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News headlines Thursday November 26th 2020

Benjamin Ukpabi

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News headlines Thursday November 26th 2020

1) EndSARS: Nigerian govt reaches out to UK over parliament’s threat of sanction

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said on Wednesday the Federal Government has reached out to its British counterpart over the threat by the country’s parliament to impose sanctions on Nigerian officials over their alleged roles in last month’s #EndSARS protests in the West African nation.

Members of the British Parliament on Monday began debate on requests by concerned groups in Nigeria for the parliament to recommend sanctions on some government officials over alleged rights violations during the protest.

Onyeama, who addressed State House correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja, said the Nigerian government has reached out to its British counterpart to present its own side of the story on the matter.

He, however, argued that lawmakers are not responsible for imposing sanctions on individuals or groups. (News headlines)

The minister said: “Yes, we have reached out to the United Kingdom government. The meeting that took place was among the parliamentarians and they do not speak for the UK government which acts for the country. They have also heard the side of the (Nigerian) government regarding everything that has happened.

“So, we have been in touch with them and engaging with them. Of course, as in any democracy, the members of parliament are also needed to air their views.

“But what is important, is that a balanced picture is made available to them, before they take any decision.”

2) Niger govt rules out full payment of salaries to staff over reduction in revenue allocation

(News headlines)
The Niger State government on Wednesday ruled out payment of full salaries to the state’s civil servants due to a reduction in its revenue allocation from the federation account.

The Secretary to the State Government, Ahmed Ibrahim Matane, who disclosed this in a statement, said the reduction in salaries was not a slash, adding that the decision was necessitated by the government’s inability to undertake the payment of full salaries at least for now.

The government has proposed a 70 percent salary to the staff in the interim.

The SSG said the government would meet with the labour on the matter later on Thursday.

He said: “What we discussed with the organised labour was that because of the recession, our FAAC allocation has dropped to a level where we would not be able to pay 100 percent of the salary.

“We called their attention to this. We opened our books in terms of how much we received, the existing commitments, and what is left over.”

3) Presidential committee recommends re-opening of land borders

Nigeria is set to re-open its land borders with neigbouring West African countries, following recommendation by a presidential committee on the matter. (News headlines)

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed disclosed on on Wednesday in Abuja.

The nation shuts its borders in August 2019 to curtail illegal importation of drugs, small arms and agricultural products into the country from West Africa.

Ahmed, who addressed newsmen in Abuja hinted that the land borders would be re-open soon.

According to her, the presidential committee set up on the matter has completed its job and has recommended the reopening of the borders.

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The minister stated that the committee would soon submit its report to President Muhammadu Buhari.

It is expected that the president would make a formal pronouncement announcing the opening of the borders.

4) EndSARS: PDP urges US, UK, France to sanction Nigerian govt officials for rights violations

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Wednesday commended members of the British Parliament for standing on the side of ordinary Nigerians during last month’s #EndSARS protests in the country. (News headlines)

The party in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, also praised the British government for considering possible sanctions against individual or group of people behind human rights breaches during the campaign against police brutality in Nigeria.

The British MPs met on Monday to look at the request for sanctions against Nigeria for rights infringement during the protest.

However, the parliament said it would make a definite position on the matter at the end of investigation and reports by the judicial panels of inquiry currently sitting across some states of the federation.

In the statement, PDP urged the United Nations and other international bodies to immediately move against the Federal Government officials that were allegedly involved in the violence that trailed the protests, particularly in Lagos. (News headlines)

5) Presidency rejects proposed Ecological Fund Bill

The presidency on Wednesday rejected a bill in the House of Representatives seeking to regulate the Ecological Fund.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, in a memo to the House Committee on Ecological Fund, said the bill would either clash with or duplicate the existing ones.

He warned that the bill, if passed into law, would impede on the president’s power to use the Fund for emergencies.

The SGF added that the bill as proposed would replace the interventionist posture of the Ecological Fund Office as presently constituted and by implication slow down the quick response in dealing with erosion problems in Nigeria.

Mustapha said: “After a careful review of the document, I wish to respectfully bring to the attention of the Honourable chairman and members of the Committee on Ecological Fund, the observations of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on the proposed bill as follows:

“The establishment of a Governing Council in the bill is a replication of the erstwhile bogus National Council on Ecological Problems. The large number of membership makes the project selection, procurement, and execution of projects cumbersome and problematic. (News headlines)

“The bill as proposed will replace the emergency/ interventionist posture of the Ecological Fund Office as presently constituted. This will by implication slow down the quick response in dealing with erosion problems in Nigeria.

“Over the years, the Ecological Fund have consistently been placed under the control of the President and disbursed through the EFO under the supervision of the SGF. The proposed bill will therefore negate the nature and original design of the Ecological Fund Office.

“If the bill is passed into law as proposed, it will impede on Mr. President’s power to use the Fund for emergencies if it has to revert to the National Assembly for appropriation and approvals. It is not always feasible to predict emergencies, hence the inability to appropriate or budget for such disasters or ecological emergencies.

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“As the EFO is presently constituted, salaries and allowances of staff are not paid from the Fund. Officers deployed to EFO are mainstream civil servants who draw their emoluments from the federal treasury. It is advisable to sustain less emphasis on recruitment of officers and payment of board members that could be a drain whittling down the impact of the fund on ecological interventions, by increasing government’s Overhead Cost.

6) 2023: El-Rufai Rejects Zoning, Says It Will Lead To Inefficiency

Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State has rejected zoning of political officers in the country, stressing that it would lead to inefficiency.

Naija News reports that there has been a clamour for the major political parties in Nigeria to zone their 2023 presidential ticket to the southern part of the country.

Though not constitutionally backed, Nigeria have rotated offices – especially that of the presidency – on the basis of geographical zones, from Olusegun Obasanjo to President Muhamadu Buhari.

But speaking at the Nigerian Economic Summit (#NES26) in Abuja, El-Rufai said no country progresses with such an arrangement.

The Kaduna governor stated that qualified individuals should be given equal opportunity to contest for political positions.

He said: “I do not believe that we should be driven in our politics and economics by distribution whether or not there is a logic behind it,” he said. (News headlines)

“In my honest view, Nigeria went wrong when we focused on distribution rather than production. We like to distribute and it has gone as far as saying that in a state, governorship should rotate; that is absurd.

“There is no country in the world that has made progress in the last 50 years that rotates its leaders. I think if we move away from this fixation about distribution to selecting or picking the best person to get the job done… when the job is done, everybody benefits.

“Right now, we are distributing this and we are not making any progress because the focus is on distribution.”

7) 2023 Igbo Presidency: We Have To Negotiate With The North – Ekweremadu

Senator Ike Ekweremadu has recommended dialogue between the south-east region and the northern region regarding the push for Igbo presidency in 2023.

Ekweremadu, a former Deputy Senate President who has never hidden his support for Igbo presidency in 2023 spoke in Abuja on Wednesday during a book presentation.

In his view, major political parties should zone their presidential tickets to the South-East while the region should also engage in dialogue with other regions on the need for a president of Igbo extraction in 2023.

According to him, “there is clamour for Igbo presidency today. And I believe it can only be realised if we engage ourselves in conversation with northern Nigeria to buy into our initiative”.

He also renewed his call for a decentralization of power from the federal to the state governments so the government can be closer to the people.

He also lashed out at politicians who distance themselves from the people once they are elected into office only to return every four years when they need the peoples’ vote again. (News headlines)

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8) Senate To Invite Communications Minister Over Nigeria’s Security Challenges

The Senate has directed its Committees on Legislative Compliance and Communications to invite the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami.

Members of the two committees were asked to communicate to the minister, the need to implement the resolutions of the Senate regarding security issues related to his ministry.

Lawmakers in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly in Abuja gave the directive during Wednesday’s plenary following a debate on a motion on the alarming rate of insecurity in the country.

According to him, the challenges have manifested in kidnapping, banditry, armed robbery, and assassination, and other criminal activities in the country.

The lawmaker was also worried about what he described as the growing suspicion of the complicity of officials of the state, saddled with the responsibility of protecting the lives and properties of the citizens, being compromised in the process.

9) LG Elections In Nigeria Are Nothing But Organised Crime – Igini

The Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa-Ibom State, Mike Igini on Wednesday said local government elections in Nigeria are nothing but organised crime.

Igini who disclosed this during his appearance on Channels Television’s Politics Today, accused state governors of interfering in the conduct of the polls at the grassroots.

“Local government elections are nothing but organised crime. They should not be calling them elections at all,” he said.

“Look at the Local Government system in Nigeria. We have lost 774 local governments in Nigeria to every sitting governor of the 36 states in Nigeria.

“What constitutes free, fair and credible elections with respect to INEC-conducted election is different from the local government.

9) Death Of ‘Eternal’ Maradona Plunges Football World Into Mourning

The football world united to pay tribute to one of the game’s greatest-ever players after Argentine legend Diego Maradona died at the age of 60 on Wednesday.

Renowned for inspiring Argentina to win the World Cup in 1986, he was most loved at club level for his spells with Boca Juniors in his homeland and Napoli in Italy, where he won the club’s only two Serie A titles.

“You are eternal in every heart in world football,” the Twitter account of the Argentina national team posted alongside a picture of Maradona holding the World Cup.

Napoli’s Twitter feed said: “Always in our hearts, Ciao Diego.” Boca posted: “Eternal thanks. Eternal Diego. (News headlines)

10) Secure Nigeria Now – Ekweremadu Sends Message To Buhari

Former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, has urged the federal government led by President Muhammadu Buhari to take urgent steps in addressing the security situation in the country.

The Enugu-West federal lawmaker who spoke on Wednesday said the government can no longer keep doing the same thing and expect different results.

While lamenting the insecurity and economic challenges facing Nigeria, the Senator stressed the need for the government to urgently address the situation.

According to him, “Today, Nigeria is in the full grip of widespread insecurity- insurgency, banditry, abductions, armed robbery, and all manner of violent crimes. Nigerians have been offering solutions towards taming the rising wave of criminality. (News headlines)

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Breaking: Gunmen raze police station in Abia

Wisdom Nwachukwu

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While details of the attack were still sketchy at the time of filing the report, it was gathered the gunmen overpowered the policemen on duty and released suspects in custody.

It was however not clear if they invaded the police armoury.

Gunmen have reportedly attacked and razed down a police station in Uzoakoli, Bende local government area of Abia State.

The incident occurred in the early hours of Monday.

details shortly…

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Before I Fled Boko Haram’s Den, Many Chibok Schoolgirls Were Pregnant

Wisdom Nwachukwu

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A student of the College of Business and Management Studies in Konduga, Juliana Christopher, who was kidnapped by Boko Haram, has said she saw many Chibok girls in the insurgents’ camp.

He added that many small girls were either pregnant or nursing children belonging to the insurgents.

Christopher, in an interview with The PUNCH, said he spent three weeks in Boko Haram camp after the insurgents, who were dressed in military uniforms, stormed her school in Borno State and abducted her.

She explained that after she and her colleagues were kidnapped by the insurgents, they took them into the forest, where she saw other victims who were pregnant and nursing babies of the Boko Haram insurgents.

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She said, “On reaching their camp, we met many young girls there and the whole place was in disarray. It was in 2014 and I was in the Boko Haram camp for three weeks. We met Chibok girls in the camp. While in the camp, I saw so many small girls, who were kidnapped. Some were being molested.

“Some were carrying children, while others were pregnant for the Boko Haram insurgents. It was a disgusting thing. Fortunately for me and some other girls, we escaped from the forest and found our way back to Chibok.”

My abduction led to my father’s death, now I can’t continue education –Konduga student, who escaped from Boko Haram captivity
She explained that her father took ill shortly after she was kidnapped, adding that efforts to rescue him proved abortive.

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She said, “On getting to Chibok, I found the whole community in a state of confusion; so, I asked after my parents and was told that my father took ill when he heard about my abduction and my mother took him to the hospital in Maiduguri. I set out to go and look for them in Maiduguri, but I could not go far because the road was blocked and no movement was allowed, except for military vehicles; in that process, my father died.

“When I heard about my father’s condition, I became worried and tried to locate my parents in the hospital, not knowing that he was already dead. When I eventually got to the hospital in Maiduguri, my mother had conveyed my father’s corpse to Chibok for burial, so my mother said I should stay back to avoid another kidnap.
“That was how I got to this camp. I couldn’t continue with my education, because my mother alone could not take care of my schooling and that of my other siblings.”

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Boko Haram terrorists are our Muslim brothers, shouldn’t be killed like pigs: Minister Pantami

Wisdom Nwachukwu

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President Muhammadu Buhari’s communications minister Isa Pantami once condemned Nigerian Army’s incursion into Boko Haram strongholds, describing the insurgents as “our Muslim” brothers who did not deserve to be killed like pigs.

“See what our fellow Muslim brothers’ blood has turned to? Even pig blood has more value than that of a fellow Muslim brother,” Mr Pantami lamented in a sermon issued a few years ago when former President Goodluck Jonathan ramped up military operations against the rampaging terror sect.

Peoples Gazette obtained the audio through an anonymous contact on Thursday night. The location of Mr Pantami’s sermon and those who attended could not be immediately obtained, but the words, nonetheless, contradicted his recent claims that he had long maintained a hardline posture against Boko Haram.

Mr Pantami’s media allies have also been on an image laundering blitz to cast him as a moderate preacher who has been widely celebrated for his longstanding contempt for Boko Haram. Mr Pantami also joined his supporters to amplify a threat issued against him by Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, evoking it to dismiss insinuations of his sympathy towards terrorists as counter-intuitive.

But in the February 2020 video, Mr Shekau appeared more frustrated by what he saw as Mr Pantami’s betrayal in becoming a top government official after spending years preaching Salafi doctrine than he was about the minister’s purported condemnation of Boko Haram’s deadly exploits.

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Mr Pantami has long been famous across northern parts of Nigeria as a respected Islamic cleric. He used most of his preachings to rail against the government’s high-handedness, and Peoples Gazette published a video on Thursday that showed him promising never to go into public service. The sermon was delivered in the mid-2000s, years before Mr Buhari appointed him in 2016 as the head of NITDA and later in 2019 as a cabinet minister in charge of communications.

“We are praying to God to answer all our prayers. It’s our right and obligation before all Muslim leaders, politicians, government appointees, academics,” Mr Pantami said in his prayers. “All of us should not fold their arms and watch helplessly how they shed our Muslim brothers’ blood and cheat them in vain.”

Mr Pantami said Boko Haram elements should have been treated with dignity as against the deadly military campaign, saying extermination of insurgents amounted to extrajudicial killing.

 

“Even if the Boko Haram fighters commit a crime, but can we justify the way and manner they are being killed?”

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“Just look at how they are killing people as if they are shooting pigs even though they commit a crime, why the extrajudicial killing? Take them before the law for a fair trial.

“You caught someone sleeping and you killed him. If it’s not Muslims that undergo such treatments who else?” Mr Pantami said.

The minister also said the previous administration should have pampered Boko Haram insurgents in the same manner as the Niger-Delta militants. Unlike Boko Haram that has been on senseless bloodshed against Nigerians of every faith and creed, the militants were fighting for a better share of oil wealth explored and extracted from their parts of the country.

After about three years of their violent campaign, which largely involved frequent abduction of expatriate oil workers and exchange of fire with security forces, the militants acquiesced to economic solutions and relinquished their arms in a deal brokered by former President Umar Yar’Adua.

But Mr Pantami disregarded the context of both groups and instead took a parallel position on how the government should respond to them.

“The Niger Delta people did something similar to this. They massacre people, steal weapons, killed expatriates and kidnap some of them,” Mr Pantami said. “Yet, you still accept them back, open a ministry for them, gave them a minister and put them on a monthly salary pay without work.”

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“The militants did more harm compared to what Boko Haram boys did,” the minister said. “But why will they do something like this? Why selective justice?”

 

The audio was part of a series of controversial sermons which Mr Pantami delivered at several worship centres and learning institutions across the northern parts of the country between the mid and late 2000s. The Gazette obtained the audio this week, most of which had already been transcribed and contextualized by an academic journal published online since March 2019.

Calls have now intensified for Mr Pantami to either publicly renounce his statements or step down from office, with some activists arguing that his position as a federal minister in charge of citizens’ data and the country’s telecoms infrastructure had become untenable.

As part of our series, The Gazette reached out to Mr Pantami repeatedly to learn whether or not he had renounced his controversial views but he declined all requests.

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