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Religious Rights Violation: Reality Or Wild Imagination?

The removal of Nigeria from the religious violators watchlist  by the American Department  of State as announced by the country’s Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and the subsequent rejection of that decision by the United States Commission of International Religious Freedom (USCIFR) is a clear contest for a space in the public domain between a reality and a wild imagination. The two conflicting positions taken by the two organs of the American government are fully indicative of the huge interest and even involvement of the United States in the affairs of Nigeria.

While the removal which was understandably  received with tremendous excitement represented a reasonable acknowledgment or consideration of the realities in the country, the USCIFR’s objection is simply a confirmation of the existence of some strong forces that consistently seek to sustain or even further deepen the animosity among Nigerians.

Religion and even ethnicity are identities to which Nigerians are most sensitive as evident in their usual spontaneous reactions to issues of freedom of worship and the right to ethnic self-determination. A lot of domestic and foreign groups or forces take undue advantage of such a high sensitivity of Nigerians to religion and ethnicity to create and sustain an atmosphere of hostility which, more often than not, leads to violent attacks and counter-attacks.

Perhaps, the reaction of the Nigerian government to the removal, as contained in a statement issued by President Muhammadu Buharis’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, contains the main contexts in which the two conflicting positions should be understood. By describing the removal as an action “based on facts” and insisting that Nigeria should not have been on the watchlist, the government has effectively furthered its arguments against what, prior to the latest decision of the Department of State, appeared to be a consistent bid of the American government to cause a religious crisis in the country.

On its part, the USCIFR which, according to a report, is “responsible for enlisting countries in the United States Special Watch List” expressed displeasure over the removal of Nigeria from what it calls “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) designation. USCIFR’s commissioner, Nadine Maenza, stated that “the commission is displeased with the removal of Nigeria from its CPC designation, where it was rightfully placed last year” and therefore called for an immediate reversal of the decision.

As an agency of the American government that has the mandate for the placement of individual countries in the right categories, as far the protection or otherwise of the religious rights of the citizens, are concerned, the USCIFR is quite competent to declare its position on this matter. It is, in fact, expected to be in possession and consequently be most objective in its categorisation, which continuously makes its actions and pronouncements on the issues of religious rights or freedom of worship particularly weighty.

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However, the obvious contempt and prejudices that have manifestly become its guiding principles in the discharge of its duties have already created a huge reservation over the credibility of its work. It is abundantly clear that the USCIFR is more reliant on the unsubstantiated reports of some faith-based and other biased groups than on existing realities in the country.

The persistent complaints of some christian bodies including the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and some christian leaders like the Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Most Reverend Mathew Hassan Kukah, that Christians in some parts of northern Nigeria are being subjected to discrimination and the resultant denial of their rights to religious practice have unarguably influenced the perception of a lot of foreign governments and groups in this regard. The USCIFR, having fully swallowed the arguments of the complainants, is behaving very much like them, which is the reason for the commission’s unfortunate opposition to the removal of Nigeria from the religious rights violators watchlist.

The USCIFR and its partners are blind to the fact that the prevailing insecurity in some northern states is an ugly reality to which the people of those states irrespective of their religious beliefs continuously fall victims. The kidnappers, bandits and insurgents who, almost on daily basis, take the lives of innocent citizens are typically unconcerned about the religious and ethnic backgrounds of their targets

The rampant killings in the Muslim-dominated Sokoto State where Bishop Kukah comfortably lives and also in some other north-western States that equally have preponderant Muslim populations are a proof that it is mostly the Muslims that are incessantly killed by the bandits and other violent criminals in a lot of the northern States. This indisputable fact has rendered the allegation of design for the decimation of the Christian population in the north baseless.

Happily, even with the USCIFR’s objection, the action of the Department of State has already created the impression that a critical section of the American government has begun to see and accept the basic facts about the issue of religious freedom in Nigeria. The Department certainly could not have just arrived at such a weighty decision without getting the necessary credible reports on the situation in the country.

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It is therefore expected that this development will make those elements and groups in the country that have turned what should have been a normal partnership with foreign groups into a lucrative business to begin to see the counter-productivity of their actions. They are naturally required to substitute their penchant for the supply of unconfirmed reports to their foreign allies for the purpose of attracting sympathy and support from them with  a genuine desire for the proper identification of the scope and nature of the prevailing insecurity to which hundreds of human lives and enormous resources are consistently being lost.

There are definitely inherent challenges in the conflicting positions of the Department of State and Commission of International Freedom of Religion of the United States for the government and people of Nigeria. While the favourable stance of the former should make the government bolder in its effort towards the correction of certain flawed perceptions about the records of the country on the observance of the fundamental rights of the citizens, the contrary positions of the USCIFR should compel the authorities and all stakeholders in governance to look inward with a view to, more seriously, tackling the numerous threats to human lives and people’s welfare.

As an old business, manipulation of the religious sentiments of the people manifests in various forms. Religion which is essentially about impression or belief and expression or practice is, to the manipulators, an instrument for the control of people’s minds, especially the naïve ones amongst them.

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Manipulators of religious sentiments, at various levels, operate in a manner that exposes their ugly determination to create restlessness in the land so that the attainment of peace and development will be difficult or even impossible. It is in the context of this particular fact that the verdict of the self-appointed assessors of the level of observance or protection of religious rights in Nigeria should be understood.

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We’ll Walk For Peace With Sanwo-Olu, Say LASU Students

Lagos State University (LASU) students have expressed their readiness to participate in the proposed peace walk being organised by the Lagos State government to herald the healing of Lagos in the aftermath of last year’s #EndSARS protests in the state.

The students of the state-owned tertiary institution who came out in large numbers to welcome the governor, who is also the Visitor of the institution, said they had all resolved to participate in “A Walk for Peace” with the governor for peace and prosperity of the state.

LASU students made their resolve on the peace walk known yesterday through their Student Union President, Oladipupo Uthman Badmus, during the sitting of the students representatives council, the legislative arms of the Students Union Government.

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The sitting was the first council session to be held at the newly built Students Arcade of the school, which was commissioned by Governor Sanwo-Olu yesterday.

Speaking during the sitting, which was witnessed by Governor Sanwo-Olu, the vice-chancellor of LASU, Prof. Ibiyemi Tunji-Bello, special adviser to Governor on Education, Mr. Tokunbo Wahab and members of the institution’s governing board, among others, Badmus and speaker of the Students Representatives Council, Mustapha Adejuwon, who led students to welcome Governor Sanwo-Olu described him as youth-centric governor.

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“To Mr. Governor, Sir, it is what you signed up for but we are indebted to you. Be rest assured, whenever you walk, we will work with you. We will be by your side. Whenever you run, we will run with you to the end,” Badmus said on behalf of LASU students.

Governor Sanwo-Olu who had the first session with the Students Representatives Council, charged the students to join hands with the state government and LASU management for the institution to make it competitive among notable universities in the world.

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109 Bag First Class As OAU Holds 45th Convocation

A total of 109 students of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State will be awarded first class degrees during the institution’s 45th convocation ceremonies scheduled for December 8 and 11.

The vice-chancellor, Prof Eyitope Ogunbodede, who disclosed this yesterday at a press conference organised to formally herald activities marking the events and the grand finale of the 60th anniversary of the university also stated that the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, would be conferred with the Honorary Doctor of Letters at the event.

Giving the breakdown of classes of honours, the VC disclosed that 109 students came out with First Class (Honours) category, with Faculty of Administration having 24. Faculty of Arts, eight; Faculty of Education, four; while Faculty of Law has 12.

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“For the Second Class (Honours) Upper Division, we have a total of 1,681, while Second Class (Honours) Lower Division has a total of 2,707. 690 graduands fall under the Third Class (Honours) category and 70 would graduate with Pass.

This brings the total number of our First Degree graduands to 5,257.

“For the Bachelor Degrees (Unclassified), we have those who pass with Honours. In the Faculty of Clinical Sciences we have six and one from Dentistry, making the total, seven . Those who pass with distinction are from Basic Medical Sciences which has three while 35 are from Pharmacy.

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Those who pass with credit are 188 from Basic Medical Sciences while 352 have pass. In the unclassified category, we have a total number of 582 graduands.

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“For the postgraduate degrees, where we have postgraduate diploma, professional masters, master with research thesis, masters of Philosophy and doctor of Philosophy respectively, this prestigious university will graduate 1,637 graduands across our 13 faculties.

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Customs Intercepts 31,500 Litres Of PMS From Smugglers

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), yesterday, said it intercepted 1,111 kegs, totaling 31,500 litres of Petroleum Motor Spirit (PMS), also known as petrol, on the verge of being smuggled to Benin Republic.

Speaking to LEADERSHIP, the acting customs area controller, Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone A, DC Hussein Ejibunu said the smuggling of the products was to cause artificial scarcity of the products in the country.

Other seizures, according to him, included 177 kegs of vegetable oil at 25 litres each;  231 pieces of used tyres; 56 units of used fridges; 28 units of used motorcycles;  59 vehicles used as means of conveyance, among others.

He, however, said the intercepted contraband had a Duty Paif Value N3billion.

He said: “the unit intercepted 1,111 kegs of PMS at 25 litres each – meant to be smuggled to neigbhouring countries thereby creating artificial fuel scarcity in Nigeria.

“Other are, 177 kegs of vegetable oil at 25 litres each;  231 pieces of used tyres;  56 units of used fridges;  28 units of used motorcycles;  59 vehicles used as means of conveyance, among others with a total Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N3billion.”

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In the recovery of lost revenues, he said, the revenue generated within the period under review through its interventions, are put at N104million, noting that, the aforementioned seizures are informed by sheer contraventions of relevant extant laws and for purposes of public enlightenment even as the federal government has since banned the importation of rice across land borders.

“Under Schedule 4 of the Common External Tariff which covers absolute prohibition list of goods by importation, Second hand clothing falls on Item 17. Under Schedule 3 which is Revised Import Prohibition List, Used tyre is under Item 16, Frozen Poultry Product is on Item 1, Vegetable Oil on Item 4 and unprocessed wood for export falls under Schedule 6 Item 4,” he pointed out.

Ejibunu further stated that the spirit of officers at the moment is quite high as expressed in the seizures recorded by the Unit.

For any contravention of the extant laws, he said,  Customs officers are empowered to seize under Sections 46 and 64 of CEMA even as Section 47 of CEMA also empowers Customs officers to prosecute offenders and sentence them to 5 years in jail without option of fine.

In the period under review, a total of 41 suspects were arrested, 23 of whom were granted Administrative Bail while 18 are still in our custody.

Stating that operatives in the field have a well thought out strategies to nip their activities in the bud, he added that, “we can only continue to advise them in the spirit of patriotism to eschew smuggling and embrace genuine means of livelihood.”

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NDDC Contractors Accuse Federal Govt Of N2trn Debt

The President of the Association of Contractors of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Sylvester Tonye, has disclosed that the federal government was owing NDDC contractors over N2trn for projects executed in the Niger Delta region.

Tonye, who spoke while briefing journalists in Abuja on Thursday, emphasised that the federal government must urgently inaugurate a substantive Board for the NDDC to ensure smooth operations.

“You have an Interim Administrator who does not even come to the office in Port Harcourt. For over two months you will never see him. He is always in Abuja. We want a Board that will sit and be responsible to the people.

“The Senate has screened the Board already, let them bring them on. The forensic audit was a scam. You can not be on my site and I am not there and you say you are doing a forensic audit. Who does that?,” he queried.

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Speaking on abandoned projects in the Niger Delta region, chairman of the contractors, Joe Adia, said: “there is no way you will give a project to a man, he will go to source for funds on his own, then when he gets to a milestone, you refuse to pay him for about five years, how does he go back to that project?

“Automatically the project is abandoned because you refused to play your part as the Commission. The Federal Government does not give enough money to the Commission, but the little that comes is embezzled.”

While urging the government to come to their aid urgently, he recalled that during the probe of the NDDC by the National Assembly, the pieces of evidence they presented were swept under the carpet.

He also lamented that the Interim Management that exists in the NDDC is not adding value to the Commission, that rather it is returning NDDC far beyond where they are coming from.

“We are saying bring the board so that there will be equity and even distribution of representation in the region. We are the victims. We are the ones that have been owed for over 10 years.

“We have nine states in the NDDC, but one man is heading NDDC. It is an abnormal activity. We have given them enough time to bring the board, but since they have refused, we have come out to say they must bring the board. It is not a matter of negotiation, they must bring the board as early as yesterday,” he added.

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AESID To Umahi: Don’t Drag Oluchukwu Into Effium Crisis

A good governance and accountability group, Association of Ebonyi State Indigenes in the Diaspora (AESID), has raised the alarm that the Ebonyi State governor, Engr. David Umahi, has wrongly accused and trying to link its President, Amb. Pascal Oluchchukwu, to the recent crisis in Effium community in Ohaukwu local government area of the state.

The group described the development as “embarrassing, disdainful and threatening disposition” to Oluchukwu by the governor.

AESID said the governor had allegedly in a phone call recently accused Oluchchukwu of being one of the masterminds of attacks which led to the death of some Police officers on investigation duty in the war-torn Effium community.

But in a statement issued in Abuja on Friday by the secretary of the organisation, Barr. Nnamdi Imeze E., the group demanded “an unreserved apology from Governor Umahi within 24 hours and withdrawal of all threats, accusations he allegedly made against Oluchukwu.

The organisation said following the recent abduction of some construction workers on duty at the Effium section of the Abakaliki ring road and their reported killing by their captors, the Ebonyi state government had dispatched a team of officers from the anti-kidnapping unit of the State’s Police Command who went in search of the victims before they were reportedly ambushed by armed gunmen who shot and killed them including abducting some of the uniformed men.

“We brutally condemn the recent incidents of renewed attacks and hostilities in Effium since the war between the Effium aborigines of Korri extraction and the their Ezza brothers both of who have always lived in peace and harmony till the recent politically-motivated killings over alleged control of a motor park.

“However, AESID is perturbed by the weighty allegations without any iota of credible proof or substance against our leader, Ambassador Paschal Oluchukwu who was recently put on a rather strange call by the Governor, accusing him of being one of the sponsors of the fighter warriors accused of perpetrating the recent attacks on Police men on duty. Governor Umahi is on record as having specifically threatened to petition our revered leader to the Buhari Presidency as a sponsor of the Effium crises.

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“This does not only sound strange to us but a surprising case of attempting to give a dog a bad image in order to hang it! We would consequently wish to raise some few very germane posers and concerns for the Umahi-led administration which AESID believes has failed to better manage the Effium crises with a view to bringing a reasonably enduring solution:

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“Since this ugly carnage started in January 22, 2021, what really can the Umahi government boast of doing to bring peace? We recall that AESID, just like some other platforms had long called for the removal from office of the Local Government Chairman and other political office holders from the area who has been severally accused of using public funds to hire arms and mercenaries to sustain the tempo of the killings. About 11 months down the line, Odaa and other suspected masterminds of the killings have rather remained not only in office, but still calling the shots on happenings in the now deserted Effium community.

“What has the panels set up by the State government accomplished thus far that is known to Ebonyians? Why is it taking nearly eternity for Umahi to be pragmatic in bringing an enduring solution to the crises? Does his biddable posture since the beginning of the crisis not validate claims in certain quarters that his administration is rather fertilizing or giving tacit endorsements to the crisis for some yet-to-be-uncovered political reasons?

“With thousands successfully displaced from their homes and many still taking shelters in his newly-built Round-Abouts at Ezzamgbo, Abakaliki in the residences of some deeply concerned friends, well-wishers and relatives in various parts of the State, what succour has the Umahi administration really given these distraught victims? Or are there no longer humanitarian and disaster management agencies in the State and at the federal level?

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“Why is it difficult for the Umahi government to take bold steps towards sincerely reaching out to all parties involved in the conflict and rebuilding the destroyed homes, farmlands and other properties worth billions of naira that have been damaged in Effium?

“What also happened to the army of security personnel which Umahi claimed on National Televisions to have dispatched to the area to restore peace?”

While condemning the phone threat allegedly made by the governor, AESID said without publicity, Oluchukwu had donated cash and other resources to the affected communities.

“He has as a matter of fact been deeply concerned by the crises that he has given several other supports to the victims and their relatives all buoyed by his very passionate disposition for the plights of Ebonyi people anywhere in the world.

“Same should be widely and reasonably publicized in various Nigerian media outlets and copied the various offices he may have contacted or plan to contact for the purposes of accomplishing his voiced evil machinations, which is not only record but being carefully studied by our team of local and international legal experts.

“Failure to do so as demanded within the stated period, AESID vows to make a formal petition against his office and person which would culminate into a proper litigation before some reputable national and international human rights and social justice agencies. Even when he leaves office, we shall stringently demand that he proves his sneering allegations against our leader before the International Criminal Court, ICC, Amnesty International and other justice agencies of repute,” they stated.

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Ex-Edo Gov, Igbinedion, Loses Mother At 85

Mother of a former governor of Edo State, Mr. Lucky Igbinedion, Mrs. Maria Oredola Igbinedion, has passed away.

According to a statement by the former governor, Mrs Igbinedion died on Thursday, December 2, 2021.

The statement reads: “With gratitude to God for a fruitful and eventful life, we announce the transition to glory of our mother, grandmother and great grandmother, Madam Maria Oredola Igbinedion who joined the Saints in the early hours of 2nd December, 2021 at the age of 85.

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“She is survived by children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.”

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He added that the burial arrangement of the late octogenarian would be announced later.

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Mrs Igbinedion was a descendant of the popular Ogbebor family of Usen, in Ovia North-East local government area of the State.

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Coca-Cola Nigeria Receives Awards In Top 50 Brands Report

Leading beverage company, Coca-Cola Nigeria, has received two honours in the 2021 annual top corporate brand evaluation report, TOP 50 BRANDS NIGERIA. The company received the honours at an official presentation at the Coca-Cola head office in Lagos, on November 29, 2021.

According to the representatives, this year’s edition of the report highlighted brands that have demonstrated strong resilience and an adaptive capacity to the new normal while growing or maintaining their respective brands.These brands have maintained consumers’ confidence and market shares, as observed by professionals and analysts.

With two recognitions, Coca-Cola emerged in two Beverages Categories, namely the ‘Top Brand that Powers Nigeria’ and the ‘Most Valuable’ in the country. The company emerged fourth in the former category, effectively topping the Beverages category.

Speaking at the presentation, the director, Public Affairs, Communications & Sustainability, Coca-Cola Nigeria Nwamaka Onyemelukwe, commended the report’s meticulousness, heralding it as a thought-leading endeavour.

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“We appreciate this honour presented to us,” she said. “At Coca-Cola, we constantly strive to craft the brands and choice of drinks that people love, and we do this in ways that create a more sustainable business and better-shared future for our immediate environment and communities. This award signals and validates the effectiveness of our vision for the present and the future, and we remain committed to driving initiatives that will no doubt make a difference in the lives of our communities and the planet,” she continued

The annual Top Brands table is determined with a special-purpose model called the Brand Strength Measurement (BSM Index). The BMI Index is a model that tests a brand’s ability to deliver on its promise to its consumers from the consumers’ point of view.

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qualitative, non-financial evaluation of top corporate brands in the country, and it is determined annually. Using the BMI Index, Coca-Cola emerged with a total of 78.3 points in recognition of the company’s constant portfolio transformation, contributions to the economy, and its sustainability footprint in Nigeria.

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Celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, Coca-Cola has reiterated its commitment to ‘refreshing the world’ and ‘making a difference.’ This vision has been distilled, especially, into its sustainability initiatives in Nigeria, with investments running into millions of dollars. Along with its bottling partner, the Nigerian Bottling Company, the Coca-Cola System provides livelihoods to over fifteen million Nigerians across its value chain, contributing significantly to sustained economic growth

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Salami Summons Yusuf, Annih 28 Others To Camp For Africa Handball Championship

Technical Adviser of the Senior Men National Handball Team, Coach Rafiu Salami has summoned KS Vive Kielce player Faruk Yusuf, Israel based Obinna Annih and twenty eight other for intensive camping ahead of the 2022 African Men’s Handball Championship holding in Morocco.

The 30 players arrived Abuja for camping on Wednesday, December 1, 2021 after the executive board of the Handball Federation of Nigeria approved the list of players for preparation for the of the Nation’s Cup that is in its 25th edition.

Several players, who participated at the just concluded Prudent Energy Handball Premier League were invited for camping after Coach Rafiu watched them in the league.

Some of the players include Goalkeeper Sanni Bature and his Kano Pillars teammates, Stephen Sesugh and Chris Ogedengbe, Confluence Stars duo of Anthony Agada and Cameroon-born Michael John, Sokoto Rima’s Abbas Mohammed to mention a few.

Also included are foreign based players led by Obinna Annih and Kielce Vive of Poland sensation Faruk Yusuf.

Coach Rafiu Salami will be assisted by league winning Kano Pillars gaffer, Coach Solomon Yola and goalkeeper trainer Coach Segun Tunji.

Nigeria has participated in eleven editions of the Africa Men Handball Nations with their best outing recorded in the 1998 edition held in South Africa wherein they finished 4th after losing to Egypt 35-26.

The Africa Men Handball Championship, which will commence from January 13 to 23 2022, is the African qualifying tournament for the 2023 World Men’s Handball Championship in Poland and Sweden.

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We ‘ll Make Darts Household Sport In Nigeria- Oyoku

Newly elected president of the Darts Federation of Nigeria (DFN) Rita Oyoku,  has vowed to make the game of darts an household sport in the country.

Oyoku made the vow while speaking to newsmen on Thursday in Abuja, she also  revealed her reasons why she contested for the post of the darts federation’s president in the last sports federation general elections. 

Oyoku further noted that the federation under her leadership would ensure the rapid development of the game at the grassroots level across the country as they are set to take the nation’s darts game international. 

“My journey into the leadership of Darts Federation of Nigeria is my desire to see that darts strive and I see an opportunity to an enabling environment for youth to develop themselves, it also my desire to see that at the end of my tenure we will see the game taken to the international level. 

“We want to take darts to the next level we want to make darts like the game of golf well known to everyone because a game of dart is a game of relaxation which we believe that, it helps mentally and ease stress. 

According to her”we also will be embarking on developing the game at the grassroots level and staging tournaments across the country” she said.

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103 Winners Emerge In Glo Joy Unlimited Extravaganza

Telecommunications service provider and originators of the Joy Unlimited Extravaganza promo Globacom, have rewarded over 100 of its subscribers in Ibadan, Oyo State, with various household appliances including generators, refrigerators and television sets.

Upon receiving his prize, 28-year-old Islamic and Arabic teacher, Ibrahim Sadeeq explained that he regarded the prize as an answered prayer for his Imam who does not have a power generating set.

“I have benefitted immensely from the knowledge of my Imam, Alhaji Suleiman Adebayo Baba Olore. I have decided to donate the generator to him”.

Aubade Moshood, a 53-year-old transporter who won a television set believes in the power of positive confessions. “Just about an hour before Glo called to inform me that I had won, I told my neighbours that I wished to buy a new television set. They all wondered where I would get the money to buy it considering the harsh realities of the economy. We dispersed and I went about my daily routine only to receive a call from 121 informing me that I had won a TV set. I rushed back to the people I was bantering with and shouted that God had shown me mercy by giving me what I desired”, he said.

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His experience is not too different from that of 28-year-old Ogunwale Oluwamuyiwa Elijah, an Evangelist at Agbala Daniel Church, Ibadan; Lawal Babatunde  Ajagbe , an aluminum fabricator who needs the power generating set to move his business forward, Mrs. Afolami Aderonke who won a television set and 44-year-old Saliu Abdulaziz who won a refrigerator.

Globacom’s regional sales coordinator, West, Mr. Akeem Yusuf, explained that Globacom is giving out over 500,000 prizes, including 5 Kia Rio cars monthly, 100 household appliances like fridges, television sets, and generators to be won weekly, and 5,000 data plans and CRBT daily prizes in the promo. He added that other prize presentation events will be held nationwide.

Subscribers who want to participate in the Joy Unlimited Extravaganza promo are required to make a total recharge of N500 in a week, Monday to Sunday, to qualify for the weekly draws, while a total recharge of N2,000 in a calendar month qualifies a subscriber for the monthly draws to win any of the car prizes.

All recharge amounts, physical, electronic, special (4x, 5x, etc.) count towards qualification, and customers can participate in the promo by dialing *611# on the Glo network.

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CFAN Seeks Establishment Of Cocoa Trust Fund

National president of Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN), Comr Adeola Adegoke has called for the establishment of Cocoa Trust Fund.

According to Adegoke, the establishment of the trust fund will address poor funding and  low investment and help revamp the cocoa sector for job creation and improve foreign exchange earnings for the country.

Speaking on the theme, “Nigeria Cocoa Industry : Past, Present and Future”, at the Cocoa Summit and Awards in Abuja, he said  millions of livelihoods are threatened daily as a result of the dwindling cocoa production and productivity which is presently at 300-400 kg/m per hectare of land.

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He added that the sector has lost 40 percent of its proceed annually due to the advent of climate change, poor quality cocoa bean and lost to illegal activities.

He noted that the consequences of the nation unregulated cocoa industry has deprived Nigeria smallholder cocoa farmers about fifty five billion naira yearly as a result of Nigeria not joining Ivory coast and Ghana in the collection of $400 per ton known as Living Income Differential (LID) paid to Cocoa farmers.

Adressing participants at the event, minister of agriculture and rural development, Dr Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar disclosed that the ministry has drafted the National Cocoa Plan (2021-2030) to promote a sustainable cocoa economy, resurgence in production and industrialisation to trigger a robust consumption, farmgate prosperity and youth engagement.

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Nigeria, Chad To Partner On Power Interconnection

The federal government has promised continuous interaction on power interconnection with the Republic of Chad.

Minister of Power, Abubakar Aliyu who stressed Nigeria’s commitment to regional integration and willingness to resuscitate engagement between Nigeria and Chad, said that directors of the ministry with institutional memory of the engagements will kick-start the interaction.

The minister while receiving the Chadian Ambassador, Abakar Saleh Chahaimi, noted that Nigeria is geographically closer to Chad and also shares cultural values than some other African countries.

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He, therefore, emphasized the need for the partnership of mutual benefits to both nations.

Furthermore, the minister stressed the need for collaboration between countries particularly Africans stating that no Nation can survive alone.

Earlier, the Chadian Ambassador to Nigeria, Abakar Saleh Chahaimi congratulated the Minister on his appointment and chronicled the previous engagements and interaction on power interconnection between the Chadian Government and Nigeria which he said did not culminate into signing of a Memorandum of Understanding.

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He requested that the proposed partnership on interconnection be reopened stating that both countries stand the chance to benefit in the partnership.

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On the recent power interconnection between Chad and Cameroon financed by the World Bank, the Chadian Ambassador said he expects same with Nigeria bearing in mind African integration for development.

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Dare Bags Best Performing Minister Award, Tasks Youth On Digital Skills

The minister of youth and sports development, Sunday Dare, has charged Nigerian youth on the need to up skills their knowledge with digital training, saying there are no shortcuts to success.

He urged the youth to see themselves as solution providers, entrepreneurs and have high level of trust in government so as to maximise the opportunities they are given.

The minister gave the charge yesterday in Abuja when he was honoured with an award of best performing minister by the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN).
Dare, who was represented by his SA on multi- media, Mr Toyin Ibitoye, said the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development is leading the efforts to invest in the youth working in the informal sector with the provision of soft loans and credit facilities at single digit interest rates to make them self starters and key contributors to the growth of the economy.

According to him, over 6000 youth have benefited from the loans while another 20,000 youth are in the process of being the next set of beneficiaries.

“There are no shortcuts to success either as a collective or an individual so for the youth to be our solution providers in this country, they need digital skills, an entrepreneurial spirit and a high level of trust in Government so they can maximize the opportunities they are given.

“No nation can lift itself out of poverty and economic hardship or drought without a deliberate action plan to invest in its youth and the informal sector.
The key to economic growth is the strengthening of our Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs). Our formal sector is struggling and gasping for breath in Nigeria while the informal sector is yearning to be opened up.

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“The Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development is leading the efforts to invest in the youth working in the informal sector with the provision of soft loans and credit facilities at single digit interest rates. This is through the Nigerian Youth Investment Fund (NYIF). Most of you know the details already. It is on the website of the Ministry. For those who don’t know…it is about the N75b approved by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, N25b per year for three years to lift the youth, make them self starters and key contributors to the growth of the economy. Over Six Thousand (6000) youth have benefited from it so far and another Twenty Thousand(20,000) youth are in the process of being the next set of beneficiaries,” he said.
He also urged the youth to imbibe the culture of volunteerism, saying it will help them to gather experiences that will prepare them for opportunities at the global work space.

“Volunteerism is an investment in your future,” Minister said. “Sunday, 5th December, 2021 is the International Day of Volunteerism. This culture of volunteerism must be imbibed by the youth. Volunteerism gives you a foot at the door in places where you, ordinarily, could have been locked out.

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It helps you to gather experiences that prepare you for opportunities at the global work space.”

He described the award as a call to greater service and dedicated it to all Nigerian youths.
“This award of ‘Best Performing Minister in Nigeria’ is a call to greater service for me in the pursuit of excellence for the Nigerian Youth. It is a call for more hard work.

“This award is also not a personal award, I refuse to see it as such. It is dedicated to all the youth and to all those who have worked tirelessly, oftentimes behind the scene, with me in the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development. It is a long list. From the Permanent Secretary Alhaji Ismail Abubakar, the directors, the field workers, the secretaries, cleaners, security officers, everyone.

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“I am more inspired now than ever before to be totally committed to the Federal Government and the mandate of this Ministry in drawing up policies, initiatives, programmes and projects that will uplift the Nigerian youth.

“Finally, I am grateful for the honours done me with this award and i congratulate the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) for the giant strides taken in recent times. I urge them not to relent in their pursuits in the interest of the Nigeria and her youth.”

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Rangnick ‘To Be Handed £100m January Budget At United’

Manchester United are reportedly prepared to hand new interim head coach Ralf Rangnick as much as £100m to spend during the January transfer window.

Rangnick will manage the Red Devils for the remainder of the 2021-22 campaign before taking on a two-year consultancy role, where he is expected to be involved in bringing new players to the club.

According to The Mirror, Man United are confident that the German can turn the team’s season around and are prepared to hand him a winter budget of £100m.

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The report claims that RB Leipzig duo Amadou Haidara and Christopher Nkunku are January targets for the 20-time English champions, although any move for Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Braut Haaland will have to wait until next summer.

Rangnick is also believed to be ready to explore the idea of signing Timo Werner from Chelsea, with the Blues thought to be open to selling the Germany international.

Man United’s new interim manager is expected to be in the stands for Thursday’s Premier League clash against Arsenal, with Michael Carrick again leading the team from the dugout.

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No Going Back On 2019 NBBF Constitution, FIBA Declares

The Federation of International Basketball Associations (FIBA) has declared that it will not accept any amendment to the 2019 Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) constitution.

In its latest letter addressed to the  Minister of Youth and Sports, Chief Sunday Dare, FIBA maintained its stance as contained in its November 10 letter where they unequivocally stated that National Member Federations (NMF) must manage their affairs independently without the influence of third parties and ensure that their officials are elected or appointed under a democratic process in line with Article 9.7 of the FIBA’s General Statutes.

To accommodate the interest of all parties, Central Board of the body approved a 30th, January, 2022 extension date for the conduct of a fresh election into the board of the Nigeria Basketball Federation by the Congress.

This move is to accommodate the ongoing peace and reconciliation move of the federal government at the behest of the Minister.

Signed by the FIBA President, Hamane Niang and Andreas Zagklis (FIBA Secretary), the letter stated that, “We hereby inform you that FIBA’s Central Board has approved a deadline extension for the celebration of the Nigeria Basketball Federation’s (NBBF) Electoral Congress up until 31 January 2022. In doing so, FIBA reiterates and confirms the contents of our letter dated 2 November 2021, including that FIBA will not recognise any changes to the NBBF’s statutes prior to the celebration of the Electoral Congress.

Regarding the participation of the national teams in the FIBA 2023 World Cup African Qualifiers, FIBA confirmed that the NBBF holds the obligation to manage the affairs of the national team independently and without the influence of third parties.

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