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BREAKING: Over 10 feared killed, houses burnt in fresh Plateau attack

Gunmen have attacked Te’egbe community in Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State and killed several people.

The PUNCH gathered that several houses belonging to the natives were also set ablaze by the gunmen while several others sustained injuries during the attack which occurred in the early hours of Friday.

A spokesman for the Miango Youth Development Association, Nuhu Bitrus, confirmed the attack to The PUNCH in Jos on Friday.

According to Bitrus, search and rescue operations for the victims were still ongoing.

He added that so far, 10 persons who were shot dead by the gunmen had been evacuated to the mortuary.

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Bitrus said, “Last night was really another black day for the Rigwe nation as militia attacked Te’egbe village, killed so many people, and injured many others. They also set their houses on fire.

“Right now, we have just counted the bodies of ten persons who were shot dead by the attackers. They are being taken to the mortuary. We also discovered three persons who sustained gunshot injuries.

“Our people are still searching for more victims because the damage done to the community is too much. We will let you know when we are done with the search and rescue operation.”

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The spokesman for the State Police Command, Ubah Ogaba, could not be reached for comment on the incident as of the time of filing this report.

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Omicron: FG advises vaccinated Nigerians to take booster shots

Following apprehensions over the spread of the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Federal Government has advised vaccinated Nigerians to take booster shots effective from December 10.

The Presidential Steering Committee on Covid-19, chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said on Friday night that the booster shots were only for persons who have completed two doses of AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer Bio-N-Tech or 1 dose of Johnson & Johnson.

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency in a statement on Friday highlighted the eligibility criteria for taking the booster dose to include “any person 18 years and above; time interval of six months or more after receiving the second dose of AstraZeneca, Moderna or Pfizer Bio-N-Tech; time interval of two months or more after receiving the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.”

The statement added, “Consequent upon the above, eligible Nigerians are advised to visit the nearest health facility or mass vaccination site for their booster doses as from December 10, 2021 across all states of the federation.

“According to Dr Faisal Shuaib (Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, NPHCDA), a COVID-19 booster dose gives greater protection against the virus and urges all Nigerians to take advantage of the opportunity offered by the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has reviewed the international travel protocol in order to reduce the risk of importing and exporting the Omicron variant of  Covid-19.

It said effective from Monday, all passengers arriving in Nigeria were expected to provide evidence of Covid-19 PCR test to be done within 48 hours before departure. This is a reduction in the 72-hour test result imposed by the Presidential Steering Committee on Covid-19 from October 25.

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The committee said in a separate statement on Friday that the review was based on science, national experience and global developments.

The statement titled, ‘Revised international travel protocol’, partly read, “All passengers arriving in Nigeria are expected to provide evidence of and comply with the following rules: COVID-19 PCR test to be done within 48 hours before departure.

“Post-arrival Day 2 COVID-19 PCR test. Self-isolation for seven days for unvaccinated and partially-vaccinated individuals. Day 7 post-arrival exit PCR test for unvaccinated and partially-vaccinated individuals.

“Outbound Passengers: All outbound passengers are required to provide either the valid evidence of full vaccination against COVID-19 or negative PCR test result within 48hrs from the time of boarding.”

Mustapha added that the revised protocol comes into effect on December 5. He promised that the committee would continue to monitor global and specific country situations with a view to taking necessary measures to safeguard the health of Nigerians.

He, however, called on Nigerians to ensure that they receive their full dose of COVID-19 vaccine and comply with public health social measures.

No confirmed case of Omicron in Lagos  – NMA

Meanwhile, the Chairman, Committee on Infectious Disease, Nigerian Medical Association, Lagos, Dr Japhet Olugbogi, has said there are no known cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Lagos yet.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control in a statement by its Director-General, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, on Wednesday announced that Nigeria had reported three cases of the Omicron variant. It however linked the cases to two passengers from South Africa.

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The Omicron variant, a new strain of the coronavirus disease, was first detected in Botswana and reported by the South African government. The Canadian government had also stated that it discovered two cases of the variant from two passengers from Nigeria.

Following these announcements, some Lagosians had expressed fears that the virus may have found its way into Lagos and may be spreading rapidly.

Reacting, Olugbogi, in an interview with our correspondent said, “There are no known or confirmed case(s) of the Omicron strain in Lagos yet, at least not known to me. That is not to say it may not have already been circulating in our communities.”

While warning that shutting down airports or imposing a lockdown would harm the economy and plunge many people into penury, he called for improved surveillance, testing, while encouraging the general public to be vaccinated, obey safety protocols and behave responsibly to prevent another wave of the virus in the country.

“If Lagos can achieve their target of vaccinating 40 per cent of the population by  Christmas or end of the year, and people wear face masks, wash hands and obey social distancing, we can avoid a fourth wave of the pandemic,” he added.

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It’s illegal to review Lagos #EndSARS panel’s findings – Falana

Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana, has described as illegal the review of the Retired Justice Doris Okuwobi’s #EndSARS panel findings on the incident which occurred at the Lekki Toll Gate in October 2020.

He said the White Paper committee set up by the Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu did not have the legal backing and competence to edit, modify, alter or reject the report of the commission.

He said, “When the government set up a White Paper committee a fortnight ago, I questioned its legal validity. It was my view that since the committee is unknown to law, the members were not competent to edit, modify, alter, edit or reject the report of the commission, more so, that the members of White Paper committee did not have the opportunity of taking evidence from the witnesses who had testified before the commission.

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“The governor cannot reject the report, summary of evidence and findings of the Okuwobi Judicial Commission in any material particular.

“In a bid to discredit the findings of the Lagos State Judicial Panel on Restitution for victims of SARS-Related Abuses and Other Matters, the White Paper Committee acted ultra vires by advising the governor to accept, reject or refer the recommendations of the panel to the Federal Government. Thus, the state government arrogantly stated that the claim that nine people died at LTG on October 21, 2020, from gunshots fired by the military are based on assumptions and speculations.”

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Despite our grief, we’ll celebrate Sylvester’s 12th birthday today – Father of late Dowen College pupil

But for his untimely and gruesome death earlier in the week, the household of the Oromonis was supposed to buzz with excitement as Sylvester Oromoni (Jnr), a Junior Secondary School two pupil at Dowen College, Lekki, Lagos, would have clocked at 12 today.

His painful exit on Tuesday notwithstanding, the family would still mark his birthday posthumously.

“We will celebrate his birthday on the 4th of December (today). Please, tell Nigerians to join us,” Sylvester junior’s bereaved father, Sylvester Oromoni, told City Round on Thursday; his voice steeped in grief.

This is just as the Lagos State Government shut down the school on Friday till further notice to allow the police carry out thorough investigations on the circumstances surrounding the teenager’s demise.

The news of his death went viral on Wednesday following a social media post by his cousin, Perry Oromoni, who alleged that some senior pupils of the college beat him up for refusing to join a cult.

Speaking to one of our correspondents on Thursday, Sylvester Snr said his late son had complained of being bullied by one of the senior pupils about three months earlier.

He added that he had sent his elder son to notify the school authorities of the issue and was given the assurance that it would be resolved.

The father said, “Two Sundays ago, we got a call that the boy was hospitalised and had injuries in the legs while playing football with his mates. I sent his guardian to go and pick him up but when he got there he said my son complained of pains all over his body, including his stomach. He kept on complaining but didn’t talk when asked what happened. We saw the fear in him but he refused to talk.”

The father also said that the guardian – his eldest son – who picked up Sylvester Jnr called to inform him that his condition was critical.

He said, “Last week, I went to Lagos to bring him to Warri (Delta State). I flew from Asaba to Lagos. Since this thing happened till he died on Tuesday, he could not sleep throughout the night. He would be complaining of pains in his chest and legs. We did a test and tried to massage his legs. There was no dislocation or fracture; it was his ankle, waist, stomach and thighs that were swollen and his mouth was peeling.

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“On Monday, he told us that some senior pupils entered the hostel; five of them – four in SS2 and one in SS1. He said he was on his bed and they entered the hostel and flogged him with a belt. He said he fell from the bed and they kicked him and trampled on his body. I asked why he didn’t tell us all this while but he said he was scared because the seniors had threatened to kill his roommates if any of them revealed what happened. He said the boys told him to lie that he fell while playing with other pupils.”

Sylvester added that following a scan run on the boy, a doctor said he suffered “liver enlargement and that congealed blood had gathered by the side of the liver.”

Some video clips obtained by City Round showed Sylvester Jnr writhing in pain, moaning to every move and touch to his legs and back.

His ankles were swollen while his dried lips were caked with blood. He could barely walk as he was helped to the laboratory and the convenience.

School denies torture

But while commiserating with the deceased’s family, the school in a statement signed by the principal on Wednesday denied that Sylvester Jnr was tortured.

It claimed that on November 21, one of the hostel parents reported to the management that the boy was injured while playing football and a resident nurse immediately administered first aid on him after which he returned to his hostel room.

The statement read in part, “He was in class on Monday, 22nd day of November 2021, but during (the) school hours, one of his friends accompanied him to the sickbay where he complained of some pain in his hip. The doctor examined him and prescribed ibuprofen for the pain, while the nurse massaged his leg, after which he felt a bit better.

“In accordance with the school policy, the resident doctor called his mother reporting the incident and requesting that she come for him so that he could get further medical attention. The mother however said she was not in Lagos, spoke and prayed with him on the phone and promised to send the guardian to pick him up immediately for further medical attention.”

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The statement further said that the doctor called Sylvester’s mother again the next day when the guardian failed to show up, adding that the guardian eventually showed up and took him for X-ray, which revealed that no part of his body was broken or injured.

It added, “The resident doctor also called the mother later in the week to check up on his progress but she informed the doctor that he was sleeping at the time. The principal also spoke with the mother on the phone to enquire about his progress and she reported that he was having a massage and gave the phone to him to speak with the principal.

“As a result, it came as no small shock to us to read social media tales that he was beaten by some students and that he specifically mentioned some names. We immediately commenced investigations and invited the students allegedly mentioned for an interview. His guardian was also present during the interviews, which revealed that nothing of such happened.

Lagos shuts school till further notice

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Ministry of Education on Friday closed the school pending when the police would conclude investigation into the incident.

A statement by the Assistant Director, Public Affairs, Lagos State Ministry of Education, Mr Ganiu Lawal, said the Commissioner of Education, Mrs Folasade Adefisayo, announced the closure after a meeting with the management of the school.

“The Lagos State Government has ordered the indefinite closure of Dowen College, Lekki, pending the outcome of an investigation into the death of Sylvester Oromoni Jnr, a student of the school,” the statement read in part.

Adefisayo also called for calm, saying effort would be made to get to the root of the incident.

Also, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar on Friday demanded justice for the late Sylvester via his Twitter handle.

He wrote, “We shall be failing in our duties as parents/guardians, administrators, security agencies and government if we do not get to the bottom of the case of the late Sylvester Oromoni. It is beholden to us to enthrone a safe environment in our schools. #Justiceforsylvester.”

  

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Diversions on Lagos-Ibadan expressway for removal today – FG

The Federal Controller of Works in Lagos State, Mr Olukayode Popoola, on Friday said section one of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway reconstruction/rehabilitation project was 70 per cent completed.

Popoola told the News Agency of Nigeria that 39 out of the 43.6 kilometres of section one of the highway, spanning from Ojota in Lagos to Sagamu Interchange, had been constructed to final layer.

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“The total length achieved up to wearing course is about 39 kilometres out of 43.6 kilometres. That should be close to 70 per cent completion,’’ he said.

Also, in a statement, Popoola said construction works between Warewa and Arepo had been completed for diversion points to be removed.

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NAN reports that the controller had on Sunday, Nov. 28, announced a six-day diversion on the one and half kilometres stretch for repairs.

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Abducted Osun housewife regains freedom, husband remains captive

One Blessing Omoru, residing in Agric Settlement, Esa-Oke, Osun State, that was abducted alongside her husband, London, has regained freedom.

The couple were abducted in their home at the Agric Settlement on Wednesday and whisked into the bush by suspected Fulani herdsmen that reportedly entered into the settlement with some cattle.

Blessing, it was learnt, escaped from their abductors in the early hours of Friday and was seen in Ijebu Jesa, after a search party combing the bushes gave the perpetrators a hot chase.

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In an interview with Saturday PUNCH, the Director General, Kiriji Heritage Defenders, Dr Ademola Ekundayo, said Blessing was found after all night search by a team comprising hunters, men of Kiriji Heritage Defenders and Oodua Peoples’ Congress.

He said, “The woman escaped and was this morning rescued in Ijebu Jesa. The husband is still with the kidnappers, but the search for the husband is still on.”

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Yemisi Opalola, the spokesperson for Osun Police Command, could not be reached for comment, as calls to her line did not go through.

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Governors to get substituted service in judiciary financial autonomy suit

A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered substituted service on the 36 state governors in a suit seeking financial autonomy for the judiciary.

Justice Binta Nyako gave the order after counsel for the plaintiff, Oba Maduabuchi, SAN, moved an exparte motion marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/502/2021.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the plaintiff, Emeka Okoye, in an originating summons, had sued the 36 states through their attorneys-general.

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Other defendants in the originating summons dated June 18 are the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee, and the Attorney General of the Federation.

Moving the exparte motion, Maduabuchi prayed the court for an order of substituted service on the defendants.

He urged the court to grant his application for a national courier outfit, Red Star Express, to serve as special bailiff to effect service of the originating summons and other accompanied processes on the defendants as good and proper service.

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Justice Nyako granted the prayer to serve the 36 state attorneys-general by substituted means by posting the originating summons and other processes through courier services to be delivered to their various addresses.

She adjourned the matter until December 7 for hearing.

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ISWAP attacks military base in Borno, kills seven soldiers

Members of the Islamic State of West Africa Province on Thursday killed no fewer than seven members of Operation Hadin Kai in a failed attempt to attack a military base in Borno State.

It was gathered that the terrorists mounted a gun truck and made effort to gain entrance into the camp but were engaged by the troops in a gun duel.

A military source told one of our correspondents that two officers, including a Commanding Officer, were among those killed in the attack.

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The source added that the Air Force troops assisted the ground troops to repel the attack on its base  and killed 24 ISWAP terrorists.

 “Seven soldiers were killed yesterday. Two are officers; the CO (Commanding Officer) and one other officer. Twenty-four ISWAP terrorists were also killed in the attack. The Air Force component assisted ground troops to repel the attacks of the terrorists who came with gun truck.”

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The Director of Army Public Relations, Brig Gen Onyema Nwachukwu, could not be reached for comment. Calls  to his line were not answered and he has yet to respond to message sent to him as of press time.

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Nigeria may split before 2023 elections – Onaiyekan

As preparations for the next general elections gathers momentum, a former Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has raised fears that Nigeria may split before 2023 because of the sad realities in the country, including security challenges.

He said Nigerian leaders would always want to remain in office even after their tenure because of “greed, wickedness and stupidity”.

The cleric stated that one of the obstacles that had been threatening democracy in Nigeria was that incumbent governments did not want free and fair election.

Onaiyekan stated these in an interview with Saturday PUNCH in Abuja.

He said, “There is no reason why the spate of insecurity should continue like this till 2023. There is no reason why we should not be able to finally settle this problem before the year 2022 is over.

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“If it is not over, it means we have failed as a nation and the question will no longer be whether we can have election or not, but whether it makes sense even having an election because we don’t have a country; the matter is serious.

“As for the election, we are not even sure whether Nigeria will be one country or whether we would have an independent country. So, those are issues we must face now. As for holding election, it is not a big deal really. Election is a normal practice and in a democratic environment, if the environment is really democratic and peaceful, the election will come by its own.

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“All of it; greed, wickedness and stupidity. Not only in Nigeria; go abroad, our next door neighbour, Cameroon, Paul Biya has been there for more than 30 years. Cameroon is not moving and he is not moving, why is he sitting there? So, they are worse than us.’’

 

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Mexico reports first Omicron case

Mexico on Friday announced its first case of the coronavirus Omicron variant, in a traveller from South Africa, but the government said it was not considering border closures as a counter-measure.

The variant was detected in a 51-year-old from South Africa with mild symptoms, under-secretary of health Hugo Lopez-Gatell Ramirez said on Twitter. 

An epidemiologist by training, Lopez-Gatell Ramirez said closing borders and blocking the movement of people and goods “are not useful measures for containing variants.”

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Vaccination was key to reducing Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths, he said.

“We call on you to remain calm and to continue taking measures to prevent infections” such as mask-wearing, social distancing and regular hand-washing, Lopez-Gatell Ramirez tweeted.

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Mexico, with some 128 million people, has reported more than 294,000 coronavirus deaths — the world’s fourth highest number — and 3.9 million cases.

On Wednesday, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said about 86 percent of Mexicans older than 18 have been vaccinated, nearly all with two doses.

AFP

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Akide-Udoh influenced my love for football – EPL’s Anthony

Premier’s TV presenter speaks about her love for football, her career and others in this interview with JOHNNY EDWARD

Which sports were you into actively growing up back in the days?

I was very active playing football, it was huge for me, at the time, I would have nicknames like Ronaldinho, Ronaldo because of my flair, skill and creativity. Other than that, I participated in inter-house sports competitions, I would partake in relays and shot put. I would say track and field as well as football were the sports I took part in, but football really for me because I wanted to pursue it as a career.

What attracted you to football?

What attracted me to football was just people chasing the ball and you have a lot of your community and family watching and paying attention and being interested. For me, the likes of AC Milan at that time was a huge team and I was very interested in Alessandro Nesta. What happened was that immediately I started watching the Super Falcons and I saw women like me at that time, I said, “O my God, this is exactly what I want to do.” I love this game so much and the fact I can see representation.

Speaking about the media we see you presenting on Premier League TV these days. Tell us about that.

I would say it’s naturally been a dream come true. I have had to go through different career development programmes because I didn’t even study journalism, I graduated from University of Calabar with a degree in Marine Biology, so it meant that if I wanted to be relevant in the industry, I had to go through career development and networking and I happened to have worked for local media stations before moving to the BBC and I ended up working with the BBC for three years and then moved to the UK where I currently am, studying my Masters in Business Administration. Before then, I had been producing some key African features for the Premier League, but I hadn’t worked with them in the studio, I had done pieces in Senegal, Egypt, Nigeria and Kenya.

So being here in the UK and getting the opportunity to present for the Premier League, being like one of the first Nigerians based in Nigeria to present in the Premier League is an absolute delight for me even as it is on a freelance basis. It is fantastic for representation, it is fantastic for a lot of people who can believe in their dreams and are absolutely inspired that they can be from Nigeria to the world if they put their mind to it and work hard.

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You have a strong passion towards empowering girls and women through sports. Tell us about this advocacy?

It’s more than a passion project for me, basically what I am fulfilling as my destiny. Like I said, I wanted to play football and my father particularly wasn’t pleased and that stigma around women playing football or women in sports was quite rife and is still available now. That’s why I had such keen interest in seeing young girls; even women no matter the age get into sports. For me, it’s about amplifying women’s voices and ensuring that I am able to tell their stories the way they should be told and when people aren’t listening or watching. And also able to let young girls know that there is representation and become women like us.

Who is your all-time Premier League player?

It’s so tough to choose one, I love a lot of them, we watch these games and we are inspired by them. The likes of Austin Okocha really put Nigeria on the map in the Premier League, Nwankwo Kanu and Stephen Gerrard because he was an inspirational figure when Liverpool won the Champions League against AC Milan against all odds. For me, I don’t have a favourite Premier League player, but these three players really influenced me.

Who is your favorite amongst Super Eagles and Super Falcons past and present players?

The Super Eagles and Super Falcons are best with abundant talents, but my favourite among them is definitely Mercy Akide-Udoh. I have interviewed her and apart from being a journalist, I couldn’t believe that I was standing right in front of the woman who I wanted to be like, I was so emotional about it because she just showed me that our dreams are fueled by representation.

If you were to name an All-Star team, which players would be listed?

Well with the FIFA World Cup coming up in Qatar next year, I think I’d go with an African All Star World Cup Eleven. These, in my opinion, are the best African players who appeared at the Mundial. I’d go with a 3-5-2 formation.

In goal I’d go with Thomas Nkono of Cameroon. He went to three FIFA World Cups. My defenders would be Noureddine Naybet of Morocco, Joseph Yobo of Nigeria and Rigobert Song of Cameroon

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My midfielders would be Papa Bouba Diop of Senegal, Yaya Toure of Ivory Coast, Ahmed Musa of Nigeria, Lakhdar Belloumi of Algeria and Moustapha Hadji of Morocco.

My forwards would be Asamoah Gyan of Ghana and Roger Milla of Cameroon.

The Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Cameroon in less than 43 days. Who do you think are the contenders for the title?

You can’t look beyond defending champions Algeria. They’re still pretty strong and the core of the team is still there. Nigeria, Senegal and Egypt will be strong contenders too. Senegal and Egypt were very impressive in the World Cup qualifiers and were inspired by Sadio Mane and Mohammed Salah respectively. And I would also watch out for Tunisia. They’ve been quietly building a strong team out of the limelight.

Who are your biggest sports influences?

Without a doubt, it would be Nigeria’s women’s 4×100 relay team at the 1992 Olympic Games. It was the first ever medal won by a Nigerian woman at the Olympics. It was a coming of age moment for not only Nigerian athletes but Nigerian women everywhere in front of a global audience. What Mary Onyali, Christie Opara-Thompson, Faith Idehen and Beatrice Utondu did that night in Barcelona reverberated beyond sport and has continued to inspire Nigerian girls and women everywhere that they can conquer the world. Their celebration after the race remains one of the most indelible and iconic moments of the Olympics decades later. The fact that they won a bronze medal is irrelevant. It was and still is a golden moment for me.

So what do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not working?

When I am not working, during my spare time, I also do side hustle, I cook a lot, and it is so interesting because my mother is from Akwa Ibom and my father is Ibo, so, I have got this mixed background when it comes to food and vegetables. I also love to read about small businesses, again, I am studying for my MBA. I also love music, especially Latino music.

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Cost of governance: Restructure Nigeria into six regions, Budget Office tells FG

The Budget Office of the Federation has said restructuring Nigeria into six regions is pivotal to reducing the high cost of governance.

It noted that the number of ministers also needs to be pruned and the number of political office holders and their aides reduced, lamenting that the huge recurrent expenditure had constrained the provision of good roads, steady power supply, health care services, quality education and quality shelter etc.

This, it said, had contributed to observable underperformance of the economy, slow growth and current infrastructural challenges.

These recommendations were contained in a report by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission at its Third National Summit on diminishing corruption in the public sector, held at the State House Conference Centre, Abuja on Tuesday.

The event, with the theme, ‘Corruption and cost of governance: New imperatives for fiscal transparency’, was attended by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.); the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Mohammed; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed and the Chairman of ICPC, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye (SAN), among others.

The ICPC report referenced the Budget Office as blaming the high cost of governance on bloated cabinet size, high cost of elections, corrupt budget practices, multiplicity of Ministries Departments and Agencies and high number of political office holders and their aides.

It said a direct result of the expensive governance structure was that less than 30 per cent of Federal Government’s resources were available to fund the much needed capital projects.

However, the Budget Office, according to the document, recommended that government should “prioritise completion of ongoing projects, restructure Nigeria into six regions and reduce the number of ministers, and build a more efficient civil service and conduct periodic staff audit.”

It added that “MDAs should consider government fiscal position in reviewing salaries, adopt a cost- effective electoral system and limit the number of aides of political office holders.”

While highlighting the drivers of the high cost of governance, the document quoted the Budget Office as saying that Nigeria has a large cabinet with 27 ministers, 16 ministers of state and 27 ministries, adding that MDAs raise their personnel cost by engaging in indiscriminate recruitment without clearance from the Budget Office.

Nigeria has about 934 MDAs with duplicated functions and 541 public corporations and enterprises.

It noted further that high cost of elections and resultant litigation contribute to the high cost of governance in Nigeria and that the current structure/size of the federal bureaucracy was clearly unsustainable for the size of the economy. “The high number of political office holders and their aides also adds to the high cost of governance,” it added.

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The Budget Office lamented that personnel cost for the past three years gulped N9.7tn, adding that cost of governance had generally been on the rise and personnel costs represent significant proportion of the spending.

According to the report, MDAs’ recurrent spending rose from N3.61tn in 2015 to N5.26tn in 2018 and N7.91tn in 2020. This excludes the costs of government-owned enterprises and transfers to the National Assembly and the National Judicial Council.

“Recurrent spending accounted for 40 per cent of actual recurrent spending in 2020 while overhead was just three per cent. Cost of governance has generally been on the rise and personnel costs represent a significant proportion of the spending,” it added.

The President, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and several other leaders had repeatedly stated the need to reduce the cost of governance, but not much has been done to actualise it.

Meanwhile, there has been an increasing public clamour for restructuring, with sociopolitical groups like Afenifere, Ohanaeze, Pan Niger Delta Forum, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, Northern Elders Forum, Arewa Consultative Forum and the Coalition of Northern Groups insisting that it is the only way the country could return to the path of progress.

The Presidency had in response to the agitations asked the proponents to approach the National Assembly with their request.

Why we can’t punish those behind budget duplication – Budget Office

The Director-General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Mr Ben Akabueze, on Friday disagreed with the ICPC, saying only 185 projects were found to be duplicated in the 2021 budget, and not 257 as announced by the commission.

He said it was beyond the responsibility of the Budget Office to discipline those responsible for the duplication because the staff of the MDAs who prepare their budgets were not answerable to his office.

He however argued that errors were inevitable since the budget was prepared by human beings but that those culpable for the “willful duplication” of projects should be fished out by the ICPC and prosecuted.

The ICPC chairman had at the summit said 257 projects amounting to N20.138bn were duplicated in the 2021 budget.

Akabueze, who spoke on Channels Television’s ‘Sunrise daily’ on Friday, stated that some of the projects identified by the ICPC were not duplicated but had description challenge.

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He said, “The ICPC came up with a report which they sent to us about duplicated projects in the budget. We did our own review and found that 54 of those projects were actually not duplicated. There were issues with project description, which made them look the same.

“Every project in the budget has a unique identifier and for the projects found to be duplicated, funding was withheld. 185 (projects) were found to be duplicated, 54 were not.”

Akabueze said there were about 20,000 projects in the budget and that if only about 200 projects were duplicated, it amounts to about 0.01 per cent. He added that the total MDAs’ in the budget estimate was under N4trn, and that the duplicated projects valued at about N20bn was about 0.005 per cent.

He added, “Every system has a level of tolerance in terms of error. It is human beings that prepared it, some may be erroneous, some may be willful duplication but the important thing is that there is self-correcting mechanism. The best of systems in the world have audit attached to them because there is an acknowledgement that something can go wrong. We work collectively with the ICPC and it is part of its role as correcting mechanism.”

He however said the Budget Office was working towards a zero level of such duplications.

He added, “At the level of the Budget Office, what we do is withhold funding for such projects and to that extent, it doesn’t create the sort of problem you alluded to; misuse of state resources.”

“As to the discipline of those people, that is outside of our own responsibilities; we look to the day where we have a structure within the budget office where the budget office can deploy its own personnel across the MDAs…to hold them directly accountable. The staff who are involved in preparing this budget in the MDAs are not accountable to the budget office and we have no line of responsibility to question them.”

He said the ICPC with its investigative powers should invite the people involved to find out if the duplications were willful actions intended to defraud the government or they were erroneous.

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Cute Abiola serving one-month punishment for ridiculing police –Navy

The Nigerian Navy has placed one of its personnel, OSCOMP Abdulgafar Ahmad, aka Cute Abiola, on one-month ‘extra duty’ for wearing police uniform in one of his skits and for ridiculing the Nigeria Police Force in the process.

The popular Instagram comedian was arrested on November 15, 2021, but has been released from detention to serve his ‘light corrective punishment’ in the cantonment.

Ahmad, 25, is expected to end his punishment by December 15, 2021, when he would be allowed to return home to his family.

Naval spokesperson, Commodore Suleman Dahun, confirmed the development to Saturday Beats on Friday.

The naval spokesman said that Ahmad was given a light punishment of a ‘one-month extra duty’ after a military trial.

Dahun said, “Cute Abiola has been placed on one-month extra duty after he was tried. He will be in charge of cleanship; supervising painting, electricians, carpentry, cutting of grasses, and others. He will be supervising civilians.

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“He is no longer under detention. He has been released to move around to serve his punishment.

“Because he was detained on November 15, that one month will start counting from then, which means he is going to be engaged till December 15. By then, he will be off the extra duty.”

A military source, who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, explained that an extra duty means that the comedian is the “Minister of Works in the Barracks” for the period of the punishment.

The source also said Cute Abiola should know better as a military man and should not have appeared in a police uniform in one of his skits, let alone ridicule the sister agency in the process.

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Lawyer to Cute Abiola, Fatai Adebanjo, in an interview with our correspondent, confirmed the development and expressed delight, saying the wife and mother of the Kwara-born comedian who had been distressed since the ordeal began would be relieved.

“We appreciate the Nigerian Navy for the consideration and we know that we are counting days for him to rejoin his family,” Adebanjo said.

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Dangote hands over rehabilitated Abuja stadium to sports ministry

The rehabilitated Moshood Abiola Stadium has been handed over to the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development after repairs works were completed, Saturday PUNCH reports.

The repair work which is being handled by Aron Nigeria Limited is sponsored by billionaire Aliko Dangote.

Aron Executive Director Stakeholder Management and Corporate Communications of the Group, Mansur Ahmed, who represented Dangote, handed the rehabilitated stadium to the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, on Friday.

The rehabilitation work was carried out on the main bowl pitch and scoreboard.

Speaking at the handing over ceremony, Dare lauded the Aron and Dangote Group for completing the project in record time, despite constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is a thing of joy to have this stadium come back to life. It is an iconic stadium, it is the national stadium, Moshood Abiola National Stadium.

“By the words of the experts here and those that have toured the facility, we have the latest grass here – Paspalum grass – one of the best, when we talk about football pitches across the World. Something exactly similar to what we have in Qatar, that will be used for the World Cup next year.

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“We thank Aliko Dangote for opening his doors to us, and accepting to adopt the Moshood Abiola Stadium when we came up with our ‘Adopt-a-Pitch’ proposal. “We salute his commitment that culminated in the completion of the project today, inclusive of maintenance for at least two years,” Dare said.

Ahmed said that the formal hand-over of the rehabilitated pitch was a testimony of the commitment of the company to sports development and supporting football .

“As we all know, Nigerian players are international but until now, we don’t have an international standard facility and our commitment is to work with the Ministry to make sure that this particular facility remains of international standard. We are therefore happy to contribute by this renovation, and by the arrangement to maintain it for the next two years”, Ahmed said.

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Former international and Special Adviser to the President on Sports, Daniel Amokachi, said after spending $1m to renovate the facility, long-term maintenance is paramount. He appealed to Dangote Group to consider extending the period of maintenance beyond two years.

Dangote adopted the Abuja stadium with repair works commencing August 2020, while another billionaire and chairman of Premier Lotto, Kessington Adebutu also agreed to foot the bills for the rehabilitation of the National Stadium, Lagos.

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Dennis thrilled with Watford start

…Nigerian battles Jota, Silva for EPL award

Watford forward Emmanuel Dennis says he is enjoying being part of the team this season and feels he is contributing positively.

The Nigerian scored his sixth goal of the season to level the tie against Chelsea after Mason Mount had opened the scoring, only for the Blues to bag a winner in the second half.

“I’m really proud of the team because we played really well,” Dennis told the club website.

“The result is unfortunate, they were lucky to take the three points. The intensity was good and we’re slowly understanding the way the manager wants us to play. We can see the progress in how we play so I’m really proud of the team, we just need to keep working hard and the results will come.”

“I knew if I tried to shoot he was going to open his legs and I was lucky to score in the end,” he said of his strike. “I’m happy with the goal but in the end we didn’t get the three points.

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“I’m just doing my job, I’m really happy I’m here and I’m enjoying being part of the team. I’m training well and being positive, and I’m really happy.”

Meanwhile, he has been shortlisted for November’s Premier League Player of the Month award.

Dennis who joined the Hornets from Club Brugge in the summer is nominated for the award for the first time.

The 24-year-old has scored two goals and recorded two assists for Watford in the month under review.

He is in contention for the award alongside Liverpool duo Trent Alexander-Arnold and Diogo Jota, Manchester City’s pair of Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo, and Aston Villa’s John McGinn.

He has also been backed by the club’s former captain Troy Deeney spoke to become a club legend.

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“Legends before me, Luther (Blissett), John Barnes, Tommy Mooney, Tommy Smith – everyone has a legacy and they do so much up to that point. I’ve done my point and it’s up to the guys in the squad now to take it further than I ever could.

“The legends of this club all move forward and I’m just a name. There is an opportunity for someone else. I think (Emmanuel) Dennis is playing great and if he sticks around for five years he could go and do that as well.”

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Eagles receive massive Osimhen boost ahead AFCON

The Super Eagles may have a massive boost for the 2021 Africa of Nations with Victor Osimhen likely to be fit for the tournament after earlier being ruled out for three months through injury.

Osimhen fractured his eye socket and cheekbone in Napoli’s loss to Inter Milan last month, requiring surgery.

Napoli confirmed after the surgery that the 22-year-old was going to be out for about 90 days, ruling him out of the AFCON which starts January 9 in Cameroon.

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport however, the Eagles forward might return to action before the earlier proposed date.

The paper said Osimhen would have an x-ray on Tuesday and might have to return to action wearing a mask.

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“The prognosis is three months, but the time could also be shorter. It will depend on the reaction of the Nigerian’s body, but there are glimmers of optimism about his recovery at Naples,” La Gazzetta dello Sport said.

“Last Monday he removed the stitches and is feeling pretty good, having already started working on an exercise bike and treadmill.

“Next Tuesday he will do the tac and x-ray and if everything goes as we hope, Victor Osimhen will be able to return to training in Castel Volturno, while the specialists from those exams will study the carbon mask to be supported on the player’s forehead, so as not to press on the eyebrow. A mask that will be made with a 3D printer, on the cast of the center forward’s face .”

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Osimhen is Napoli’s top scorer this season, scoring nine goals in 14 appearances. He has also hit the back of the net seven times for the Eagles in 2021, emerging joint top scorer in the AFCON qualifier with five goals.

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