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Jonathan tasks international observers on benchmark for election reporting

From Joseph Inokotong, Abuja

Former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has tasked international election observers to seek to make more impact towards promoting democracy by developing a grading framework that would capture all the electoral processes in their post-election reports.

Dr. Jonathan also reiterated his call for the introduction of what he called ‘Democracy Marker’ to serve as a bench-marking system of election reporting, as a means of strengthening the efficiency and effectiveness of observer involvement in elections in emerging democracies.

In a statement issued Thursday in Abuja by Ikechukwu Eze, Media Adviser to Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, he said the former President stated this in a keynote address he delivered in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire Tuesday at the15th Annual Symposium of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) with a theme, ‘Contributing to Credible Elections in Africa through Improved International Observation Practices’.

Jonathan said: “I feel that there is the need for an organisation like EISA, which provides technical assistance to many inter-governmental institutions on electoral matters, to lead the initiative to develop a grading system for elections, in order to encourage nations to strengthen democratic practices.

“I should point out that I had proposed what I called a ‘Democracy Marker’ to serve as a bench-marking system of election reporting, at a Commonwealth virtual programme last year. I am convinced the proposal bears repeating here because of my belief in its capacity to improve the quality of elections”.

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He stressed that one of the biggest criticisms against international election observation missions (IEOMs) lies with the nature of their mission statements following the election.

He said: “I believe that a grading framework or template for the assessment of a country’s performance could be incorporated in the reporting manual as a way of encouraging countries to aim to improve their election records. This will indeed guide them to benchmark their performance against other democracies.”

The former President further suggested that the grading template should be aggregated into four clusters, for the sake of transparency and effectiveness.

He identified the clusters as pre- and post-election assessment of how the electoral management bodies (EMBs) manage the electoral processes; the security involvement in elections and the conduct of security personnel; the actions of citizens and political parties and their behaviour on election day, as well as the discharge of judicial processes relating to the elections.

He noted that the suggested method of ranking and measurement is already being carried out successfully in other aspects of our social life.

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According to him: “They are being conducted by such organisations as Transparency International which is an NGO that developed the Corruption Perception Index (CPI); the Human Rights Watch that monitors and rates nations on respect of people’s rights; Fund for Peace, which conducts the failed nations index as well as the International football federation (FIFA), which routinely ranks nations according to the performance of their national teams.

“I believe that a similar grading system, focusing on elections and determined by a body of credible election observation missions, will not only make observer reports more useful and relevant; it will also go a long way in improving the system of elections in many countries”, the former President reiterated.

Jonathan stated that the “value in inviting international observers to an election is underpinned by the belief that they play an impartial and vital role in ensuring that the elections are peaceful, transparent, free, fair, and that the outcome is accepted by voters, political parties and candidates”.

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FG launches national policy on gender education in North

From Sola Ojo, Kaduna

The Federal Ministry of Education in partnership with UNICEF and funding from the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) UK, on Tuesday, launched the reviewed National Policy on Gender Education (NPGE) and its implementation in Northern Nigeria.

The policy document is expected to help strengthen the government’s capacity to oversee the integration of gender concerns in every area of national life and also improve compliance with reporting requirements under various human rights instruments.

It now behoves on the respective state governments to put structures in place where it is not already existing to ensure smooth implementation of the policy in the interest of their children as promised by education commissioners and SUBEB chairmen present at the launch of the document at a hotel in Kaduna on Tuesday.

Director of Senior Secondary Education, Federal Ministry of Education, Mrs Binta Abdulkadir, who was represented by a Deputy Director in the Ministry, Mr Funsho Aderibigbe remarked that the implementation of the policy would be closely monitored being approved by the National Council on Education.

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According to her, “we must all be committed to implementation and use of the revised policy to reduce the disparities in access, retention and completion at all levels of education.

“The review went through several processes including; stakeholders’ engagement to determine the process of review, development of survey tools used in determining the implementation status of the first Gender Policy, a pilot test of the tools developed in FCT”.

Earlier, Chief of Education, UNICEF, Nigeria, Ms Saadhna Pandary who was represented by Education Specialist, UNICEF, Azuka Menkiti described the launch of the NPGE as a demonstration of the transformative political will and strategic investment being made in girls’ education in Nigeria.

“We know what works to increase girls’ participation in education from cash transfer programmes to compacts with men and with communities, to multiple, flexible, and certified learning pathways, to investing in skills development for girls.

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“Our challenge going forward is not to figure out what to do to achieve gender equality but how to deliver these proven strategies through sustainable delivery mechanism with speed, scale, and quality,” Pandary added.

She however clarified that the UNICEF would only be providing technical supports towards the implementation of the action plan each state would develop at the end of the day.

On her part, Commissioner for Education in Kaduna, Mrs Fatima Lawal, restated the commitment of the current administration on the need for gender balance to achieve the desired goals and objectives to take education to its desired level as evident in several reforms the state is experiencing.

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FG, UN harp on collective fights against corruption

The Federal Government, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and UN Women have stressed the need for collective efforts in the fights against corruption.

This was made known at the high-level workshop entitled: “Gender Dimension of Anti-corruption in Nigeria” against the backdrop of 2021 16-day of activism to end Gender-based violence on Monday in Abuja.

The event was organised by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), EFCC, NORAD, UN Women and Technical Unit on Government Anti-Corruption Report (TUGAR).

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, represented by Mrs Maryam Uwais, Special Advisor, Social Investment in the Presidency, Office of the Vice President, said corruption  often hinders Nigeria’s growth.

Osinbajo said, “highlighting the issue of gender is a timely and most pertinent topic to explore and interrogate the avenues for enhancing efforts in battling corruption, not only in Nigeria but the world in general.

“It is a pity for me to speak in this audience about how corruption as a hydra-headed monster has undermined the very fabric of our society; corruption continues to constitute a serious threat to good governance.

“Also, to Rule of Law, peace and security, particularly, developmental programmes aimed at tackling poverty and socioeconomic vulnerabilities.

“What could be invested and utilized to tackle poverty and facilitate attainment of SDGs, address broad human capital indices are diverted to serve the vested interest of a greedy and selfish minority.

“To compound matters, corruption defies access to basic services in a country like ours. To combat this menace, this administration through leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has reeled measures to achieve targets.”

He explained such measures to include conduct of regular experience-based anti-corruption surveys, to appreciate the issues in the bid to avoid pitfalls and encourage use of technologies in major projects.

He listed the projects to be in sectors such as oil transportation, power, health, education and other sectors, the implementation of the Treasury Single Account.

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Others include supporting the revitalization of anti-corruption agencies, such as the EFCC, ICPC, NEITI and so many others.

He said that the corruption reports of 2019 place demand, which gender plays a significant role on how gender manifests and issues that border on corruption can be controlled.

He further stressed the need to sensitise Nigerians on relevant issues about corruption, mainstream gender balance in policies and law, and to increase the number of women in managerial positions.

Speaking at the event, Representative of UN Women, Ms Comfort Lamptey, said that the subject of anti-corruption is very critical for the realisation of Nigeria’s development aspiration.

According to her, corruption could hinder efforts aimed at achievement of SDGs; weaken political institutions and deprive citizens of fundamental rights and increase their loss of confidence in governance.

Lamptey said, “In disproportionate effect of corruption further deepens gender inequality and women are oftentimes vulnerable to the effects of corruption.

“The findings from the gender and corruption in Nigeria reports of December, 2020 reveals that 41 per cent of respondents were women and men perceived body currency in exchange of sexual favour.

“To return for preferential treatment, as something that happen most frequently in Nigeria and almost 30 per cent think it happens fairly frequently.

“30 per cent accounted that they fell uncomfortable relating these, as sexual exploitation also known as extortion, occurs at the intersection of corruption on one hand as gender-based violence and sexual abuse,” she said.

She suggested that there should be a more functional justice system, to tackle issues that surround corruption, to proffer lasting solutions to the problem in the country.

Also speaking, the Executive Chairman of EFCC, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, expressed the commission’s resolve to stem fights against corruption, saying that such militate national growth.

Bawa was represented by Ms Hadiza Zubairu, Chief of Staff to the Executive Chairman of EFCC.

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“No nation can consider itself free if there is marginalization or gender-based violence; men and women are created to play complementary roles, and none can function effectively without the other.

“It is only by mainstreaming women and encouraging them to contribute towards the growth and development of the country that total fights against corruption can be achieved.

“This, therefore, calls for reorientation and reconstruction of our mindsets, we need a collaborative system for women to foster and for our society to thrive, and be free from financial crimes.

“Corruption is neither masculine nor feminine, but a by-product of an opportunity,” Bawa said.

Meanwhile, Dr Oliver Stolpe, Representative of UNODC Nigeria, attributed data garnered for the reports on gender and corruption in Nigeria to efforts to the organisation and the National Bureau of Statistics.

According to him, one of the reports was conducted in 2016 with the support of the European Union, while the second one was conducted in 2019 with support of the government of the U.K.

“Both times, around 33000 people were interviewed and there was a large surge survey being conducted, essentially to get to the bottom of the experiences of various Nigerians in various states.

“These statements were put under specific gender analysis and that was done in 2020, what we really got is how does corruption affect and involve women and men differently in the country?” Stolpe said.

The event featured panel-sessions on corruption prevention and good governance; does gender-responsive public policy mean less corruption and gender, elections in Nigeria; empowering women, and youths to effect change through their votes.

The event attracted stake holders from various government MDAs, diplomatic community and civil society organisations. (NAN)

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ICPC grills UPTH, others over alleged misappropriation of N950 million COVID-19 fund

From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC) has commenced an investigation into utilisation of the N950 million COVID-19 Intervention Fund by the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) and all other health institutions that benefited from the COVID-19 Intervention Fund of the Federal Government.

ICPC spokesperson Mrs Azuka Ogugua, in a statement on Tuesday, said the investigation was prompted by an alleged violation of the Commission’s Act, 2000 by the beneficiaries of the Fund.

She further noted that the ICPC had procured documents from the Federal Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Finance and other relevant bodies that would assist in achieving the inquiry.

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“An immediate investigation by the Commission into the utilisation of the N950 million intervention fund by the teaching hospital in Port Harcourt has therefore been initiated.

“The Commission has obtained documents from the Federal Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, and the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital that would assist in its investigation of the utilisation of the COVID-19 Intervention Fund by the health institutions.

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“The Federal Government had approved and released the sum of N950 million each to 52 Federal Teaching Hospitals and Medical Centres under its Economic Sustainability Plan for the building and furnishing of Molecular Laboratories, Isolation Centres, 10 bedded Intensive Care Units (ICU), and procurement of Personnel Protective Equipment.” She stated.

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70% vehicles, motorcycles plying Kebbi roads lack proper documentation- BIR Chairman

From Olanrewaju Lawal, Birnin Kebbi

The Board of Internal Revenue(BIR), Kebbi state, has noted that about 70 percentage of vehicles and motorcycles plying roads across the 21 local government areas in the state are not properly registered or documented.

The Executive Chairman of the Board, Alhaji Illyasu Arzika Jega stated this while speaking with newsmen about the agency outing alongside other security agencies to checkmate vehicles and motorcycles particulars in major roads in the state.

Jega, explained that, the BIR, Kebbi state has being receiving a lot of messages, complaints outside the state especially from Lagos state, requesting requesting for the verification of some of the vehicles plate numbers, which often found not to be properly documented or registered.

According to him, “the defaulters, it is almost 70 percent, approximately 70 percent. If you are to check thoroughly, out of ten motorcycles or vehicles on the roads, hardly you will see three with registration numbers. So, that is why we would consider it necessarily to go out and start checking regularly so that people will not relax on the need for them to come out and registered their vehicles. Because, there are a lot of reports coming to our office in respect of stolen vehicles which we do received across the nation.

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“Specifically, from Lagos state. They do send messages to us for inquire on plate numbers of vehicles to us for verification. In our findings, we might discovered that such vehicles could belong to X and Y, or Z and Y. So, this is the reason we are carrying out this exercise so that our people could register their vehicles properly”, he said.

Jega explained that, those found to have violated the sections of the law were asked to do the right things, while others whose offenses were grievous were charged to court by the VIO.

“But, at our own end, at the Board of Internal Revenue, you will not be released until you performed your obligation. You must renew your vehicle documents if you have not done it, or obtain your plate number if it is plate number issue. We would make sure you buy it before your vehicle is being released”.

Jega explained that, the Board have more than enough plate numbers in our stocks, amounting to millions of naira in all the local government areas for any motorist who wanted to purchase.

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The Board Chairman who advised the general public to properly registered their vehicles to avoid embarrassment on the roads by security agencies and for easier identification if stolen, stressed that, if they did the right things, their vehicles would be protected as well generating revenue for the government for development.

“This exercise is to enlighten our people, to inform the general public that the government is on ground and any motorists should abide by the law. They should have their vehicles plate numbers and also ensure that they registered it properly. If their vehicle’s documents have expired, they should get them renewed. I knew that some documents expire in six months while others expired in a year. So, there is need for the public to know that, they are duty bound to comply with all these responsibilities to avoid any embarrassment by the law enforcement agencies”.

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China vows ‘resolute countermeasures’ as US officials boycott Games


China has sharply criticised the diplomatic boycott of February’s Beijing Winter Olympics by the United States.

Washington should stop politicising sports, Foreign Office spokesman, Zhao Lijian, said on Tuesday in Beijing.

He announced “resolute countermeasures”, without giving details.

“The Olympics are not a stage for political manipulation,’’ he added.

White House spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, had announced the previous day that President Joe Biden’s administration would not send diplomatic or official representatives to the Games in China because of alleged human rights abuses.

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US athletes will still attend; other countries are mulling a diplomatic boycott.

China’s foreign office spokesman said the US should stop “disrupting the Beijing Winter Olympics with words or deeds’’.

Otherwise, he said, they are harming bilateral dialogue and cooperation with China on important issues.

The Winter Games will be held from Feb. 4 to Feb. 20 next year.

China has come under criticism for alleged human rights abuses, including its treatment of minorities such as the Uighurs and Tibetans and its suppression of the democracy movement in Hong Kong.

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There are also major political tensions between the US and China over other contentious issues.

The relationship has fallen to its lowest point since diplomatic relations were established in 1979.

Biden sees China as the most powerful competitor and the greatest geopolitical challenge for the US.

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ADP backs electronic transmission of election results, direct primaries


The Action Democratic Party (ADP) on Tuesday expressed support for the adoption of direct party primaries and electronic transmission of results in the 2023 general elections.

National Chairman of the party, Yabagi Sani, said in Abuja at the inauguration of the party’s 2022 National Convention Planning Committee that electronic transmission of results would guarantee free and fair elections.

He charged INEC to resist an alleged attempt of malicious groups to reject the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

“We in the ADP regard the 2023 general elections as a watershed in the nation’s political history.

“It will be a turning point from the decadence that has characterised previous elections because we can see the clamour by all Nigerians for a change.

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“In 2023, the direct primary and electronic transmission of election results should be regarded as an effective panacea to crises that have plagued efforts at free and fair elections in Nigeria,’’ he said.

He urged the National Assembly to veto President Muhammadu Buhari on the Electoral Bill if the outcome to his assent to the Bill was not favourable.

Sani said the conduct of ADP’s congresses and its national convention would be held through direct primaries.

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He stressed that the ADP was not averse to direct primaries and electronic transmission of results since the outcome of an election was a reflection of the wishes of the electorate.

He added that only those planning to manipulate the elections would find it difficult to discard the old system.

Sani explained that this could be because the old system conferred on them the latitude to rig and deny the electorate their fundamental rights of choosing their leaders.

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UNEP announces all-female winners of 2021 Champions of Earth award


The UN Environment Programme on Tuesday announced all-female winners of the 2021 Champions of the Earth Award for their contributions to advancing the green agenda.

The winners of the prestigious environment award include the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, and Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, a Ugandan scientist.

“This year’s champions are women who not only inspire us but also remind us that we have in our hands the solutions, the knowledge, and the technology to limit climate change and avoid ecological collapse,’’ said Inger Andersen, UNEP’s executive director in a statement issued in Nairobi.

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Andersen reiterated that harnessing female-led innovations will be key to restoring planetary health amid the triple crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

According to Andersen, this year’s winners of the Champions of the Earth Award demonstrates that narrowing the gender gap is crucial to the realisation of a climate-resilient and sustainable future.

The winners of the award were recognised for galvanising action at the local, regional, and global levels to promote the health of ecosystems amid climatic and human-induced threats.

The four categories acknowledged in the award include Inspiration and Action; Policy Leadership; Entrepreneur Vision; as well as Science and Innovation.

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Mia was honoured in line with her contributions to furthering activities in the Policy Leadership category.

Honoured in the Science and Innovation category is Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, a veterinarian at Uganda’s Wildlife Authority and an expert on primates and zoonotic diseases.

The sea women of Melanesia and Maria Kolesnikova also won the award in the same category.

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Omicron: Pyrates slams UK, Canada over travel restrictions

From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa

The National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) has described as “racially motivated” travel restrictions clamped on Nigeria and other African countries by authorities of the United Kingdom and Canada over the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The NAS Capoon, Mr Abiola Owoaje in a statement titled: ”COVID-19 Omicron: The gang-up against Africa” said the pattern of travel restrictions is “neither informed by science nor justified by sound clinical and epidemiological principles.”

Owoaje who noted that the swiftness in the expansion of travel restrictions goes against the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said ”it has given rise to valid suspicion that these inconsiderate reactions are driven by base considerations of bare-faced prejudice”.

While picking holes in the travel restrictions, he pointed out that the UK’s decision to leave out European countries where Omicron had been detected even before Africa “leaves very little room to doubt the growing conviction that they are racially motivated.”

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Owoaje said that the vilification of African countries for raising the red flag on the Omicron variant of COVID-19 puts a question mark on the sincerity of western countries in the global efforts to tackle the pandemic.

The statement reads in part: “The misguided hysteria being displayed by western nations against African countries since the outbreak of the Omicron variant inadvertently clouds their sincerity in the global coalition against COVID-19. It gives them away as colluders in the worsening scenario of vaccine inequality threatening global action against the pandemic. Vaccines are allowed to go to waste in Europe and other advanced countries where they have been oversupplied, while African countries are supplied meagre quantities even after placing orders and showing genuine payment commitment. Enacting policies that shut Africa from the rest of the world, not accepting tests from African countries demonstrate nothing but stereotyping and racism.

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“These discriminatory regulations, shocking in their total disregard of the rules of international engagement, are likely to undermine the genuine worldwide collaboration that is required to contain this pandemic as well as the trust that is needed to maintain public health alliances for the protection of our world in the future.

“We commend the governments of Nigeria and South Africa to be the forefront of a robust and commensurate response by African countries to this clear case of systematic and undiplomatic discrimination from Western nations.

It is urgently necessary for western governments to work hard to drain the reservoirs of ignorance and prejudice that these ill-judged actions stem from if the genuine progress made in international collaboration against COVID-19 is not to be jeopardised.”

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Nigerian Senate pressures UK to reverse its COVID-19 ‘red list’ travel ban

From Fred Itua, Abuja

The Nigerian Senate has condemned the United Kingdom’s inclusion of Nigeria in its COVID-19 red list without any justification.

The Senate has therefore called on the British Government to consider removing Nigeria from the red list.

The upper legislative chamber advised the British Government to be sensitive to the diplomatic relations between both countries when taking a decision that affects Nigerian citizens.

The Senate urged the Federal Government to engage the British authorities to reverse Nigeria’s inclusion on the red list.

It also charged the administration to remain firm in the enforcement of necessary protocols in the containment of every COVID-19 variant in Nigeria.

It further called on major vaccines powers, namely, Britain, Canada, America, and the European Union, among others, to take urgent and bold steps to ensure vaccine equity in the interest of the entire human race.

The foregoing were parts of resolutions reached by the chamber, following the consideration of a motion on the “Need for Government of the United Kingdom to remove Nigeria from COVID-19 Red List.” The motion was sponsored by Ike Ekweremadu.

Coming under orders 42 and 52 of the Senate Rules, Ekweremadu noted with satisfaction the efforts of the Government of Nigeria in the containment and treatment of COVID-19 cases.

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‘Nigeria is among the countries with the lowest cases of COVID-19. The decision by the British Government to include Nigeria in their COVID-19 list, with its concomitant implications, will affect many citizens of Nigeria, who had planned to spend their Christmas and New Year holidays with their families.

‘Also worried that Nigerians with genuine needs to visit the UK within this period will be denied a visa and those with visa will not be allowed to enter the UK,’ he said.

The lawmaker noted that Nigerians have consistently complied with all the COVID-19 protocols required by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UK Government for travellers prior to the ban.

He emphasised that ‘targeting African countries, especially in the COVID-19 travel ban, amounts to profiling and discrimination as well as an attack on our cordial diplomatic relationship with the UK.’

Ekweremadu drew the attention of the chamber to global concerns over vaccine hoarding and inequity and the resulting consequences on low-income nations in the fight against COVID-19.

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In his remarks, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said the decision to include Nigeria on the UK COVID-19 red list poses a strain on the diplomatic relations between both countries. He bemoaned the poor treatment of Nigeria by the UK government.

Lawan, therefore, called on the British Parliament to intervene with a view to having Nigeria removed from the country’s COVID-19 red list.

‘Let there be justification for it. We are not saying that they cannot put any country on the red list, including Nigeria, but there must be reasons for doing that.

‘Nigeria has done so well to the admiration of many countries in the area of containment of COVID-19. Therefore, we don’t see any reason why Nigeria will be on that so-called red list.

‘I believe that Nigerians deserve better treatment from the British government. I’m using this opportunity to ask the British Parliament to mount pressure on their government to remove Nigeria from the so-called red list.’

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APC headquarters files motion to quash ruling on Kano Ward Congress

From Desmond Mgboh, Kano

The national headquarters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has filed a motion of stay of execution on the court judgment voiding the outcome of the ward congresses conducted by the party in Kano State.

Kano State Commissioner of Information, Mohammad Garba, in a press statement, Tuesday, disclosed that the appeal was filed before the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal.

He revealed that the APC national headquarters, among other arguments, contested the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the case.

He disclosed that also sought by the party was an interim order restraining the respondents from taking steps to give effect to the order of the High Court, pending the hearing of the appeal by the appellate court on December 16, 2021.

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Garba added that the APC headquarters submitted that the Chairman and the Secretary of the Congress Committee of the ward congress, who were joined in the case, were never contacted, despite the fact their phone numbers and contact addresses were well captured in the petition.

He also stressed that the duo had never met with the said team of lawyers, who were recorded to have represented them in the case, adding that they were denied the right of fair hearing by the court.

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The Commissioner explained that the ward executive committee members were also kept in the dark about the court case, adding that they neither contracted or authorized the said lawyers to represent them.

He urged party members in the state and beyond to continue to exercise restraint and be law- abiding as the national headquarters of the party pursues the case.

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End of an era: Germany’s Merkel bows out after 16 years

BERLIN (AP) — Angela Merkel was assured of a place in the history books as soon as she became Germany’s first female chancellor on Nov. 22, 2005.

Over the next 16 years, she was credited with raising Germany’s profile and influence, working to hold a fractious European Union together, managing a string of crises and being a role model for women.

Now that near-record tenure is ending with her leaving office at age 67 to praise from abroad and enduring popularity at home. Her designated successor, Olaf Scholz, is expected to take office Wednesday.

Merkel, a former scientist who grew up in communist East Germany, is bowing out about a week short of the record for longevity held by her one-time mentor, Helmut Kohl, who reunited Germany during his 1982-1998 tenure.

La canciller alemana Angela Merkel camina hacia la Cancillería acompañada de sus guardaespaldas, el miércoles 13 de mayo de 2020. (Michael Kappeler/dpa vía AP)

While Merkel perhaps lacks a spectacular signature achievement, the center-right Christian Democrat came to be viewed as an indispensable crisis manager and defender of Western values in turbulent times.

She served alongside four U.S. presidents, four French presidents, five British prime ministers and eight Italian premiers. Her chancellorship was marked by four major challenges: the global financial crisis, Europe’s debt crisis, the 2015-16 influx of refugees to Europe and the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s undeniable that she’s given Germany a lot of soft power,” said Sudha David-Wilp, the deputy director of the German Marshall Fund of the United States’ Berlin office. “Undoubtedly she’s elevated Germany’s image in the world.”

“When she first came onto the scene in 2005, a lot of people underestimated her, but she grew in stature along with Germany’s role in the world,” David-Wilp added. Others in Europe and beyond “want more of an active Germany to play a role in the world — that may not have been the case before she was in office, necessarily.”

In a video message at Merkel’s final EU summit in October, former U.S. President Barack Obama thanked her for “taking the high ground for so many years.”

“Thanks to you, the center has held through many storms,” he said.

Merkel was a driving force behind EU sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea and backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine, and also spearheaded so-far-unfinished efforts to bring about a diplomatic solution there. She was regarded as being “able to have a dialogue with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin on behalf of the West,” David-Wilp said.

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She was steadfast in pursuing multilateral solutions to the world’s problems, a principle she set out at a military parade in her honor last week.

The global financial crisis and the migrant influx “made clear how much we depend on cooperation beyond national borders and how indispensable international institutions and multilateral instruments are to be able to cope with the big challenges of our time,” Merkel said, identifying those as climate change, digitization and migration.

That stance was a strong counterpoint to former U.S. President Donald Trump, with whom she had a difficult relationship. At their first meeting in the White House in March 2017, when photographers shouted for them to shake hands, she quietly asked Trump “do you want to have a handshake?” but there was no response from the president, who looked ahead.

Merkel dismissed being labeled as “leader of the free world” during that period, saying leadership is never up to one person or country.

Still, she was viewed as a crucial leader in the unwieldy 27-nation EU, famed for her stamina in coaxing agreements in marathon negotiating sessions.

“Ms. Merkel was a compromise machine,” Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said recently. When negotiations were blocked, she “mostly found something that unites us to move things along.”

That was on display in July 2020, when EU leaders clinched a deal on an unprecedented 1.8 trillion-euro ($2 trillion) budget and coronavirus recovery fund after a quarrelsome four-day summit.

At her 107th and last EU summit, European Council President Charles Michel told Merkel: “You are a monument.” A summit without her would be like “Rome without the Vatican or Paris without the Eiffel Tower,” he added.

The appreciation from her counterparts was genuine, although there was plenty of friction over the years. Merkel always sought to keep the EU as tightly knit as possible but strongly defended Germany’s interests, clashing with Greece during the debt crisis and disagreeing with Hungary, Poland and others over their refusal — unlike Germany — to host migrants arriving in Europe.

Merkel said she was bowing out of the EU “in a situation that definitely gives me cause for concern as well.”

“We have been able to overcome many crises in a spirit of respect, in an effort always to find common solutions” she said. “But we also have a series of unresolved problems, and there are big unfinished tasks for my successor.”

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That’s also true at home, where her record — dominated by the crises she addressed and including a pandemic that is flaring anew as she steps down — is a mixed bag. She leaves Germany with lower unemployment and healthier finances, but also with well-documented shortcomings in digitization — many health offices resorted to fax machines to transmit data in the pandemic — and what critics say was a lack of investment in infrastructure.

She made progress in promoting renewable energy, but also drew criticism for moving too slowly on climate change. After announcing in 2018 that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term, she failed to secure a smooth transition of power in her own party, which slumped to defeat in Germany’s September election.

The incoming governing coalition under Scholz says it wants to “venture more progress” for Germany after years of stagnation.

But Germans’ overall verdict appears to remain favorable. During the election campaign, from which she largely was absent, Merkel’s popularity ratings outstripped those of her three would-be successors. Unlike her seven predecessors in postwar Germany, she is leaving office at a time of her choosing.

Merkel’s body language and facial expressions sometimes offered a glimpse of her reactions that went beyond words. She once lamented that she couldn’t put on a poker face: “I’ve given up. I can’t do it.”

She wasn’t intimidated by Putin’s style. The Russian president once brought his Labrador to a 2007 meeting with Merkel, who later said she had a “certain concern” about dogs after having once been bitten by one.

She was never the most glamorous of political operators, but that was part of her appeal – the chancellor continued to take unglamorous walking holidays, was occasionally seen shopping at the supermarket and lived in the same Berlin apartment as she did before taking the top job.

Named “The World’s Most Powerful Woman” by Forbes magazine for the past 10 years in a row, Merkel steps down with a legacy of breaking through the glass ceiling of male dominance in politics — although she also has faced criticism for not pushing harder for more gender equality.

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Obiano’s aide tasks parents on Igbo language

Dr Mitchel Onugbolu, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Gov. Willie Obiano on Social Re-orientation, has tasked parents and guardians on the responsibility of teaching thier children and wards their native language.

Onugbolu, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Awka, said that parents had a huge role to play in ensuring that the native languages did not go into extinction.

She urged them to take seriously the speaking and teaching of such languages to their children.

The SSA said that the Igbo language, as a native language, should not be allowed to be “swallowed” by foreign languages.

According to her, neglecting the native language is detrimental to the the ethnic group.

Onugbolu said that the decline in youths speaking their native language was primarily a function of parents and guardians’ neglect to speaking and teaching it to their wards and children.

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She however said that the situation could be remedied if parents went back to the rudiments of speaking, teaching and exposing their children to the language by proudly speaking it.

Onugbolu added that Igbo language could be promoted beyond its present status through giving children Igbo names and explaining their meanings to them so that the bearers would be proud of such names.

“We need to dress in our cultural attire, act dramas, sing songs and write books, among other things to sustain and project the beauty of the Igbo ethin group.

“People from the Igbo speaking part of Nigeria need to be proud of their language as other ethnic groups and project their food values and customs to draw the attention of the youngsters.

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“Giving children Igbo names and teaching of Igbo beliefs, through folklore and other acts, will make meaning to the youths in their bid to embrace their culture,” she said.

Onugbolu also urged parents in the diaspora to promote Igbo language and culture where they reside to prevent their children from being completely “taken over” by foreign cultures.

Similarly, she called on writers to put more effort in the writing of books in Igbo to encourage reading and learning of the language in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions.

She further appealed to the National University Commission (NUC) and other stakeholders in education to also design a curriculum in Igbo language as done in other subjects to promote the language.

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Burna Boy, Nigeria’s leading music export, continues to dominate African market in 2021– Spotify Buena Boy

The global music industry is turning its attention to Africa and Nigeria’s new generation of artistes are quickly becoming its biggest success.

Top on the list of these Nigerian artistes is Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu, popularly known as “Burna Boy” who according to Spotify’s ratings bagged second most streamed album after Wizkid who got first as the artiste with the most streamed album.

This was according to a statement released by Mr Owoyemi Ajayi, Spotify’s Account Manager.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Spotify is a global online streaming platform.

Ajayi said commendations go to a combination that includes talented artistes, exceptional producers, DJs, local and international promoters, leading entertainment Public Relations, marketing professionals, and a growing local audience.

” The Afro-fusion artiste hit the music world like a storm with the release of his global breakout album, “African Giant”,

” This has since staked a claim as one of the biggest stars on the music scene worldwide, a crossover sensation who refuses to compromise.

” Known for using his music as a tool for telling the story of his life and his surroundings, Burna Boy’s ability to weave tales of love and educate listeners on politics and expressions of vulnerability, while creating authentic Afrobeats, is how he’s been able to capture the world’s attention,” he said.

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Ajayi said in spite the fact that Burna Boy didn’t release an album in 2021, this has still been a standout year for him, who has won a string of awards and sold out venues across the globe.

He noted that the two-time Grammy nominee won the award for Best Global Music Album in the World Music category for his 2020-released Twice as Tall album.

” As he noted while receiving his Grammy Award, “This is a big win for Africans of my generation all over the world”.

” His recent features on chart-topping singles like Question, Ginger and Yaba Buluku reinforces his vocal appendage as an Afro heirloom that artistes the world over seek to possess on their songs.

” From the thick gold chains that adorn his neck to his vast collection of rings and gold and jewel-encrusted teeth grills, Burna Boy has also carved a fashion niche for new-generation Afro-fusion acts.

” With huge global monthly listeners, Nigerian singer, rapper, and songwriter, Burna Boy is undoubtedly one of Africa’s biggest musical exports,” he said.

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In Spotify’s recently released 2021 Wrapped data, Burna Boy featured prominently among the top 10 artistes in almost every listed country in Africa.

He ranked among the top 10 streamed artistes in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The lowest position in these countries is number five in Kenya.

According to the Wrapped data, his album “Twice as Tall” is among the top 10 albums for the year in Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, as well as Uganda, and ranked in the top 30 in Kenya.

Burna Boy’s growth in the music industry and his many successes are inspirational as every step he takes elevates him, in the music industry in Nigeria, and the continent of Africa at large.

As Burna Boy continues to march on, there’s a great possibility that the doors he walks through will be left open for the up-and-coming music artistes to follow in his footsteps.

He has been resilient in his pursuit to remain the ‘Odogwu’ or better still, the ‘African Giant’ of African music, most especially, the Afro sound. (NAN)

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Nigeria’s rich cultures come alive in New York

Nigeria’s rich cultures came on display in New York as the Consulate-General of Nigeria showcased the cultures and traditions of the people of Rivers, Cross River and Benue States.

The Second Edition of the Nigeria Cultural Show, featured cultural displays from the Andoni and Opobo of Rivers, Efik of Cross River and Idoma from Benue.

Speaking at the event, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Amb. Zubairu Dada, said the cultural show was aimed at showcasing Nigeria’s diverse traditions and promote cultural tourism, economic growth and foreign direct investment.

Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Amb. Zubairu Dada speaking at the Cultural Show, hosted by the Consulate-General in New York

The minister said the inaugural show organised by the Consulate-General in July, which showcased the Argungu Fishing Festival and the Osun Osogbo Festival, had produced positive results.

Dada explained that some tourists from the U.S. travelled to Nigeria shortly afterwards to attend the Osun Osogbo Festival in August.

He commended the Consulate-General for the initiative of ensuring that Nigeria’s diverse and rich culture was propagated, enjoyed and preserved to be handed over to generations yet unborn.

The minister also commended Nigerians in diaspora for their support and for displaying their cultural attires at the show.

“Your continued support in the promotion of Nigeria’s potential and achievements in various fields of human endeavours is commendable,” he said.

“We will continue to collaborate with you for the greater glory of Nigeria as we invite you to join hands with the mission and the government of Nigeria in attracting development to your home country.”

Dada said Nigeria would continue to explore culture and tourism as veritable tools to strengthen ties with other nations.

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“I have no doubt that after this show today, you would have a better understanding of Nigeria and the heightened sense of admiration of our rich cultural heritage,” he said.

“Our country, Nigeria is richly blessed with a rainbow of culture from which oozes our strength in diversity.”

Nigeria’s Ambassador to the U.S., Dr Uzoma Emenike, who spoke virtually at the event, said Nigeria’s culture was the legacy of cherished manifestations of human and intellectual achievements shaped by people of different languages.

Emenike said Nigeria’s culture was shaped by more than 500 languages with over 1,500 dialects of various ethnic groups.

“It is evident that we are endowed with required population, tourist attractions and rich natural resources,” she said.

“You will agree with me that despite our challenges, our cultural diversity and our endowment in terms of natural resources have given us enough reasons to celebrate Nigeria.

“There are varieties of cuisines to our film industry, which is Nollywood, our literature and the Nigerian music industry, which is constantly bringing Nigeria to the world’s stage.’’

River State fashion display at the Cultural Show hosted by the Nigeria Consulate in New York

In his remarks, the Consul-General, Amb. Lot Egopija, said the Consulate-General collaborating with the Nigerian community provided an opportunity for diasporas to contribute towards the preservation and transfer of culture and norms through generations.

“The governments of Bayelsa and Zamfara States have also indicated interest in promoting their states in subsequent cultural shows.

“So, sometime in 2022, the Consulate, the two states and the Nigerian community will showcase the cultures, traditions and natural resources of the people of Bayelsa and Zamfara States,’’ he said.

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Left- Consul-General of Nigeria in New York, Amb. Lot Egopija; Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN, Prof. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Amb. Zubairu Dada at the cultural show hosted by the Nigeria Consulate New York

The Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN, Prof. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, said Nigeria was a great country and that Nigeria and Nigerians had been very critical to the U.S.

The Nigerian envoy said showcasing Nigeria’s cultural heritage strengthened the bonds of friendship among the Nigerian people.

President of Manhattan Borough, Ms Gale Brewer, paid tributes to Nigerians in the U.S. for excelling in their various endeavours and for raising Nigeria’s flag high.

Speaking on Opobo, Prof. Iyala Peterside said the culture of the people was derived from the Igbo of the hinterland.

Peterside said the culture was demonstrated through a display of rituals marking the transition from youth to adulthood, marriage celebrations and artistic performances by masquerade and organised troupes by men and women.

He said Opobo kingdom was a tourist haven and boasted of ancient relics, principally the monument of King Jaja, buildings reminiscent of the palm oil trade era and numerous relics of the nineteenth century.

Also speaking on Idoma culture, retired Col, Jolly Abu, President of Idoma Association, USA, said Idoma culture was built on integrity, sincerity and hard work.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event, with the theme “Nigeria: Our Community, Our Cultures and Our Unity’’, also showcased cultural dance troupes, musical performances and cultural fashion displays, particularly from the three featured states. (NAN)

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Dowen college murder: My son is innocent, mother of accused student cries out

By Chioma Okezie-Okeh

The mother of Edward Brown, one of the students of Dowen College in Lekki area of Lagos, accused on social media as being responsible for the tragic death of 12 -year-old Sylvester Oromoni has cried out that his son is innocent.

The deceased was said to have been assaulted by some cult groups, who he identified before his death, as students of the college for refusing to join the fraternity.

He was admitted in a Lagos hospital following the attack and confirmed dead days later. His relative who leaked the news on social media had mentioned the names of some students believed to have been named by the deceased before he died.

According Miss Oluchi Sunday, his son’s name which was not earlier mentioned suddenly surfaced online and since then the family has come under severe attack.

Miss Sunday in a statement made available to the media insist that his son, Edward Brwon who does not live in the dormitory was not in school at the time of the alleged beating.

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“It has come to my attention that some individuals caused rumours to be peddled on social media platforms suggesting that my son Edward Brown is one of the students allegedly involved in the beating of the late Sylvester Oromoni Jr at a Dowen College hostel, which resulted in his untimely death.

To set the record straight, I wish to bring the following facts to the public notice, which demonstrate that such rumours are false, malicious and lack any basis whatsoever:

“My son is a day student and has never been a boarder. Because my son is a day student, he was not on the school premises at the time when the unfortunate incident occurred. Precisely in the night of November 21, 2021, during a weekend and so, could not have been in the hostel as alleged.

In a social media post made on November 1, 2021, on the deceased’s elder brother’s Instagram page, “greatoromonii”, five names, including Dowen College were mentioned before the conclusion. My son’s name was not among those names.

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As a result of these false and malicious rumours, my son and I have been under constant attack via social media, with insults and threats being hurled at us daily. This has caused us much emotional distress and mental trauma.

“Therefore, on behalf of myself and my son, Edward Brown, I hereby demand that managers of social media and other platforms where the false and libellous rumours are circulating, immediately retract the offending posts and tender a public apology to us. In this regard, Gistlovers247blog, Nkechicatherine9, celebs_critique Nkanu Tv, tamara_momotimi, etc, take notice.

We commiserate with the Oromini family for the tragic loss of Sylvester Oromini Jr and pray for the repose of his soul,” her statement read.

Meanwhile Daily Sun reliably learnt that police who has since commenced investigation will grill some of the students at the State Criminal Investigative Department (SCID), Panti today.

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