The Federal Operations Unit Zone ‘C’ (FOUC) of the Nigeria Customs Service, Owerri, said it seized contraband worth N318.2 million between Oct. 13 and Nov. 14.
The command’s Comptroller, Mr Ali Ibrahim, disclosed this to newsmen in Owerri on Thursday. Ibrahim said the command also arrested seven persons allegedly involved in smuggling during the period.
The seized items included an armoured Lexus LX570 jeep without End User Certificate and eight other vehicles worth N158.7 million.
The items also included 294 bags of foreign parboiled rice worth N11.7 million and concealed under packs of RC mineral drinks.
Others were 304 used tyres worth N4.5million, 657 bales of used clothing worth N131.4 million and 32,500 litres of diesel worth N11.7 million, which was concealed in 650 sacks.
Ibrahim said the items were intercepted on different routes, namely Umuikaa/Aba Road, Okada/Benin Road, Benin/Auchi Road and Enugu/Obollo Road.
He commended the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd.), for his logistics support to the zone.
The FOUC boss urged Nigerians to continue to support the organisation in its advocacy against smuggling.
He warned smugglers to stay away from his zone, which include the South-East and South-South or be prepared to face the full wrath of the law.
Ibrahim also hailed the efforts of his operatives “for their gallantry in the face of challenging assignments” and reaffirmed his commitment to their welfare.
He said: “We recorded this sterling feat between Oct. 14, when I took over as FOUC comptroller and Nov. 13, largely due to the leadership style of the comptroller-general and the entire management team of the service.
“We pledge to continue to justify the incentives and logistics support to our command.”
He said the logistics included the supply of additional 10 Toyota Hilux vehicles to the command which, he said, were already deployed in the routine patrol and surveillance activities.
“We urge the general public to join the service in the advocacy against the peril of smuggling to the nation’s economy.
“We also warn economic saboteurs who will want to use this festive season for their nefarious activities to desist from such illegal business.
“No matter how surreptitious their activities may be, this unit is more determined and committed to ensuring strict implementation of the government’s fiscal policy,” Ibrahim said.
READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE FROM GUARDIAN
Benin court sentences opposition leader to 10 years
A special court in Benin on Tuesday sentenced one of the country’s opposition figures, Joel Aivo, to 10 years in prison after a treason trial critics dismissed as a politically-motivated sham.
Several opposition leaders were detained before or just after an April election that saw President Patrice Talon win a second term with more than 86 percent of the vote.
Another opposition leader, Reckya Madougou, who was detained just before that election, will go on trial on Friday, accused of plotting to prevent the ballot and destabilise the country.
Aivo, an academic who had been held for eight months, had pleaded not guilty to the charges of plotting against the state and money laundering.
“It is not for criminal justice to arbitrate on political differences,” Aivo told the judge before he was sentenced.
“I have decided to give myself to this country. You are also children of this country. Do as you will with me.”
When the verdict was given at around 3 am on Tuesday after a 16-hour trial, a few Aivo supporters were still in the court, wearing T-shirts that read, “Professor Aivo, the people of Benin are with you.”
It was “a sham of a trial, to sideline him from politics,” Sosthene Armel Gbetchehou, a former student of the condemned opponent, told AFP.
Once praised for its thriving multi-party democracy, critics say Benin has slipped steadily into authoritarian rule under Talon, a 63-year-old cotton magnate first elected in 2016.
Some opposition figures have fled the country while others were disqualified from running in elections, or targeted for investigation.
Aivo was among the opposition figures who had been barred from running in the presidential election.
Aivo was arrested on April 15, four days after the elections that saw Talon returned to power.
He was tried at a special tribunal, the Economic Crime and Terrorism Court (CRIET), in the West African country’s administrative capital, Porto-Novo.
The CRIET, set up in 2016, has often been accused by critics of being used by Talon’s regime to crack down on the opposition.
“Given the overall trends of this court, this (sentence) was expected. But we did have a glimmer of hope in what we saw in the facts and substance of the case,” said Robert Dossou, one of Aivo’s attorneys.
He said they would discuss details of any appeal later.
Government officials dismiss charges the CRIET is a political tool and say the country’s justice system is independent.
“More proof of the judicial persecutions going on in Benin against the political opposition,” tweeted Julien Bensimhon, a French lawyer to another Benin opposition leader convicted by the court.
“CRIET has once more been used to politically kill off anyone who opposes Patrice Talon.”
Court orders police to pay suspect N1m over detention
A Federal High Court sitting in Lokoja on Tuesday ordered the police in Kifi to pay N1million in damages to a suspect for breach of his Fundamental Rights.
Justice Sunday Bassay-Onu the order while delivering judgment in the case filed by Daniel Atabor, through his counsel, Mr O.E. Amoke.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports in Lokoja that Atabor was arrested on Sept 25 by the Police A Division, Lokoja, Kogi, over alleged purchase of a stolen Motorcycle from one other person but kept in Kabba Custodian centre without bail or being charged.
Justice Bassay-Onu described the continuous detention of Otabor as a “breach of his fundamental rights” having flaunted the Section IV of the Police Act, which stipulates that a suspect shouldn’t be detained beyond a day or two days from the time of his/her arrest.
“For keeping the applicant beyond the stipulated time frame within the Police Act amounts to a breach of his fundamental rights as enshrined in sections 34, 35(1)(3)(4)(5)(6), 37 and 41(1)(2) of the 1999 Constitution (as Amended) and Articles 2, 4, 5 and 12(1) of the African Charter of human and people’s rights (rectification and enforcement) Act (Cap 10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
“Consequently, One Million Naira is hereby awarded as damages to the applicant by this honourable Court against the respondents (Police) haven breached his rights and liberty.
“The respondent (Police) is also hereby ordered to release the applicant (Atabor) on bail and charge before a law Court and publicly apologize to him (Atabor) in a national Newspaper forthwith, ” the judge ordered.
Atabor had through his counsel prayed the Court to declare his continuous detention by the police as illegal and a breach of his fundamental rights as enshrined in the nation’s 1999 Constitution and African Charter of the laws of Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He also demanded for N50 million in damages for this arrest and detention beyond the 48 hours stipulated by the Police Act and against sections 34, 35(1)(3)(4)(5)(6), 37 and 41(1)(2) of the nation’s 1999 constitution (as Amended) and Articles 2, 4, 5 and 12(1) of the African Charter of human and people’s rights (rectification and enforcement) Act (Cap 10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
Atabor also asked for a public apology to be published in a national newspaper by the police over the breach of his fundamental rights and liberty as a citizen of Nigeria.
But the Police had, through its Counsel, S.I. Ikutowa, claimed that they (Police) were still investigating the case of a stolen property labeled against him (Atabor).and feared his release from detention would negatively affects their investigations into the matter.
COVID-19: Nigeria records 167 new cases, zero death
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has said it recorded zero fatality from coronavirus on Monday, though 167 additional infections were reported in seven states and FCT.
The NCDC said this on Tuesday in its daily COVID-19 report.
The News Agency of Nigeria(NAN), reports that the 167 cases represent a triple jump over Sunday’s 55 cases with Lagos having 133 infections; about 80 of the total figure.
However, the Centre did not offer any explanation for the surge, though it said no death arising from COVID-19 infection recorded for the second day running
The implication of this is that the national death toll remained at 2,980.
The NCDC also said “the 167 new cases were recorded in Lagos (113), FCT (22), Plateau (16), Kano (4), Abia (3), Kaduna (3), Rivers (3), Bauchi (2) and Delta (1).”
It said that, till date, 214 789 cases have been confirmed nationwide with 207,478 discharged and 2980 deaths recorded in 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The Nigerian Public Health Institute also said the country had a total of 4,331 active cases of COVID-19 undergoing treatment in various isolation centres across the nation.
It said that, altogether, the country had conducted a total of 3,629,527 sample tests since the virus was announced on February 27, 2020.
It said that a multi-sectoral national emergency operations centre (EOC), activated at Level 2, continues to coordinate the national response activities.
Telcos’ payment service license and Nigerian banks
On 5th November 2021, MTN and Airtel confirmed, through their social media handles, the Approval-in-Principle (AIP) by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for Payment Service Bank (PSB) license. The approval is a step towards fulfilling their long-standing wish.
The telcos have never hidden their desire to get fully involved with financial services. The large population of their subscribers increased their interest to invest incorporate banking operations in the telecom industry. They plan to actualise this through MoMo Agent by MTN, and Smart Cash by Airtel.
At the 2021 Banking and Finance Conference, organised by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), with the theme “Economic Recovery, Inclusion and Transformation: The Role of Banking and Finance”, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said “More than 30 million Nigerians are excluded from enjoying financial services”.
This implies that much needs to be done. The AIP granted means telcos can bridge the gap in financial inclusion and deepen their hands in the banking sector. The telecom financial servicing process is simplified by making individual sim cards the prerequisite requirement for enjoying the service, since most people have access to mobile networks.
The move will pose a big challenge to banks whose basic requirements for normal financial transactions are described as costly, rigid, and somewhat unsatisfactory. Citizens have been enduring time-consuming process of creating accounts, queues at banks, service costs, service failures etc., because there are no options.
Telecom financial services will likely triumph more than conventional banks in that they may not require a bank account and physical presence of customers. Their services will be cost-effective, more reliable and will not discriminate beyond the requirements of owning a registered sim card. The major gains would be market efficiency, fiscal transparency and accountability.
Experts continue to emphasize the need to have a standard database of Nigerians. With this, the country will curtail the unregulated informal sector and tackle illicit activities. Despite Bank Verification Number (BVN) campaigns, many were not enrolled due to the lapses of conventional banking to reach a large percentage of people, especially those in rural areas.
Telcos will play a vital role in reducing the gap in financial inclusion and ensuring adequate policy implementation. For instance, the companies will provide a better database of users due to simplicity of enrollment, thereby widening the tax net and boosting revenue. It will also be easier to extend government incentives like loans and subsidies to the public.
Telcos and banks may decide to further partner to enjoy the benefits of market share. Telcos may move first due to a larger customer base, global reach and financial muscle. Banks and telcos will inevitably discover an avenue to cross-sell products to existing customers, through relationship-based product bundling and pricing that takes advantage of a reduced cost structure.
In the event such happens, banks that move first to collaborate with the telecoms will exploit their unique attributes to promote brands that evoke security and reliability, skills in credit management and distribution channels. They will also amortize their investments in online services since the new trend will be less costly and more efficient.
The digitization drive by telcos will help to reduce crime nationwide. Digital transfer means transactions can be traced and surveilled. This will tackle the transfer of monies used for criminal activities. The digital signature requirement will eliminate the menace of forgery, a factor that fuels corruption. Also, trading stolen commodities will be hard, since the payment will go through telcos.
Though capacity of telcos to break into the banking industry is doubtless, how they will cope with the challenges of the industry remains to be seen. It is very important to acknowledge that payment is only the beginning. The possibility of anything else happening depends on the telcos getting on their customers’ minds with safe and secure transactions.
If so, they will be better placed to go after credit management, deposits, and other banking products. They would be equipped to explore leases, insurance policies, and service contracts when they mature; making available event-linked product and service purchasing; arranging cash and savings reallocations and transactions, among others.
Should telcos gain the license to issue loans, how they will deal with irrecoverable loans and debts, and what the CBN expects of them in terms of reserve ratio will be intriguing. They must keep in mind that despite competitive edge, their products are vulnerable to hackers and scammers. In all, to attract millions of Nigerians, telcos must come up with easy-to-use but reliable banking services.
Ola Olatomiwa writes from the Center for Fiscal Transparency & Integrity Watch
Chimamanda Adichie, Yousafzai, Melinda Gates make BBC 100 most inspiring women for 2021
Ahead of the new year, the BBC has named Multiple Award-winning author and Feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie amongst its list of 100 inspiring and impactful women from around the world for 2021.
Adichie is listed under the “Culture and Education” category, which consists of 31 women out of the 100 chosen. Under the post designated to the renowned writer, the BBC notes the 44-year-old’s TED Talk in 2012, We Should All Be Feminists, started a worldwide conversation about feminism and was published as a book in 2014.
“Let’s use this moment to start to think about health care as a human right everywhere in the world – what a person deserves simply by virtue of being alive, not when you can afford it” Adichie told the BBC.
The annual BBC #100Women list aims to inspire people by sharing the stories of trailblazing women across the globe who are using passion, indignation and anger to spark real change.
“This year 100 Women is highlighting those who are hitting “reset” – women playing their part to reinvent our society, our culture and our world” according to the BBC.
Women from Afghanistan make up half of this year’s list. The list also includes a diverse range of female figures from leaders in politics, arts and business to everyday heroes fighting for what they believe in.
Among them are Malala Yousafzai, the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Samoa’s first Female Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa, Professor Heidi J Larson, who heads the Vaccine Confidence Project, and Turkish writer Elif Şafak.
Police arrest three Dowen College students over Sylvester’s death
Lagos State Police Command has arrested three students of Dowen College over the death of Sylvester Oromoni jnr.
Lagos police commissioner Hakeem Odumosu disclosed that three out of the five students are already in custody.
Before his death, Oromoni had named five students who he claimed attacked him in his dormitory, inflicting on him multiple internal injuries.
The late student’s father earlier said that his child was beaten and fed a liquid chemical which led to his death.
But the school dismissed the claim, alleging that he sustained injuries while playing football with his colleagues.
Odumosu had earlier ordered an investigation into Oromoni’s death while Dowen College was also sealed off last Sunday.
The commissioner added that the suspects are assisting the police in their investigation.
Lagos State government has since shut down the school, while the police continue investigation into the matter.
UAE reduces work week, shifts to Western-style weekend
The United Arab Emirates is slashing its official working week to four-and-a-half days and moving its weekend to Saturday and Sunday in a major shift aimed at improving competitiveness, officials said on Tuesday.
The “national working week” is mandatory for government bodies from January 1 and bucks the regional norm of a full day-off on Friday for Muslim prayers.
While becoming the only Gulf country not to have a Friday-Saturday weekend, the resource-rich and ambitious UAE now comes into line with the non-Arab world.
Under the new timetable, the public-sector weekend starts at noon on Fridays and ends on Sunday. Friday prayers at mosques will be held after 1:15 pm all year round.
The move is intended to “better align the UAE with global markets”, said state news agency WAM, calling the new working week the shortest in the world.
“The UAE is the first nation in the world to introduce a national working week shorter than the global five-day week,” WAM said.
The Western-style weekend, rumoured for years, was announced less than a week after the former British protectorate celebrated the 50th anniversary of its formation.
The UAE observed a Thursday-Friday weekend until 2006, when it moved to Fridays and Saturdays with the private sector following suit.
“The extended weekend comes as part of the UAE government’s efforts to boost work-life balance and enhance social wellbeing, while increasing performance to advance the UAE’s economic competitiveness,” the WAM report said.
“From an economic perspective, the new working week will better align the UAE with global markets, reflecting the country’s strategic status on the global economic map,” it added.
“It will ensure smooth financial, trade and economic transactions with countries that follow a Saturday/Sunday weekend, facilitating stronger international business links and opportunities for thousands of UAE-based and multinational companies.”
The new arrangement is another bold step for the UAE, which last year bucked decades of Arab consensus by normalising relations with Israel, unlocking hundreds of millions of dollars in deals.
It was generally welcomed on social media, where the subject was trending and the official WAM tweets were widely retweeted.
“Although I’ve gotten used to the Friday-Saturday weekend after all these years, I’m happy to see this change,” said one Twitter user.
“Great decision by UAE. It serves more than one goal. Weekend now matches rest of the world,” tweeted another.
Drake Withdraws His 2022 Grammy Nominations
By Oreoritse Tariemi
07 December 2021 | 10:20 am
Drake has asked the Grammy Awards Recording Academy to withdraw his two nominations for the 2022 Grammy Awards. Drake received two nominations at the 2022 Grammy Awards. He was nominated for best rap performance for his song “Way 2 Sexy”, featuring Young Thug and Future, and best rap album for Certified Lover Boy. However, Variety reports…
Drake has asked the Grammy Awards Recording Academy to withdraw his two nominations for the 2022 Grammy Awards.
Drake received two nominations at the 2022 Grammy Awards. He was nominated for best rap performance for his song “Way 2 Sexy”, featuring Young Thug and Future, and best rap album for Certified Lover Boy.
However, Variety reports that the Recording Academy received a request from Drake and his management to remove his nominations from the final-round ballot.
Drake’s 2022 nominations are not visible on his artist page on the Grammys’ website, and the Recording Academy also added the nomination changes to its list of updates.
While it’s unclear why the four-time Grammy winner and his management withdrew the nominations, the decision comes after the artist spoke out against the Recording Academy following The Weeknd’s high-profile snubs last year.
“I think we should stop allowing ourselves to be shocked every year by the disconnect between impactful music and these awards and just accept that what once was the highest form of recognition may no longer matter to the artists that exist now and the ones that come after,” Drake wrote on Instagram shortly after the nominations for the 2021 ceremony were announced. “It’s like a relative you keep expecting to fix up, but they just can’t change their ways.”
Drake has also voiced frustration over his previous nominations and wins over time. The artist declined to submit his mixtape More Life for consideration for the 2018 Grammys and complained about the Recording Academy only recognizing him as a rap artist when his hits at the time were in the pop genre. His single “Hotline Bling” was nominated and won for best rap song and best rap/sung collaboration at the 2017 ceremony.
“I’m a Black artist, I’m apparently a rapper, even though ‘Hotline Bling’ is not a rap song,” Drake said. “The only category that they can manage to fit me in is in a rap category, maybe because I’ve rapped in the past or because I’m Black.”
Added Drake: “I won two awards, but I don’t even want them because it feels weird to me.”
A Glimpse Into Johnny Drille’s Walk With Johnnie Walker At His Private Concert
On Saturday, July 24, 2021, Nigerian Entertainment Conference (NECLive), in collaboration with the Fasasi family, friends, colleagues and fans hosted an evening of music, poetry, dance, comedy, and talk in celebration of the life of Olanrewaju ‘Sound Sultan’ Fasasi who died on Sunday, July 11, 2021. The special event was held simultaneously in five cities…
The Balvenie Single Malt Whisky has officially made its debut in Nigeria. The two-day grand unveiling events took place in Abuja on July 30, at the Transcorp Hilton, and in Lagos, on August August 2, 2021 at SLoW Restaurant Victoria Island. With this launch, The Balvenie joins the luxury whisky category in Nigeria. The events…
The Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, will bubble today, as Co-founder/CEO of RED for Africa, Adebola Williams, weds his heartthrob Kehinde Daniel, daughter of former governor of Ogun State, Otunmba Gbenga Daniel. The wedding ceremony, which is expected to attract movers and shakers of the society, will open in the morning with marriage blessing…
It was not until that scary predicament after a chat with Ayra Starr that one fully understood what she embodies on her recently released debut album, 19 and Dangerous.
JJW is finally back! Following a year-long hiatus, Johnnie, Jazz & Whisky, the nation’s premier platform for truly sensational music experience is back as Johnnie, Jamz & Whisky with a BBN Edition!
When it comes to Afro-Soul and RnB, Aramide Sarumoh is one of the finest voices in the current Naija music scene. The 36-year-old award-winning musician brought on an aura of elegance…
U.S. ‘worried’ as China eyes permanent military base in Equatorial Guinea
China is looking to create its first permanent military presence on the Atlantic Ocean, on the coast of the tiny African nation of Equatorial Guinea, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal based on classified U.S. intelligence.
Malabo, the Equatoguinean capital, is just 144 kilometres from Calabar, 225km from Port Harcourt, and 672km from Lagos.
Though U.S. officials did not describe Beijing’s plans in detail, they said China’s presence on Africa’s Atlantic coast would enhance the possible threat to the U.S., as it would give Chinese warships a place to rearm and refit opposite the East Coast, the Journal reported.
The Journal reported that the General Stephen Townsend, the commander of U.S. Africa Command, informed the U.S. Senate in April that China’s “most significant threat” would be “a militarily useful naval facility on the Atlantic coast of Africa.”
“By militarily useful I mean something more than a place that they can make port calls and get gas and groceries. I’m talking about a port where they can rearm with munitions and repair naval vessels,” Townsend added.
The Journal further reported that Jon Finer, President Joe Biden’s principal deputy national security adviser, travelled to Equatorial Guinea in October in an effort to convince President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and his son Vice President Teodoro ‘Teodorin’ Nguema Obiang Mangue to reject China’s proposal, the newspaper reported.
The 79-year-old Obiang is the longest-serving president in the world, having ruled his country with an iron fist since August 1979.
In recent months, tensions between China and the U.S. have risen amidst human rights issues, the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about Taiwan.
China currently has a military base in the East African nation of Djibouti. Built in 2016, China says the “support base” will be used for peacekeeping and humanitarian aid in Africa and West Asia.
It will also be used for military co-operation, naval exercises and rescue missions.
Halle Berry Reveals She Set Her Razzie For Worst Actress In Catwoman ‘On Fire’
By Oreoritse Tariemi
07 December 2021 | 9:54 am
American actress Halle Berry revealed that she set her Razzie award for Worst Actress in 2004’s Catwoman ablaze after receiving the award. The Golden Raspberry Awards, popularly known as the Razzies and Razzie Awards, is a parody award show that honours the worst cinematic projects of the year. The 55-year old actress speaking to Vanity Fair revealed…
American actress Halle Berry revealed that she set her Razzie award for Worst Actress in 2004’s Catwoman ablaze after receiving the award.
The Golden Raspberry Awards, popularly known as the Razzies and Razzie Awards, is a parody award show that honours the worst cinematic projects of the year.
The 55-year old actress speaking to Vanity Fair revealed that she attended the Golden Raspberry Awards in 2005 to accept the award for Worst Actress for 2004’s Catwoman.
“I went to the Razzie [Awards] because I feel like we all take ourselves so seriously,” Berry told the magazine.
She continued, “If we get an award, if we get the Oscar, we somehow are made to feel like we’re somehow better than everybody else, but we’re really not. You were just chosen that year by your peers, and you were acknowledged for doing what they considered stellar work…If you find yourself face to face with a Razzie, does that mean you’re the worst actor there ever was? Probably not. You just got the piss taken out on you that year by a group of people that can.
“If I can show up to collect an Oscar when you’re honouring me, I can certainly show up to collect a Razzie when you say, good try, but do better. I always learned that if you can’t be a good loser, then you don’t deserve to be a good winner. So I went there and made fun of myself. I had a great time, and then I set that thing on fire. That’s what I did!”
The Oscar award-winning actress had started as the DC character in the action movie, which saw her uncovering a sinister plot within a cosmetics company run by Sharon Stone’s villainous Laurel Hedare.
The film received terrible reviews at its release nearly two decades ago.
Berry recently spoke about how she would improve the film in her new role as a director.
“I would love to direct Catwoman,” she said to Jake’s Takes with a laugh about remaking the film after making her directorial debut with Netflix’s Bruised.
“If I could get a hold of that now, knowing what I know having had this experience and reimagine that world the way I reimagined this story. Bruised was written for a white, Irish-Catholic 25-year-old girl, and I got to reimagine it.”
“I wish I could go back and reimagine Catwoman and have a redo on that,” added Berry.
She continued, “I would have Catwoman saving the world — like most male superheroes do — and not just saving women from their faces cracking off. I would make the stakes a lot higher, and I think make it more inclusive of both men and women.”
Prince Harry upset at being linked to crisis engulfing his father
By Ifeanyi Ibeh, with agency reports
07 December 2021 | 8:55 am
Prince Harry has expressed concern about a Saudi donor at the centre of Prince Charles’ charity’s cash-for-honours storm. Michael Fawcett, the Prince’s Foundation’s chief executive, recently resigned over allegations that he offered assistance in obtaining a knighthood and citizenship in exchange for charitable donations. Between 2014 and 2018, an internal investigation found “coordination” between Fawcett…
Prince Harry has expressed concern about a Saudi donor at the centre of Prince Charles’ charity’s cash-for-honours storm.
Michael Fawcett, the Prince’s Foundation’s chief executive, recently resigned over allegations that he offered assistance in obtaining a knighthood and citizenship in exchange for charitable donations.
Between 2014 and 2018, an internal investigation found “coordination” between Fawcett and “fixers” over nominations for honours.
After reports in The Sunday Times revealed that Prince Harry’s Sentebale charity received £50,000 in 2013, he was dragged into the scandal.
According to the newspaper, Harry met Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz at a pub, posed for photographs, and discussed holding a charity auction or thank you dinner, which never happened.
In a statement released by his spokesperson, the Duke of Sussex came out fighting, implying that he raised concerns about the donor. There is no evidence that Harry offered Mahfouz assistance in obtaining a knighthood or citizenship.
The statement read: “It is disappointing that The Sunday Times, knowing all the facts, has chosen to encourage speculation by being deliberately vague to try to create a falsified link between the Duke of Sussex and the CBE scandal, of which he had no knowledge or involvement.
“The duke and his advisers, as well as his non-profit Sentebale, severed ties with Mr Mahfouz and his associates in 2015, no longer accepting further donations to Sentebale and discontinuing any plans for a fundraising event amid growing concerns over the motives for his support.
“The duke had one planned meeting with this donor nearly eight years ago, did not introduce him to any members of the royal family, and expressed his concerns about the donor.”
The statement did not specify to whom he expressed his concerns, but the allegations against Fawcett are based on communications that took place after Harry claimed to have severed ties with Mahfouz.
With an external investigation by the Scottish charities regulator still ongoing, if the duke warned his father about the donor in 2015, it would put even more pressure on the future king.
A letter written by Fawcett two years later, in 2017, to an aide to Mahfouz, who had given £1.5 million to The Prince’s Foundation, was previously published by The Mail on Sunday.
It read: “In light of the ongoing and most recent generosity of His Excellency, Sheikh Marei Mubarak Mahfouz bin Mahfouz I am happy to confirm to you, in confidence, that we are willing and happy to support and contribute to the application for Citizenship.
“I can further confirm that we are willing to make [an] application to increase His Excellency’s honor from Honorary CBE to that of KBE in accordance with Her Majesty’s Honors Committee.
“Both of these applications will be made in response to the most recent and anticipated support of the Trust and in connection with his ongoing commitment generally within the United Kingdom. I hope this confirmation is sufficient in allowing us to go forward.”
The allegations were also reported to the Metropolitan Police who have reviewed the internal probe’s findings but have not launched an investigation.
A summary of the charity’s internal findings read: “With respect to the allegation of securing honours for a donor in exchange for donations, there is evidence that communication and co-ordination took place between the CEO at the time and so-called ‘fixers’ regarding honorary nominations for a donor between 2014-18. There is no evidence that trustees at the time were aware of these communications.”
The Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator said in a statement: “OSCR has received a copy of a report prepared for the board of the Princes’ Foundation into a series of allegations made against the charity’s staff and trustees over the past few months.
“We are now carefully considering the contents of this report as part of the evidence we have gathered to support our own consideration of these matters.
“We will continue to progress our inquiry, working with the charity and others as we consider the information available before we decide what action, if any, is required in this case.”
End the apartheid, FG, Adesina, Ishola slam UK’s travel ban
• FG reviewing sanctions, Nigeria will respond appropriately, says SGF
• UK red listing unjust, discriminatory – Lai Mohammed
• Nigeria paying for condoning errors of commission, Tomori blames FG
• Africa CDC: Only 7% of Africans fully vaccinated compared to 66% of EU population
• Stakeholders link restriction to economic sanction, urge FG to reciprocate
Criticisms, yesterday, trailed United Kingdom (UK)’s travel ban after Nigeria was placed on a red list amid fears over spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
The ban, which came into effect yesterday, meant only UK residents or citizens can enter the UK from Nigeria and they will have to self-isolate in a pre-booked government-approved hotel for 10 days at their own expense.
Nigeria became the 11th country to go on the UK’s red list for international travel. All nations currently on that list are from Africa.
Though Chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, yesterday, said the Federal Government is reviewing the sanctions imposed on Nigeria by the British government, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, described UK’s decision as an act of prejudice, unjust and discriminatory.
Answering questions from journalists at the ongoing COVID-19 summit in Abuja, Mustapha said Nigeria would respond appropriately after the review of issues raised by the British government.
He said: “All countries have processes that they have put in place to mitigate the effect of the virus, the British government has decided to add Nigeria to their list, we are reviewing that and Nigeria will respond appropriately. We will meet and look at all the issues raised by the British government and a response will come out of that.”
The government’s spokesman, Mohammed, wondered why European countries where Omicron variant was originally discovered were yet to be placed on the red list. He, therefore, urged the British government to rescind its decision against Nigeria with immediate effect. Failure to do so, he said the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 will emerge with country’s retaliatory measures in due course.
Accusing the West of using their economic and other privileged positions to access more vaccines than they required at the detriment of African countries, the government reiterated that unhindered access to vaccine, and not travel bans, remains the answer to the global health challenge.
“Let me say straight away that it is up to the PSC to respond to this action by the British government and others, and I have no doubt that the Committee will respond appropriately.
“However, as the spokesman for the Federal Government, I can say without mincing words that the decision by the UK government to put Nigeria on the red list, just because of less than two dozen cases of Omicron, which by the way, did not originate in Nigeria, is unjust, unfair, punitive, indefensible and discriminatory. The decision is also not driven by science.
“How do you slam this kind of discriminatory action on a country of 200 million people just because of less than two dozen cases? While British citizens and residents are allowed to come in from Nigeria, non-residents from the same country are banned. The two groups are coming from the same country but subjected to different conditions.”
He added that the kind of travel ban imposed on some African countries, including Nigeria, is a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction that could only be detrimental to moves to tackle the pandemic.
“Instead of these reflex responses that are driven by fear rather than science, why can’t the world take a serious look at the issue of access to vaccines and ensure that it is based on the principles grounded in the right of every human to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination on the basis of race, religion, political belief, economic or any other social condition.
“This is the real issue to address rather than choosing the easy path of travel bans, which the UN Secretary General called ‘Travel Apartheid’. Let the world know that no one is safe until everyone is safe,” the Minister said.
THIS was also re-echoed by Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the UK, Sarafa Ishola, who described the travel restrictions imposed on the country as apartheid. He told the BCC, yesterday, that what is expected of the UK is a global approach and not a selective measure, adding that most Omicron cases in Nigeria came from elsewhere through travellers.
Ishola said: “Omicron is classified as a mild variant, no hospitalisation, no deaths, so the issue is quite different from the Delta variant.
PRESIDENT of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has also said the travel ban on some African countries over Omicron is “very unfair, non-scientific and discriminatory.”
Adesina, who said this through his verified Twitter handle @akin_adesina, urged the western countries to lift the travel ban on African countries. He queried why the travel ban was not placed on non-African countries where Omicron had also been found.
“Global vaccines and travel apartheid against Africa are endangering lives, hurting economies, lives, jobs and livelihoods from a pandemic Africa did not cause. End the apartheid. Respect Africa,” Adesina said.
African leaders have been pushing back on the travel bans imposed by the Western nations. They contended that the result of South Africa’s openness in sharing news of the variant had led to what they see as punitive measures.
BUT Oyewale Tomori, a professor of virology and former Vice Chancellor of Redeemers University, said the travel ban is not racism, rather it is because the Federal Government “condoned errors of commission and overlooking her errors of omission.”
Tomori said this yesterday at the National COVID-19 Summit organised by the PSC. Speaking during the summit with the theme ‘Global Health Security Threat: Repositioning to End the Pandemic and Build Back Better,’ the virologist said in contrast to accusations of racism by the banned countries, Nigeria is only paying for “overlooking errors.
“I woke up today to hear that Canada no longer recognises my genuine vaccination card. And Britain has clamped a travel ban on us. A few days ago, I had to know there was Omicron in Nigeria from outside. The same Canada was telling me that Nigerians who travelled out with negative COVID lab results were omicronised, before my own CDC finally tells me that we had the variant, detected in samples collected from people who recently travelled from South Africa,” he said.
“Were they people on the entourage of President Ramaphosa? They did not tell. We painfully call the reactions of the UK and Canada racism, inequity. But I say we are paying for condoning our errors of commission and overlooking our errors of omission.
“The first epidemic we must address is the one affecting our culture and true Nigerianess. We must have a nation where national interest buries self-interest. Otherwise, this summit will become a mirage and a vapour. It will be burnt to ashes by the fire of evil that plagues us.
“Unless we build back better on our culture, the outcome of the summit will descend into the valley of the disregarded and disremembered, and become another expensive exercise in futility.”
The virologist, who wept while delivering his speech, said further: “Today, we lie to each other. The government lies to us, and we reciprocate with bigger lies, telling the government it is doing well, when we know it is not. We clap with the loudest ovation for a non-performing leader. We acclaim in pretended joyous ecstasy, those we should not, even when we know they are not telling the truth. We pray that our king lives forever, and he says Amen, when we both know we shall all die.”
The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, António Guterres, first used the term ‘travel apartheid’ on Wednesday, telling reporters in New York that bans “are not only deeply unfair and punitive, they are ineffective.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) also said blanket travel bans would not stop the spread of variants, and could potentially discourage countries from reporting and sharing important data.
European Union (EU) health ministers will meet today (Tuesday) to determine whether travel restrictions in response to the spread of Omicron should be changed. One of the options to be considered is a PCR test for non-EU nationals travelling from affected countries, which may allow travel bans to be eased or lifted.
It would be recalled that when the AIDS epidemic broke out 40 years ago, travel and residency restrictions were imposed on people with HIV, despite there being no public health rationale. These restrictions led to deportations, denial of entry into countries, loss of employment, denial of asylum, and increased stigma and discrimination, which disproportionately affected Africans.
The rush to punish Africa suggests that African countries have now become the epicentre of COVID-19, when this is far from reality. This not only draws attention away from Western public health failures and rising numbers of infections, but also erases the efforts of African health authorities and local health systems to contain the spread of the virus.
For more than a year, African political leaders, scientists, and activists have been calling on wealthier nations to end what has been called ‘vaccine apartheid’. Several campaigns from #EndVaccineApartheid to #EndVaccineInjusticeInAfrica continue to demand immediate interventions to alleviate acute COVID-19 vaccine shortages.
According to Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), just seven per cent of Africans have been fully vaccinated, compared with 66 per cent of the EU population. As of late October, only five out of 54 African countries were projected to hit the WHO’s recommended target of fully vaccinating 40 per cent of national populations by the end of the year.
It is estimated that by the end of 2021, wealthier nations will have accumulated about 1.2 billion surplus vaccine doses.
AVIATION stakeholders, yesterday, said UK’s restriction is not unconnected with economic sanction and a breach of diplomatic ties that should warrant reciprocity. The stakeholders, apparently peeved by the decision, said the restriction was skewed against Nigerians while UK airlines keep coming in and out of the ‘red list zone.’
While many Nigerian holidaymakers will not be able to travel to the UK, Canada and Singapore, at least 8,000 citizens in the UK that are due for Nigeria this yuletide are also affected by the restriction.
Secretary General of the Aviation Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), said the restriction was informed more by economic and political considerations, than the “variant of concern.”
Ojikutu said: “What economic sense would it make for British Airways (BA) to be coming to Nigeria under its COVID-19 rules when 90 per cent of its inbound and outbound passengers are Nigerians? We have more Nigerians going to the UK on BA and Virgin Atlantic (VA). Are we looking more inwards and beyond COVID-19, Delta variant and now Omicron?
“Carrying more Nigerians outbound Nigeria and inbound UK means more of their monies getting trapped in our Central Bank, in addition to over £300 million yet to be transferred before the Omicron fear, by my understanding, is more economic and diplomatic than the pandemic restrictions.
“The battle started with BA saying it would not sell tickets to outbound passengers from Nigeria. Why? Because of trapped £300 million sales tickets money in the CBN. BA looked for another way out using COVID-19 as a reason for banning Nigeria. Pay BA the money trapped in the CBN today, the gates in and out of the UK will be opened to Nigerians,” Ojikutu said.
Chairman of the Airline Passenger Joint Committee of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Bankole Bernard, reckoned that the ban was extra logical, and deserving of sanction from Nigeria. Bernard said it made no sense to place a country in a red zone, yet keep flying commercial aircraft to the zone.
“I think we should restrict their airlines too, just like Nigeria did with Emirates early this year. I don’t think any commercial activity should be taking place during a restriction,” he said.
Rohingya refugees sue Facebook for $150bn over hate speech
Rohingya refugees sued Facebook on Monday for $150 billion over claims the social network is failing to stem hate speech on its platform, exacerbating violence against the vulnerable minority.
The complaint, lodged in a California court, says the algorithms that power the US-based company promote disinformation and extremist thought that translates to real-world violence.
“Facebook is like a robot programmed with a singular mission: to grow,” the court document states.
“The undeniable reality is that Facebook’s growth, fueled by hate, division, and misinformation, has left hundreds of thousands of devastated Rohingya lives in its wake.”
The mainly Muslim group faces widespread discrimination in Myanmar, where they are despised as interlopers despite having lived in the country for generations.
A military-backed campaign that the United Nations said amounted to genocide saw hundreds of thousands of Rohingya driven across the border into Bangladesh in 2017, where they have since lived in sprawling refugee camps.
Many others remain in Myanmar, where they are not permitted citizenship and are subject to communal violence, as well as official discrimination by the ruling military junta.
The legal complaint argues that Facebook’s algorithms drive susceptible users to join ever-more extreme groups, a situation that is “open to exploitation by autocratic politicians and regimes.”
Rights groups have long charged that Facebook does not do enough to prevent the spread of disinformation and misinformation online.
Critics say even when alerted to hate speech on its platform, the company fails to act.
They charge that the social media giant allows falsehoods to proliferate, affecting the lives of minorities and skewing elections in democracies such as the United States, where unfounded charges of fraud circulate and intensify among like-minded friends.
This year, a huge leak by a company insider sparked articles arguing Facebook, whose parent company is now called Meta, knew its sites could harm some of their billions of users — but executives chose growth over safety.
Whistleblower Frances Haugen told the US Congress in October that Facebook is “fanning ethnic violence” in some countries.
Under US law, Facebook is largely protected from liability over content posted by its users.
The Rohingya lawsuit, anticipating this defense, argues that where applicable, the law of Myanmar — which has no such protections — should prevail in the case.
Facebook, which did not immediately respond to questions about the lawsuit, has been under pressure in the United States and Europe to clamp down on false information, particularly over elections and the coronavirus.
The company has forged partnerships with several media companies, including AFP, intended to verify online posts and remove those that are untrue.
Nigeria risks exposure to ‘deadlier’ COVID-19 variants as only 1.8% fully vaccinated
• Lagos tops list with 708,835, Ebonyi leads from bottom with 31,951
• MTN Nigeria to implement vaccine mandate in country
• Sterling Bank partners Lagos to launch mass vaccination campaign
• Coronavirus disruptions caused surge in malaria deaths – WHO
Medical experts have warned that Nigeria is exposed to newer and deadlier variants of COVID-19 as only 3,774,203 Nigerians, that is 1.887 per cent of the country’s 200 million population and about three per cent of eligible persons fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The emergence of a new SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern, Omicron, has reignited global discussions of vaccine distribution, virus mutation and immunity against new virus strains.
Some experts have suggested the emergence of a new strain could be a result of low levels of vaccine coverage in developing nations.
According to figures released on Sunday, by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), 7,075,114 persons were vaccinated with the first dose and only 3,774,203 are fully vaccinated with both doses of either AstraZeneca or Moderna.
A further breakdown of the figures showed Lagos tops the list with 708,835, followed by Ogun with 205,276 fully vaccinated residents, while Ebonyi leads from the bottom with 31,951, followed by Anambra with 39,701 persons.
National Chairman, Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), Adewale Aderemi Oladigbolu, told The Guardian: “This is a call to action to Nigerian government, COVID-19 vaccination coverage in Nigeria is abysmal and we need to demolish all policies of government that limits access to vaccines.
“We should realise the UK’s ban on flights is a protective measure for her citizens in view of high virulence and the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases in some countries of the world. Nigerian agencies and parastatals must love Nigerians well enough to take similar measures to protect her citizens.
“Also, it is not too late to search for indigenous medicines for COVID-19. Well-meaning Nigerians should find research into herbal medicines through the faculties of pharmacies and other research institutions in Nigeria, we cannot leave the job for Government alone.”
CHAIRMAN of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, disclosed that Nigeria would have about 71 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by December ending. He lamented that vaccine uptake in the country was very low not because of vaccine shortage but due to vaccine hesitancy.
“The infection is more in urban areas and we are in a race with a smart virus. The virus is going ahead of us, so, we need to get our people vaccinated. Right now, we have over 32 million doses, we are expecting about 41 million doses and by the end of December we will have about 71 million doses of vaccines, but only seven million persons have been vaccinated and only over three million have received the second dose. That is not enough for us to achieve herd immunity.”
The PSC Chairman said Nigeria has invested in enough vaccines that can cover over 70 per cent of the population before the end of 2022, adding that these vaccines are safe and efficacious.
FOLLOWING MTN Group’s announcement of its intention to implement a vaccine mandate across its operations from January 2022, Chief Executive Officer, MTN Nigeria, Karl Toriola, has voiced support and confirmed MTN Nigeria’s plan to implement it locally.
Toriola said the new policy further demonstrates MTN’s steadfast dedication to keeping its people and the communities “we work and live in safe and healthy. While there may still be some unknowns related to this pandemic, the science is clear – vaccines effectively prevent severe illness, hospitalisation and death. It is time for everyone who can, to get vaccinated to limit the spread of the virus and prevent further strains from developing.”
Both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Africa Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) advocate for vaccines – saying that they are an important measure to protect people. The global rollout of vaccinations since 2020 has clearly contributed to the containment and management of the virus in many countries.
In addition, MTN Nigeria, alongside the MTN Group, has added its voice to growing calls for global leaders to accelerate vaccine equity and lift unjust travel bans imposed on African countries.
MTN Group’s new vaccine policy is a measure to meet MTN’s legal obligations in regard to providing a safe workplace and shall be subject to risk assessment and local laws that apply to the MTN Group and its operating companies and subsidiaries.
The telecommunications firm said it also recognises the right of employees to apply to be exempted from the policy and/or refuse vaccination on certain clearly defined grounds.
ALSO, in a bid to ramp up the vaccination of people against the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic, Sterling Bank Plc has announced a partnership with the Lagos State Government to launch a vaccination campaign that will enable individuals to book for their vaccinations at private hospitals.
By visiting: sterling.ng/vax, individuals, as well as organisations are now able to book vaccinations for themselves and their workers respectively.
Speaking on the Private Sector Participation, the Commissioner of Health for Lagos State, Prof. Akin Abayomi, noted that this is an opportunity for every responsible citizen in Lagos to get vaccinated.
“In light of the impending new fourth wave and the emergence of new variants such as the Omicron, this is an opportunity for us to raise our immunity against the effects of the COVID-19 virus as vaccination remains our singular most effective defence against the severe complications of COVID.”
In a statement, the Divisional Head, Health and Education sectors, Mr Obinna Ukachukwu, said the bank remained committed to the prioritisation of health as one of its strategic pillars.
THE World Health Organisation (WHO), yesterday, said pandemic-related disruptions caused tens of thousands more malaria deaths in 2020, but added that urgent action had averted a far worse scenario.
In a fresh report, the UN health agency found that COVID-19 had reversed progress against the mosquito-borne disease, which was already plateauing before the pandemic struck.
There were an estimated 241 million malaria cases worldwide in 2020 — 14 million more than a year earlier — and the once-rapidly-falling death toll swelled to 627,000 last year, jumping 69,000 from 2019.
Approximately, two-thirds of those additional deaths were linked to disruptions in the provision of malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment during the pandemic and lockdown, the WHO said.
But it stressed that the situation “could have been far worse.
“Thanks to the hard work of public health agencies in malaria-affected countries, the worst projections of Coronavirus’ impact have not come to pass,” WHO chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a statement.
“Now, we need to harness that same energy and commitment to reverse the setbacks caused by the pandemic and step up the pace of progress against this disease.”
Since the turn of the century, the world has made steady progress against malaria, with annual cases falling 27 per cent by 2017 and deaths plunging by over 50 per cent. But the numbers stalled in the years prior to the pandemic.
And the situation worsened in sub-Saharan Africa, where 95 per cent of all malaria cases and 96 per cent of all deaths occur, and where around 80 per cent of all deaths are among children under five.
“I think we are on the verge of a potential malaria crisis,” Dr Pedro Alonso, head of WHO’s Global Malaria Programme, told reporters. “Not only are we not getting closer to elimination or eradication globally, but the problem is becoming worse in a substantial number of parts of Africa.”
But a number of countries are making progress. Between 2000 and 2020, 23 countries managed to go three consecutive years with no local transmission, and so far in 2021, China and El Salvador were certified malaria-free.
Another positive step is the development of the first malaria vaccine. Last week, the global vaccine alliance, Gavi, said it had approved nearly $156 million in funding to roll out the jabs to children in sub-Saharan Africa.