social distancing, and to avoid travel as much as possible, asking them to, “exercise cautious optimism and avoid reckless abandon.”


#Newsworthy…

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Algeria bury remains of anti-colonial fighters after 150 years

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The skulls of 24 combatants laid to rest after being repatriated from France where they were kept in a Parisian museum.


Algeria buried the remains of 24 resistance fighters returned from Paris after more than a century and a half as it marked the 58th anniversary of its independence from France.

The skulls of the fighters – shot and decapitated in the early years of the French occupation – were laid to rest on Sunday during an emotional ceremony at El Alia cemetery.

Coffins draped with the national flag were lowered into freshly dug graves in the Martyr’s Square of Algeria’s largest burial ground, alongside national heroes such as top revolt leader Emir Abdelkader.

An elite unit of the Republican Guard presented arms while a funeral march played in the background, an AFP news agency correspondent reported.

The skulls, once viewed as war trophies by French colonial officers, were flown into Algiers international airport on Friday and then moved to the Palace of Culture where they were placed on display.

The return of the skulls was the result of years of efforts by Algerian historians, and comes amid a growing global reckoning with the legacy of colonialism.

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President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who took part in the ceremony, on Saturday said it was time to turn a page on years of frosty relations with France, calling on Paris to apologise for its colonial past.

“We have already had half-apologies. The next step is needed … we await it,” he told news channel France 24 in an interview.

Republican Guard troops stand with 24 coffins during a ceremony to lay to rest the remains of resistance fighters [Algerian Presidency Press Office/AFP]

Algeria receives remains of fighters from FranceThe return of the skulls was the result of years of efforts by Algerian historians [Anadolu]
An apology was necessary to “face the problem of memory that jeopardises many things in the relations between the two countries”, Tebboune said.

It would “make it possible to cool tensions and create a calmer atmosphere for economic and cultural relations”, especially for the more than six million Algerians who live in France, he added.

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Long process
Despite stifling heat, a long queue formed outside the palace and some men and women, waiting to pay their respects, wept, according to footage broadcast by several television stations.

“I came as a fighter, as an invalid from the war of liberation, as a citizen who loves his country,” said Ali Zemlat.

The return of the skulls was the result of years of efforts by Algerian historians [Anadolu]

The 85-year-old fought in the brutal 1954-1962 war that ended France’s 132 years of colonial rule in Algeria.

The 24 fought French colonial forces who occupied Algeria in 1830 and took part in an 1849 revolt. After they were decapitated, their skulls were taken to France as trophies.

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In 2011, Algerian historian and researcher Ali Farid Belkadi discovered the skulls at the Museum of Man in Paris, across from the Eiffel Tower, and alerted Algerian authorities.

The researcher lobbied for years for their return and Algeria’s then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, eventually launched the formal repatriation request.

President Macron agreed in 2018 to return the remains but the process was delayed over bureaucratic hurdles [Anadolu]

French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to the repatriation in 2018 but bureaucratic obstacles resulted in the delay of their return.

“We have recovered part of our memory,” historian Mohamed el-Korso told The Associated Press news agency. “But the fight must continue until the recovery of all the remains of the resistance fighters, which number in the hundreds, and the archives of our revolution.”


#Newsworthy…

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Suspensions followed due process – Ngige

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The Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige, insisted on Saturday the suspension of the Managing Director of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) Adebayo Somefun, and other top management staff of the organisation followed due process.

The minister was reacting to the claim by the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) that the NSITF management staff’s suspension violated the disciplinary procedure approved by the president.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Monday ordered the indefinite suspension of Shomefun, three Executive Directors and eight other management staff of NSITF over alleged financial infractions.

The Federal Government also set up an investigative panel to look into the financial dealings by the affected officers.

Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige

In a statement issued by the Deputy Director, Press and Publicity in the Ministry of Labour, Charles Akpan, the minister dismissed NECA’s claim on the matter.

He said the removal of the NSITF management staff followed due process, adding that it was in line with the Constitution, Public Service Rules and NSITF Act.

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Ngige said: “Some of the infractions uncovered include N3.4 billion squandered on non- existent staff training split into about 196 different consultancy contracts in order to evade the Ministerial Tenders Board and Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval.

“Non-existent unexecuted N2.3 billion was documented and paid while N1.1 billion is awaiting payment without any job done, all totalling N3.4 billion.

“Same goes for projects of construction of 14 Zonal/Regional offices in 14 states running into billions of naira- a policy issue being done without board or ministerial knowledge not to talk of approval.

“This was done in 2019 by the MD and his three-man Executive. Some of the projects are duplications and hence waste of funds, yet you are in the Board supposedly supervising!”


#Newsworthy…

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Security Law: U.S clash with China over Hong Kongers’ fate

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China promised Thursday to take countermeasures against Britain if it presses ahead with plans to extend citizenship rights to Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed a sweeping security law on the restless financial hub.

Beijing has faced a groundswell of criticism from primarily Western nations over its decision to impose a new law outlawing acts of subversion, secession, terrorism, and colluding with foreign forces.

Adding to concerns, Hong Kong’s influential Bar Association published a new legal analysis warning that the wording of the law — which was kept secret until Tuesday — undermines the city’s independent judiciary and stifles freedoms.

Britain has said the law breaches China’s pre-handover “One Country, Two Systems” promise to grant residents key liberties — as well as judicial and legislative autonomy — until 2047.

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It has responded by announcing plans to allow millions of Hong Kongers with British National Overseas status to relocate with their families and eventually apply for citizenship.

“We will live up to our promises to them,” foreign secretary Dominic Raab told parliament.

That move has infuriated Beijing, which says Britain promised not to grant full citizenship rights to Hong Kongers ahead of the 1997 handover.

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“If the British side makes unilateral changes to the relevant practice, it will breach its own position and pledges as well as international law and basic norms governing international relations,” China’s embassy in London said Thursday.

“We firmly oppose this and reserve the right to take corresponding measures,” it added.

Riot police detain a man as they clear protesters taking part in a rally against a new national security law in Hong Kong on July 1, 2020, on the 23rd anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China. – Hong Kong police made the first arrests under Beijing’s new national security law on July 1 as the city greeted the anniversary of its handover to China with protesters fleeing water cannon. (Photo by DALE DE LA REY / AFP)
 

– Sanctuary calls –
Britain is not alone in announcing plans to offer Hong Kongers sanctuary or increased immigration rights as fears multiply over the semi-autonomous city’s future under the new law.

On Thursday, Australian leader Scott Morrison said he was “very actively” considering offering Hong Kongers safe haven.

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Taiwan has opened an office to help Hong Kongers wanting to flee, while a proposed bill in the United States offering sanctuary to city residents has received widespread bipartisan support.

Beijing says the law is needed to quell seething pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and restore order after a year of political unrest.

But critics fear it will usher in a new era of political repression given similar laws are routinely used to crush dissent on the Chinese mainland.

The law has sent fear coursing through the city and rattled the legal community in a business hub that has built its reputation on the independence and reliability of its courts.

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The Bar Association — which represents the city’s barristers — issued a scathing critique of the law, saying it dismantles the legal firewall that has existed between Hong Kong’s judiciary and China’s Communist Party-controlled courts.

The new national security offences were “widely drawn”, the group said, and “are capable of being applied in a manner that is arbitrary, and that disproportionately interferes with fundamental rights, including the freedom of conscience, expression and assembly”.

It also criticised “the total absence of meaningful consultation” with Hong Kongers before the law was passed.

– First arrests –
Thousands of residents defied a protest ban on Wednesday — the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China — to block roads and voice opposition to the bill in some of the worst unrest in months.

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Police responded with water cannon, pepper spray and tear gas, arresting nearly 400 people.

Seven officers were injured, including one who was stabbed in the shoulder and three others hit by a protester on a motorbike.

Ten people were arrested under the new law, illustrating how holding certain political views had become illegal overnight.

Most of those arrested were carrying flags or leaflets advocating for Hong Kong independence.

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The security law is controversial because it radically increases Beijing’s control over the city.

China says it will have jurisdiction over some cases and has empowered its security agents to operate openly inside Hong Kong for the first time, unconstrained by local laws.

It has also claimed global jurisdiction, saying the law covers national security offences committed overseas — even by foreigners.

Some trials will be held behind closed doors and without juries, while local police have been granted sweeping surveillance powers that no longer need judicial sign off.


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: U.S daily report changes. [Live Updates]

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49,286 cases in 24-hour period reported in the US as death toll hits 128,000 while infections in India surpass 600,000.


  • New United States coronavirus cases rose by nearly 50,000, according to a Reuters tally, marking the biggest one-day spike since the start of the pandemic. More than half of new cases each day come from US states of Arizona, California, Florida and Texas, home to 30 percent of the country’s population. More than 128,000 people have died in the US due to the pandemic. 
  • The United Nations Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution demanding an “immediate cessation of hostilities” for at least 90 days in key conflicts including Syria, Yemen, Libya, South Sudan and Congo to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
  • New Zealand’s health minister, David Clark, resigned on Thursday, following recent slip-ups in the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and personal mistakes.
  • Italy’s hard-hit northern region of Lombardy accounted for considerably more than half of the nation’s latest confirmed 187 coronavirus cases – raising the total to 240,760 nationwide. The Health Ministry also reported 21 new deaths, raising to 34,788 the total of known deaths.
  • Close to 10.7 million people around the world have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, over 5.6 million have recovered, and more than 516,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

#Newsworthy…

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West Bank Annexation: US Democrats, Groups warn Israel

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Ocasio-Cortez, Jewish students urge Trump administration to withhold US military aid if Israel annexes the West Bank.


A coalition of progressive Democratic politicians and Jewish groups are calling for withholding US military aid to Israel in response to planned annexation of Palestinian territories by Israel.

US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is gathering legislators’ signatures on a letter urging the Trump administration to take steps to block Israel’s planned annexation.

“The United States must remain committed to a future in which all Israelis and Palestinians live with full rights, dignity, and democracy,” Ocasio-Cortez and a dozen other legislators said in the letter.

“We therefore urge you to make clear to the Israeli government that such a move is unacceptable,” they said in the letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

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‘Lower standard’
Five other letters are circulating in the US Jewish community demanding accountability for the Israeli government and concrete actions by US Jewish institutions if a planned annexation goes forward.

Those letters have drawn more than 3,200 signatures, according to IfNotNow, a US Jewish group that opposes the occupation.

“It is time to stop holding America’s number one recipient of military funding – Israel – to a lower standard than we hold all other countries, exempting it from consequences when it violates our most basic values,” said Emily Mayer, political director of IfNotNow.

The influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) promptly condemned the Ocasio-Cortez letter, saying in a tweet that it threatens the US-Israel relationship.

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Senator Bernie Sanders and other progressives who signed the letter issued statements opposing annexation in strong terms.

“I have long believed that the United States needs to engage in an even-handed approach toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Sanders said in a statement.

“We need a resolution that ends the Israeli occupation and enables a future of security, self-determination, and prosperity for both peoples,” Sanders said.

“Conditioning US aid is one of the tools we can use to help achieve this goal,” Sanders said.

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The US politicians said they would pursue legislation that would tie future US military aid – now $3.8bn a year – to human rights conditions and withhold funding for Israeli arms purchases.

‘Perpetuate and entrench’
Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian American, said the Netanyahu government uses aid “to formalise an apartheid system”.

US taxpayers are helping to “perpetuate and entrench human rights violations in Palestine, including limitations on freedom of movement, further expansion of illegal land theft, home demolitions, and cutting off access to critical resources like clean water,” Tlaib said.

The letters and statements reflect a widening rift between the progressive and establishment wings of the US Democratic Party over support for Israel. While critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, leading Democrats like presidential candidate Joe Biden have been reluctant to condition US military support for Israel on changes in policy.

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In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz last week, more than 190 House members voiced “deep concern” about the annexation plans but stopped short of threatening to withhold US military support.

“We understand that historically, US refusal to use its leverage – as we would do with other countries – has enabled a right-wing annexationist agenda to succeed in Israeli politics in the first place,” said Zoe Goldblum, a Democratic political organiser and former student leader at J Street, a pro-Israel advocacy group.

“We want lawmakers to know that young Jews are behind them,” she said.

Support for Israel within the Democratic party has been shifting as newer politicians have come into office.

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Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, known in the US Congress as “The Squad” for their progressive stances, won election in 2016 and have been sharply critical of Trump administration policies towards Israel.

“Unilateral annexation is a violation of international law, a violation of Palestinian human rights, and directly counter to American values of democracy and self-determination,” Omar said.

Last week, progressive challenger Jamal Bowman won a primary election in New York, displacing Representative Eliot Engel, a 16-term member of the House who has been a strong backer of Israel and is currently chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Bowman, who has called for justice for Palestinians, was backed by Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders.


#Newsworthy…

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ICPC urges communities to own, monitor projects. | Details

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The Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) in collaboration with the Nigeria Institute of Quantity Surveyors have urged communities to own up projects executed in their areas.

The Head Constituency and Executive Project Tracking Group (CEPTG), Mr Tanko Abdullahi, made the call during project tracking of rural road at Amuro in Afikpo-North Local Government Area of the state.

Abdullahi said it was important for people to monitor projects situated in their areas to encourage competence, development and prevent substandard ventures.

According to him, the Commission created various enlightement activities to inform the public on its fight against corruption, acts that amount to wrong doing and to get them to be part of the crusade.

He called on town unions, traditional rulers, women, youth leaders and individuals, among other groups to show interest in taking responsibilities of the project.

The head further gave complaints platforms of the ICPC, if suspicious fraudulent act in the execution was discovered.

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Abdullahi urged them to make use of the ICPC dissatisfaction toll-free telephone lines on 08031230280-2, 07056990190-1, email [email protected] and social media platforms, icpcnigeria1, icpc_pe.

“Once a project is awarded, communities should own the project by monitoring its execution to ensure quality work is done and not abandoned.

“They should help protect the projects from thieves and vandals so that money spent is not wasted, thus would pose the community to suffer the need.

“The projects is for the benefit of your community, therefore, do everything you can to ensure your community is not deprived of its use or benefit,” Abdullahi said.

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The Chairman, Nigeria Institute of Quantity Surveyors, Ebonyi Chapter, Mr Ogbonna Ndubuisi, maintained that bill of quantity was key in tracking projects execution.

Ndubuisi said its application during an exercise would help to track worths, specifications and standards of project to be executed.

He described the bill as a document that encompassed work to be done and cost attached.

“It is used during tracking and also for evaluation,” Ndubuisi said.

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Dr Kelechukwu Okezie, the Director, Neighborhood Environmental Watch Foundation and member of the tracking team, said that more enlightement programme would enable the general public to understand activities of the team.

He said that such responsibility by communities was key in fighting corruption through constituency and execution projects tracking.

“When projects are sited in a community, it is expected that they own up the project by monitoring,” Okezie said.

Noble Reporters Media learnt that the team embarked on tracking construction of a supposed 700 meters rural access road in the community but 600 meters was executed.


#Newsworthy…

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