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Saturday, September 12

Hajj to go ahead despite deadly Mecca mosque tragedy that killed 107 people

Islam’s hajj pilgrimage will take place despite a crane collapse that killed 107 people at Mecca’s Grand Mosque, Saudi authorities said Saturday as crowds returned to pray a day after the tragedy.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims had already arrived in Mecca for the annual hajj when the massive red and white crane toppled over during a Friday thunderstorm.

Parts of the Grand Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites, remained sealed off on Saturday around the wreckage of the crane, which also injured around 200 people when it crashed into a courtyard.

But there was little mourning among pilgrims, who snapped pictures of the wreckage and continued with their prayers and rituals.

“I wish I had died in the accident, as it happened at a holy hour and in a holy place,” Egyptian pilgrim Mohammed Ibrahim told AFP.

The accident occurred only about an hour before evening mahgrib prayers on the Muslim weekly day of prayer.

Om Salma, a Moroccan pilgrim, said “our phones have not stopped ringing since yesterday with relatives calling to check on us”.

Indonesians and Indians were among those killed when the crane collapsed, and the injured included Malaysians, Egyptians and Iranians.

“Suddenly, I heard thunder and then we heard a very loud noise. That was the sound of the crane falling,” said Mohammed, a Moroccan pilgrim.

Another visitor, Ahmed from Egypt, said he and those around him were “very scared, hysterical even”.

A Saudi official said the hajj, expected to start on September 21, would go ahead despite the tragedy.

– Enquiry has begun –

“It definitely will not affect the hajj this season, and the affected part will probably be fixed in a few days,” said the official, who declined to be named.

The pilgrimage is a must for all able-bodied Muslims who can afford it.
An investigative committee has “immediately and urgently” begun searching for the cause of the collapse, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

The contractor has been directed to ensure the safety of all other cranes at the site, it added.
The cranes soar skywards over a sprawling mosque expansion taking place beneath the Mecca Royal Clock Tower, the world’s third tallest building.

For years, work has been under way on a 400,000-square-metre (4.3-million-square-feet) expansion of the Grand Mosque to allow it to accommodate up to 2.2 million people at once.

Abdel Aziz Naqoor, who said he works at the mosque, told AFP that the casualty toll would have been higher had a covered walkway which surrounds the holy Kaaba not broken the crane’s fall.
The Kaaba is the huge cube-shaped structure at the centre of the mosque towards which Muslims worldwide pray.

“We saw people dying before our eyes”, the Arab News quoted Sheikh Abdul Raheem as saying.
Pictures of the incident on Twitter showed bloodied bodies strewn across the courtyard, where part of the crane had landed atop an ornate, arched and colonnaded section of the complex.
A video on YouTube showed people screaming and rushing around following a loud crash.

– ‘Act of God’ –

Saudis and foreigners lined up to donate blood in response to the tragedy.

Irfan al-Alawi, co-founder of the Mecca-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, suggested that the authorities had been negligent by having a series of cranes overlooking the mosque.

“They do not care about the heritage, and they do not care about health and safety,” he told AFP.
Alawi is an outspoken critic of redevelopment at the Muslim holy sites, which he says is wiping away tangible links to the Prophet Mohammed.

But an engineer for the Saudi Binladin Group, the developer, told AFP the crane had been installed in “an extremely professional way” and that there had been no technical problem.
“It was an act of God”, he said.

Saudi Binladin Group belongs to the family of the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Sheikh Ahmed al-Ghamdi, former head of Mecca’s religious police, told AFP the accident was a “test” from God.

“We need to accept what happened,” he said, at the same time calling for a thorough investigation.
Condolences came in from around the world, including from Arab leaders, as well as from Britain, Canada, India and Nigeria.

It was not the first tragedy to strike Mecca pilgrims, although the hajj has been practically incident-free in recent years.

In 2006 Hajj, several hundred people died in a stampede during the Stoning of the Devil ritual in nearby Mina, following a similar incident two years earlier.

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3 Nigerians injured in Mecca Grand Mosque tragedy

The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has confirmed that three Nigerian pilgrims sustained minor injuries in the crane crash in Mecca’s Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia.

hajjThe Chairman of the commission, Mallam Abdullahi Mukhtar, who made this known at a news conference in Abuja, said that the victims were responding to treatments in the Holy land.

Mukhtar, who did not name the victims, however, said that two were from Kaduna and one from Gombe.

He expressed deep shock over the sad incident but assured that it would not affect this year’s exercise in any way.

Media report had said that103 people were dead and over 200 people were injured in the incident.
“On the commission’s part, we have advised the various states pilgrims’ board not to allow their pilgrims to go close to the Grand Mosque for now.

“They have adhered strictly to our directive and it is yielding positive results,’’ he said.
Mukhtar also disclosed that 53,800 pilgrims had so far been transported to Saudi Arabia as at Saturday.

He promised that the remaining prospective pilgrims would be transported to the Holy land before the deadline of Sept. 18. (NAN)
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NEXIM boss wants Nigeria's oil to dry up

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Export Import Bank, Mr. Roberts Orya, on Saturday said he wants Nigeria’s oil to dry up.

According to him, until the country’s crude oil dries up, Nigeria may not harness the resources in other sectors of the economy.

This, the NEXIM bank boss said, was why he decided not to finance investors in the oil sector, stressing that the industry contributed less to the nation’s gross domestic product when compared to what the real sector contributes.

Orya spoke to journalists on the sidelines of an event organised by Lonadek tagged, ‘Business Talk in Summer,’ held in Abuja.

Asked to state why he said the country’s oil should dry up, Orya replied, “If we don’t have oil in this country, this country would have been a very great country. Why I said so is because, in the first place, it was what we got from agriculture that we used in exploring for oil in the 1960s.

“And when we got this oil, what were we supposed to do? We are supposed to have used the proceeds from it to develop agriculture and some other non oil sectors. But we have not done that. And because we get easy revenue from oil, Nigerians have become very lazy; we’ve become consumers. Nobody is into production because oil is easy.

“If oil dries up, because of the potentials we have in the non-oil sectors, there will be considerable changes. How many Nigerians are employed or involved in the oil sector despite the fact that 95 per cent of our export revenues come from oil and 70 per cent makes up the revenue of the government?”

He argued that revenue from the oil sector should have been used to develop the non-oil sectors, stressing that the non-oil industry determines the rate of growth in the economy, not oil.

“What is the percentage of the oil sector to our GDP now?” he asked.

He also said, “But if we have used that money to develop agriculture, manufacturing, solid minerals and others, then we would have boosted our GDP. Right now we say we have identified 34 solid minerals in commercial quantities, but as we are standing here, the solid minerals sector is contributing less than one per cent to the GDP. In fact, it is actually 0.9 per cent. What does that tells us?

“It tells us that we have trillions of Naira that are inside the ground and nobody is looking at it because we have easy revenue from oil. So that is why I say if oil should dry up in this economy, Nigeria is going to be better for it because of the huge potentials we have in other sectors.”

On how his bank was helping in improving the non-oil sector, he said, “That is why I don’t touch oil. In my financing I don’t touch oil. I am only concerned with non-oil export. I’m talking about financing the manufacturing sector, agro-processing, etc. I want a situation where I will stop financing raw agricultural commodities to other countries.

“Let us add value, let us create jobs here, because when I finance raw agricultural commodities, I’m exporting jobs and opportunities to other countries, but I am not doing that.”
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Mourinho laments after yet another disappointing defeat

Jose Mourinho refused to blame his players after Chelsea’s worst start to a Premier League season since 1988 was compounded by a 3-1 defeat by Everton at Goodison Park.

Substitute Steven Naismith came on to score a perfect hat-trick – prompting Toffees supporters to chant ‘You’re getting sacked in the morning’ in the direction of the Portuguese, who has endured his worst start to any league in his career.

While the under pressure coach insists he is not happy with results, he will not blame his players.
He told BT Sport: ‘I am champion, the players are the champions, the way they are playing is not as bad as the results but in every single game things are going against us.

‘We have to cope with it, football is about results. It’s easy to say and I agree completely, but results are too bad.

‘I don’t blame my players and I don’t blame myself. I don’t accept the results, I am responsible for the team, I am not happy with the situation and I am not happy with myself.

‘I am with the players, I cannot be against them, I cannot have a bad feeling with them, that’s what makes me happy. I am happy that tomorrow I have to face them again and train with them and prepare them for the next game.
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World's most expensive teenager, Anthony Martial hits debut goal as Manchester United go second

Anthony Martial scored on his Manchester United debut as the Red Devils defeated fierce rivals Liverpool 3-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Daley Blind opened the scoring early in the second half and then saved his side at the other end with a tremendous goal-line clearance before Ander Herrera won and converted a penalty to put the hosts two up.

David de Gea, who signed a new contract this week, could do nothing to stop a stunning Christian Benteke overhead kick on his return to the starting line-up following the collapse of his move to Real Madrid before new signing Martial marked his debut by coming off the substitutes' bench to seal the points with an excellent solo goal.

The result meant United inflicted a second consecutive loss on Liverpool, while Louis van Gaal's side move up to second in the early-season table.

Simon Mignolet gave the travelling fans an early moment of panic by directing a throw straight at Juan Mata. The midfielder fed stand-in striker Marouane Fellaini, who was playing in place of the injured Wayne Rooney, but his long-range chip was well over the crossbar.

Poor control from Fellaini meant the rare opportunities United had in Liverpool's area came to nothing, while Liverpool struggled to provide their lone striker, Benteke, with any kind of meaningful service as neither side registered a shot on target in the first half.

Van Gaal made a half-time change with Ashley Young replacing Memphis Depay and the former Aston Villa winger made an immediate impact, winning a free-kick from Nathaniel Clyne on the edge of the box.

Mata took it, cleverly cutting a pass back to the 18-yard line where an onrushing Blind was unmarked. The centre-back took full advantage of the space, curling a sumptuous left-footed strike into the top corner.

A timely intervention from Chris Smalling gave United a let-off after De Gea's scuffed clearance had presented Liverpool with a rare opening at the other end before the Spain goalkeeper made amends with a sprawling stop to divert Danny Ings' bouncing effort away from goal after a free-kick had deflected into the forward's path.

Brendan Rodgers' side were starting to become more threatening and Blind had to make two frantic clearances from the goal-line after Martin Skrtel had headed on a James Milner corner to cause a mad scramble.

Any hopes of a Liverpool comeback were seemingly ended, though, when United won a penalty. Michael Carrick fed Herrera, who was felled by a Joe Gomez challenge in the box. The midfielder stepped up to take the resulting spot-kick himself and smashed his effort into the roof of the net.

Milner shot narrowly over with a free-kick and Benteke headed over the crossbar from a decent chance as the away team attempted to respond before De Gea was called into action again with a diving stop to deny substitute Jordon Ibe.

Liverpool continued to press and had hope of a late recovery when Benteke produced a stunning overhead kick after an Ibe cross deflected into his path.

But those hopes were dashed when Martial went on an excellent solo run, beating Skrtel and converting a cool finish into the far corner to mark his debut in style.
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Nigeria’s past visionary leaders left good names, not estates, says Osinbajo

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has called on Nigerian leaders to do all it takes to win the people’s heart rather than enriching themselves with state resources.

He made the call on Satuday during the opening session of Northern Reawakening Forum (NRF) Summit at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.

Osinbajo recalled that Nigeria’s founding fathers in the North such as Sir Ahamu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Mallam Aminu Kano, J. S. Tarka laid plans and worked selflessly to realize the varied issues afflicting their regions.

The Vice President, in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, said: “Our history reminds us of the visionary leaders in Nigeria, who fired our imagination through their vision, diligence and selfless service, who did not live or fight to enrich themselves, they did not leave vast personal estates behind, but their names and legacies live in the hearts of the people.”

He commended the present crop of Nigerian leaders who have committed themselves to such selflessness and vision, as he applauded the theme of the Summit, “Building a Safe, Secure and Economically Inclusive Northern Nigeria”,

Osinbajo also lamented the derailment from the foundations set by the founding fathers which has led to the challenges confronting the country today.

He said: “Nigeria is a nation of 170 million people, the sixth largest producer of oil, over a hundred varieties of solid minerals and precious metals, hundreds of thousands of hectares of arable land, the largest economy in Africa, yet desperately poor.”

Noting that the challenges are the same across the country, he said: “The difference is not of a kind but in degrees”.

He explained that in the nineteen Northern States of Nigeria, the human development indices “are by far poorer than the rest of the country”.

“The Northern states occupy about 70% of the land mass of the country, they also have the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the country, the lowest rate of child enrollment in schools, highest number of unemployed young people, highest levels of poverty and faces the challenge of inter-ethic and inter-religious conflict including the Boko Haram terrorism.”

The Northern Nigerian Economic Summit of 2012, he said, was the first fora to draw attention to some of the depressing statistics about the condition of the North.

Based on the conclusions of the Summit, he said that the North had some of the largest numbers of the out-of-school figures in the world.

“Dismal as some of these conditions might be, it does not have to define our future or that of our children”. He said

He assured that the Federal Government was committed to all issues that affect the life of Nigerians in any part of the country, stressing that the Buhari Administration has been very active in interventions in the North East, due to the immediacy of the crisis in the area.

Harping on the need for short term immediate strategy to alleviate hardship and long term plan to build the infrastructure that most closely affects the economic life of the most vulnerable citizens.

Speaking earlier, the Chairman of the Forum, Hon. Mohammed Umara Kumalia, said that discussions at the Summit will help in the rehabilitation and rebuilding of the North.

He also said that the 2013 World Bank Report had shown that the North has the highest poverty index in the country, which the Forum seeks to redress.

Alhaji Kashim Shettima, the Governor of Borno State, said that the panacea for the backwardness and poverty of the North is addressing the problem of agriculture and agro-allied industry and creative ventures in the region.

He also said there was need for a paradigm shift from elite nature of the North to embrace the poor segment of the region.
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Fashola’s social media account hacked

Immediate past Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babatunde Fashola has alerted the public that his twitter account @tundefashola has been compromised by hackers who posted four tweets in a language that resembled Japanese.

According to a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Hakeem Bello on Saturday, the twitter account must have been compromised on Friday, as members of the public, who follow the former Governor, started calling to draw attention to the strange tweets in the early hours of Saturday.

Ex- Governor Fashola also recently dissociated himself from a facebook scam, whereby some unscrupulous persons used his photographs and ascribe fictitious statements to him to defraud innocent people.

Bello said the conmen have, through Facebook, been urging unsuspecting people to apply for some government facilities or utilities meant to benefit the public but to which some agencies of government have been given the responsibility to manage.

One of such information titled, “Disbursement of Subsidy Dividend (SURE-P)” purported to have been issued by the former Governor is informing “Citizens that Subsidy proceed is available for Agro and commercial business”, and asking them to “Apply for soft loan with no collateral, zero percent interest rate and flexible terms”.

While advising members of the public to always clarify with the appropriate agencies of government at all levels before engaging in any dealings with people purportedly working for them, Bello urged people to report to the law enforcement agencies so that those involved in the nefarious acts can be made to face the wrath of the law.
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La Liga : Ronaldo scores 5 times to lead Espanyol trashing

Cristiano Ronaldo opened his account for the season in spectacular fashion with five goals as Real Madrid thrashed Espanyol 6-0 on Saturday.

The Portuguese dispelled any doubts over his form by slotting home the opener from Luka Modric’s wonderful pass before doubling his tally from the penalty spot after Gareth Bale had been felled inside the area.

Bale crossed for Ronaldo to complete his 32nd hat-trick for Madrid and the World Player of the Year then turned provider himself for Karim Benzema to tap home a fourth before half-time.

Ronaldo then rounded off the scoring with two more smart finishes after the break.
Victory moves Madrid to the top of the table, one point ahead of Atletico Madrid and Barcelona who face off later on Saturday.

Ronaldo’s five-goal haul takes him ahead of Madrid legends Raul and Alfredo di Stefano to become the club’s all-time leading scorer in La Liga with 330 goals.

“Someone who scores so many goals has their place in history forever like Raul or Di Stefano,” said Madrid boss Rafael Benitez.

“I think we are speaking of three historic players and I hope Cristiano continues adding to his tally for his good and the good of the team.”

Los Blancos were in action for the first time since their botched deal to sign Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea collapsed due to the paperwork between the clubs being completed minutes after the Spanish transfer deadline.

However, Keylor Navas proved he can be a worthy successor to Iker Casillas with a fine save from Felipe Caicedo to prevent Espanyol getting off to a flying start.

The result was never in doubt once the visitors took the lead seven minutes in, though, as Ronaldo controlled Modric’s brilliant through ball before placing the ball inside the far post.

Bale was playing once more in a central role behind Benzema in attack and produced his best performance in a Madrid shirt for some time as his driving run into the box was cut short by Alvaro Gonzalez.

Ronaldo converted the resulting penalty confidently and was the beneficiary of another Bale assist moments later to complete his hat-trick after just 20 minutes.

Another surging run from Bale helped set up the fourth as he fed Ronaldo and the former Manchester United man squared for Benzema to apply a simple finish.

Benzema could have even added a fifth before half-time as his driven effort was brilliantly tipped onto the post by Espanyol ‘keeper Pau Lopez.

Bale was the creator once more when the fifth did arrive just after the hour mark as he unselfishly teed up Ronaldo to roll home his fourth of the afternoon.

And Ronaldo matched his own personal record of five goals in a game when Madrid smashed Granada 9-1 last season by thumping home Lucas Vazquez’s pass 10 minutes from time.
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Poverty, underdevelopment in North should not define region’s future - Osinbajo

The Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, said on Saturday that the present level of poverty and underdevelopment in the Northern parts of the country should not be allowed to define the future of the region.

Osinbajo gave the advice in his address to the summit organized by the Northern Re-Awakening Forun (NRF),tagged:“Building a Safe,

Secure and Economically Inclusive Northern Nigeria’’.

Although Osinbajo expressed worry that the poverty level in the 19 Northern sates was high he, however, called on the people to evolve strategies to stem the tide.

“`The Northern states occupying about 70 per cent of the land mass of the country have the highest infant and maternal mortality rate as well as the lowest rate of child enrollment in schools.

“They have the highest number of unemployed young people, and of course faces the challenge of inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts including the Boko Haram terrorism.’’

According to Osinbajo, the National Bureau of Statistics 2015 figures show that the poorest 10 states in Nigeria are in the North with the exception of Ebonyi state.

He, however, noted that dismal as some of the conditions and statistics might be, “it should not define our future or that of our children. ”

“We can point to the past to draw some inspiration from the lives of some of those who gave all to ensure that the vast majority of our people do not remain in want and poverty.

“History reminds us of the visionary leaders in Nigeria, who fired our imagination through their vision, diligence and selfless service.

“Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Malam Aminu Kano, J. S. Tarka, and countless others who clearly understood the varied issues afflicting the region, thought over them thoroughly, laid out plans and worked selflessly to realize them.’’

He said the new crop of leaders should note that their past leaders did not live or fight to enrich themselves, but rather they lived to enrich the lives of the people.

“They did not leave vast personal estates behind, but their names and legacies live in the hearts of the people.’’

Osinbajo said he was convinced that if there was the will to think thoroughly through our challenges with clarity and sincerity of purpose the glory of the latter days would surely be greater than the former.

The VP said the Federal Government was committed to action on all issues that affect the lives of Nigerians in any part of the country.
He said the administration had been active in interventions in the North East, due to the immediacy of the crisis in that particular axis of our nation.
“Within our plan is a short term strategy for immediate alleviation of hardship as well as a long term plan to build the infrastructure that most closely affects the economic life of the most vulnerable citizens of our nation.
“We will make the interventions work but more importantly we want to build institutions that live on and make more of an impact in the years to come and beyond.’’
He, however, observed that the government could not end poverty without a vibrant economic policy.
He said the Federal Government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari believed that Conditional Cash Transfer, School Meal Programme, Universal Health Care Insurance and other social protection programmes were critical to addressing the concerns of the poor.

Osinbajo noted that the time had come to take a Bottom-Up approach in economic planning.
He said:“We must plan, budget and draw up policies that show that we realize that over two thirds of our people are desperately poor.

“Governments must understand their roles not as an end in themselves but as institutions formed primarily for the welfare of the majority of the people.

“We believe that this is the change that Nigerians are yearning for in this season in the nation’s history.”

In a paper on developing a marshal plan for the North, Borno Governor, Kashim Shettima, advised Northern elite to shun old practices that inhibited development of the region and pursue education as a priority.

The governor noted that attempts were made in the past to divide the region for political gains but said the region should come together and collectively tackle the challenges confronting the people.
He said that while insurgency and illiteracy were major challenges, the problem of population explosion in the region should be taken seriously in the overall interest of the people.

The chairman of the NRF, Malam Mohammed Kumalia, called for multi-sectoral and international collaborations in addressing the problem of poverty in the region.

As a way forward, he urged the states in the region to devote at least 40 per cent of their budgets to education as the foundation for development of human and other resources.

Kumalia called for free education from primary to secondary school level and that necessary legislations should be made to ensure compliance by parents.(NAN)
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VIDEO: Watch Iheanacho’s first English premier league goal for Manchester City

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Gas explosion rocks restaurant in India killing 85, injuring 100

A powerful explosion triggered by a gas cylinder tore through a packed restaurant in India on Saturday killing at least 85 people and wounding approximately 100 others, police said, in one of the worst such accidents in the country in recent memory.

The restaurant building in central Madhya Pradesh state was being used to illegally store explosives which detonated in the blast, local authorities said, vastly amplifying its impact and destroying neighbouring buildings.

“Initially we heard the sound of (fire) crackers… a huge explosion took place forcing people to run for cover,” Balram, an injured labourer, told Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency from the hospital in Jhabua district.

The blast in the town of Petlawad occurred at around 8:30 am local time (0300 GMT) as many office workers and schoolchildren were having breakfast in the restaurant.

Photographs from the scene showed corpses covered in dust and ash lying in the streets alongside the twisted wreckage of burned-out vehicles, as victims described seeing body parts strewn in the street.
“We have seen them flying and falling on the ground,” Narsingh, one of the injured told PTI.
Residents reported hearing a small blast followed by a much larger explosion, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

Television footage showed scores of people and rescue workers using their bare hands to shift mangled heaps of steel and concrete of the ruined buildings while police cordoned off the area.
Police revised the number of people who died down to 85 after earlier reporting a higher toll, after clearing the debris of the destroyed restaurant and neighbouring structures.

“Earlier we thought it was 104 (people who died) based on various reports coming to us but now our own official information says 85 confirmed deaths,” M. L. Gond, an inspector in charge of Jhabua’s police control room, told AFP.

A local magistrate gave the same toll when contacted by AFP.

“Total bodies identified and confirmed dead are 85 now,” Ashok Jadhav, the local sub-divisional magistrate, said.

“As for the site, it has been cleared and no more bodies are there,” he said, adding that around 100 others were being treated for their injuries in various nearby hospitals.

– Explosives stored illegally –

Authorities suspect the intensity of the explosion may have been compounded by detonators and gelatin sticks, an explosive material used in mining, being stored in the restaurant building.

“Initial reports suggest that detonators and explosives… used for digging wells and for mining were stored in the room next to the restaurant, which made the explosion so big,” Gond said.

He added that the explosive material was being stored illegally in the residential area.

Another district police official, Anurag Mishra, cited the restaurant’s proximity to a busy bus stand as a reason for the high number of casualties.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan took to Twitter to express his sadness at the loss of life.

“The Jhabua tragedy is heart wrenching. I offer my condolences to the families of the victims and pray for the speedy recovery of those injured,” Chouhan said.

He offered compensation of 200,000 rupees ($3,020) to the families of the dead and 50,000 rupees ($755) to help the injured victims.

Chouhan has also ordered an inquiry into the matter.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi followed suit and conveyed his condolences on the micro-blogging site.

“Extremely pained at the loss of lives due to the cylinder blast in Jhabua,” Modi said.

Domestic gas cylinder explosions are common in India, where safety standards are relatively poor.
But although reports of fatal accidents from cylinder blasts are frequent, mass casualties are unusual.

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Synagogue: Collapsed building victims to be honoured

Prophet Temitope Joshua of the Synagogue, Church of All Nation, said the Church would hold a memorial service for victims of the September 2014 collapsed building that occurred in the Church.

A statement issued by the Church on Saturday in Lagos said the memorial service would hold in Lagos and South Africa .

The News Agency of Nigeria recalls that 116 persons, including 84 South Africans, were killed when the six storey building belonging to the Church collapsed on September 12, 2014.

The statement stated that some delegates from the church in Nigeria would attend the memorial service in South Africa.

The statement quoted T.B. Joshua as saying, “the deceased, mostly South Africans, were on an appointment with God when they met their death and therefore they did not die in vain.”

Joshua recalled that the coroner had passed its verdict calling for the prosecution of the contractors that handled the building of the collapsed structure.

He, however, urged government to focus more on what led to the tragedy adding that the building collapsed called into question the security consciousness of the government.
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Borno power supply restored

Electricity supply to Maiduguri, Borno State capital, was restored on Saturday, many months after it was cut from the national grid, Power Ministry Permagent Secretary, Godknows Igali, says.

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Nigeria's Ighalo gives Watford first win of the season

Watford secured their first victory since their promotion to the Premier League as their 10 men held on to beat Swansea City 1-0 at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

Odion Igahlo scored the decisive goal just before the hour, Troy Deeney picking up on a long ball forward and feeding his team-mate, who fired past Lukasz Fabianski for the hosts' first home goal of the season.

Just five minutes later, Quique Flores's men were hit by a red card to Valon Behrami, who stepped awkwardly on Andre Ayew's leg, but the Hornets were able to quell the Swans' attempts at a fightback as they inflicted a first defeat of the campaign on Garry Monk's side.

Swansea's best chances fell to top scorer Bafetimbi Gomis but he was ultimately unable to find the goal that would have seen him equal the record for scoring five times in the first five games of a Premier League season.

Loan recruit Victor Ibarbo was named on the bench for the hosts, having received his international clearance, but fellow newcomer Obbi Oulare was not deemed fit enough to feature and defender Miguel Britos missed out through suspension.

Swansea, meanwhile, fielded an unchanged side from those who started the win over Manchester United, with in-form winger Jefferson Montero recovering sufficiently from his thigh problem to take a place on the bench.

A low-key opening to the game produced little in terms of goalmouth action, although Watford did threaten on a couple of occasions as Sebastian Prodl fired over and Almen Abdi saw his goalbound effort deflected wide by Neil Taylor.

Hornets goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes then did well to keep out a low drive from Gomis after 21 minutes and Deeney saw his 20-yard strike fizz narrowly wide moments later.

Those missed chances failed to ignite the contest, which remained cagey right through to the break, though Watford did at least get an effort on target for the first time in over two hours of play when Ighalo forced a smart stop from Fabianski just before the break.

Fabianski then made a regulation save from the lively Abdi early in the second half but, just short of the hour, the home side's goalscoring woes finally came to an end and the goal itself could hardly have been simpler, a long ball into the box from Gomes nodded on by Deeney and Ighalo calmly finding the net from close range.

The game took another twist soon afterwards as Behrami's apparent stamp on Andre Ayew earned him a red card, forcing Watford to negotiate the final quarter with only 10 men.

But negotiate it they did and the men in yellow could in fact have won by a more emphatic margin, Fabianski doing well to keep out a well-struck effort from former Tottenham midfielder Etienne Capoue.

The result brought Swansea's unbeaten start to the campaign to an end and they will look to bounce back at home to Everton next week, while Watford will make the long trip to Newcastle in buoyant mood.
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Arsenal 2-0 Stoke City: Walcott & Giroud return to goalscoring form

Both Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud answered their critics with well-taken goals as Arsenal picked up a first home win of the season in Saturday's 2-0 victory over Stoke City at Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners laid siege to the visitors' goal in the opening exchanges, twice hitting the woodwork, and finally took the lead through Walcott on the half-hour mark, racing onto Mesut Ozil's excellent pass and sliding the ball under Jack Butland.

Butland remained in excellent form throughout the contest, thwarting the hosts on numerous occasions, but could not prevent substitute Giroud from nodding in Santi Cazorla's pin-point cross as the Gunners moved up to second place in the Premier League.

Arsene Wenger's men pushed forward from the off and Alexis Sanchez came close to gifting the hosts the lead after three minutes. Cazorla set up the former Barcelona forward with a fine cross, but the Chile international's header was kept out by Butland.

Sanchez threatened again shortly after when he tried his luck with an opportunistic long-range strike, but his attempt struck the post and bounced to safety.

Arsenal kept on pushing for an opener with Walcott angering his team-mates in the 11th minute when he unleashed a shot from a narrow angle rather than set up one of his fellow attackers.

Stoke caused the Arsenal defence problems for the first time when Xherdan Shaqiri fired in a dangerous free-kick but Petr Cech rushed off his line to push the ball clear.

Butland was called into action once more midway through the first half, but the 22-year-old showed his class with another fine save to deny Cazorla.

Walcott finally got the better of the Stoke goalkeeper after 31 minutes, though. Ozil set up the England international with a sublime, lofted through-ball in behind the Potters defence and Walcott coolly slotted home.

Stoke made a lively start to the second half with Shaqiri trying to set up Marko Arnautovic, but the Austria international just failed to pick up the pass in a dangerous position.

A sublime attack involving Sanchez, Ozil and Aaron Ramsey should have resulted in Arsenal's second goal but Wales international Ramsey aimed too high and the chance went begging.

Stoke again escaped when full-back Phil Bardsley nearly put a cross from Ozil into his own net but the ball flashed just wide of the goal and out for a corner.

Arsenal continued to create chance after chance, yet poor finishing from Walcott and substitute Giroud kept the away side in the game.

Stoke's fortune eventually ran out, however, when, with five minutes remaining, Giroud headed home Cazorla's free-kick to settle matters; the result means only Manchester City lie above Arsenal in the table, while Stoke drop into the relegation zone.


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EPL: Nigeria's Ihenacho scores first Manchester City goal, ensures win

Nigeria's Kelechi Iheanacho has made a name for himself by scoring a late winner to help Manchester City claim a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.

On the day that summer signing from Wolfsburg Kevin De Bruyne made his debut after being introduced early on for the injured Sergio Aguero, it was Iheanacho that scored the winning goal in stoppage time after Samir Nasri's shot was saved.

Ihenacho shot up to prominence after he emerged as the best player at the FIFA under-17 world cup.
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We’re returning PDP to younger generation – Dokpesi

The Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party e-Membership Registration Committee, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, has said the party is undergoing an all inclusive process of rebranding itself in order to conform with global best practice of political participation.

The chairman spoke during the official inauguration of the party’s electronic registration in Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo State on Friday.

At Ward 1, in Agenebode, about 350 existing and prospective members of the party party, who had reportedly turned out as early as 8am for the exercise, were seen filling forms and waiting to be registered.

One of them, Mrs. Imhokha Janet, described the exercise as a welcome development.

“I am happy with the registration. I paid N1,000 at Skye Bank and I have filled my form already, waiting to be registered,” she said.

The firm handling the project, E-connect Technologies Limited, ‎explained that each registration would take five minutes, while the exercise would last for three days in each of the 18 local government areas of the state.

It also said the exercise would run continuously in all the party’s secretariats across the state.

‎But the Director of Operations of the firm, Mr. Emmanuel Ndubuisi, noted that although the project was designed to do instant issuance of identity cards, the relevant materials would be available on Monday.

However, Dokpesi, while speaking on the essence of the exercise, explained that, while not drifting from the ideals of the founding fathers, part of the objectives of the project was to return the party to its members, many of whom belonged to the younger generation and were atune with modern ways of doing things.

‎He said, “This is the age of the social media, not even the traditional media. The people that are going to be voters, they don’t go and watch television; they don’t listen to the radio. They are just busy on their social media and it is what somebody posts, true or false, that is what he knows.

“So, you can say on your TV 1,000 and one things; the younger ones don’t have access to it. And if you say you must return the party to these younger ones, you must be in the position to lead them. And the surest way you can lead them is through the biometric regis‎tration, to be able to have their contacts and be able to interact with them.”

‎Dokpesi also noted that a critical part of the biometric registration, which was being managed by an IT firm, E-connect Technologies Limited, was to eliminate the challenge of godfatherism or sponsorship of the party by a few during electioneering campaigns, as each member can contribute funds to the party by virtue of his or her membership
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Man urinates on fellow passengers on plane

A drunk passenger on board a JetBlue plane was arrested on Friday upon arrival in the western US state of Oregon after urinating on fellow passengers, authorities said.

“Flight 45 from Anchorage, Alaska, was met by local authorities upon arrival into Portland at 4:26 this morning following an incident involving an intoxicated customer,” the airline said in a statement.

Portland police said 26-year-old Jeff Rubin spent several hours in jail before being released. He faces charges of second-degree criminal mischief and offensive littering.

Crew and passengers on board the flight told police that the suspect slept through most of the three-hour flight but woke up shortly before landing and began relieving himself.

“Approximately 30 minutes prior to landing he stood up and began urinating through the cracks of the seat onto the passengers seated in front of him,” said the police report obtained by AFP.

“At some point Jeff Rubin lost his balance causing him to fall backwards and urinate upwards which got on the passengers and seats next to him as well as some other passenger’s personal belongings.”
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Buhari orders security of Nigerian pilgrims in Saudi Arabia

President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Nigerian Embassy in Saudi Arabia to take necessary action to ensure the security and well-being of all Nigerian pilgrims in the holy land.

The directive followed the deadly crane collapse within the precinct of Mecca on Friday.

The president equally commiserated with his Majesty, King Salman, the people of Saudi Arabia and the worldwide Islamic community over the tragic loss of lives.

President Buhari also urged all Nigerians to pray for the continued safety of their compatriots who are currently in Saudi Arabia for this year’s Hajj.

He prayed that Almighty Allah will receive the souls of those killed in the incident and grant the injured speedy recovery.
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Mobile internet users in Nigeria hit 93 million

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said that the number of internet users on the country’s telecom networks increased to more than 93 million as at July.

The commission made this known in its Monthly Internet Subscriber Data, obtained Saturday in Lagos.

The data revealed that internet user on both the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) and the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) networks increased to about 735,239 in July.

The number of subscribers that surf the internet in June was put at 92,816,572 but increased to 93,551,811 in the month of July.

The data shows that of the 93,551,811 internet users in July, 93,403,147 were on GSM networks, while 148,664 users were on the CDMA.

Moreso, of the 93,403,147 internet users on the GSM networks in the month under review, MTN Nigeria had 41,101,886 customers browsing the internet on its network.

It stated that MTN had an increase of 616,216 internet subscribers in July after it recorded 40,485,670 users in the month of June.

According to the report, Globacom had 19,330,549 subscribers surfing the net in July as recorded in June.

Airtel Nigeria, it said, had 17,605,852 internet users in the month of July, as against 17,598,626 customers recorded in June.

Internet users on the Airtel Nigeria network increased by 7,226 in July, while Etisalat had 15,393,860 internet users in July, against the 15,285,079 in June.

Those browsing on Etisalat’s network also rose by 108,781 in the month of July.

The NCC also revealed that the CDMA operators (Multi-Links and Visafone), had a joint total of 148,664 internet users on their networks in July.

It showed that the only surviving two CDMA networks in the country listed an increase of 33,016 internet subscribers in the month under review, from the 115,648 users they recorded in June.

Visafone had an increase of 32,980 customers surfing the internet in July, rising to 148,461, compared to the 115,481 users in June.

Multi-Links had 203 internet users in July, adding 38 customers from the June record of 165 users.

It explained that the increase in the use of the internet in the month of July showed that more Nigerians were embracing ICT.

NCC noted that the country was making progress towards achieving 30 per cent broadband penetration by 2018. (NAN)
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Buhari vows to punish officers, soldiers involved in human rights violations

President Muhammadu Buhari Saturday in Kaduna reaffirmed his administration’s total commitment to the rule of law and warned that proven acts of human rights violation by the Armed Forces would be punished.

Addressing officers, troops and newly commissioned cadets at the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), President Buhari reminded them that the rule of law applied to the Armed Forces as much as any other institution in the country.

“I wish to remind you of the Federal Government’s commitment to overhaul the rules of engagement and improve operational and legal mechanisms so that disciplinary steps are taken against proven human rights violations by the armed forces.

“We are committed to a thorough investigation of recent and any future occurrences of human rights violations by elements of our Armed Forces.

“While I applaud the integrity and sterling record of the Armed Forces as an institution, this administration will insist on the rule of law, and deal with any proven cases of deviation from laws of armed conflict, including human rights abuses.

“In operational conduct Nigerians expect our Armed Forces to keep law and order, and not to behave like bullies.

“Let me reiterate this administration’s commitment to due process, merit and total observance of the rule of law as central pillars of a prosperous and democratic society.

“Rule of law as an element of good governance applies to the Armed Forces as much as any institution in our country. It is therefore gratifying that all three Services have recently taken steps to emphasize strict adherence to rules in recruitment, promotions, procurement, project executions and civil-military relations,” the President said at the passing out of Officer Cadets of the NDA’s 62 Regular Course and Short Service Course 43.

Observing that security remains the most important challenge in his Administration’s “Change” Programme, President Buhari said the nation expects exemplary conduct and professionalism from officers and men of its Armed Forces at all times and in all situations.

“The objectives of our fight against terrorism cannot be realized without a credible and effective military. You must avoid any behaviour that will tarnish your honour and dignity as commissioned officers.

“Your commitment and loyalty to the Armed Forces and the nation must be total. I urge you to take your roles in the on-going process of rebuilding our Armed Forces very seriously,” President Buhari told the newly-commissioned officers.

Declaring that the Federal Government was pleased with the Armed Forces’ resolve to end the insurgency facing the country once and for all, President Buhari assured them of his administration’s determination to ensure the speedy provision of platforms and equipment they require to win the war against terrorism and meet their long term needs.
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Everton 3-1 Chelsea: Naismith hat-trick piles more pressure on Mourinho

Chelsea's start to the defence of their Premier League title went from bad to worse as they were beaten 3-1 at Goodison Park by a Steven Naismith's hat-trick for Everton.

The Scottish forward broke the deadlock with a header in the 17th minute and followed it up with a second just five minutes later, taking advantage of slack defending from Branislav Ivanovic to bury a low shot past Asmir Begovic.

Jose Mourinho's side got back into the game through Nemanja Matic's thumping 35-yard goal shortly before half-time but could not summon many genuine chances for an equaliser, with failed summer transfer target John Stones leading a fine defensive performance by the Toffees.

And Naismith punished thoughts of a comeback when he completed his treble late in the game, picking up on a through-ball from Ross Barkley before firing home.

It left Mourinho to reflect on a third loss in five Premier League outings this season - the same number that Chelsea suffered in the whole of the last campaign.

Muhamed Besic's return to Martinez's starting XI did not last long as he was forced off with what looked to be a hamstring problem after just nine minutes, with Naismith replacing him.

Naismith did not need long to make an impact. His clever turn gave him the space to pick out Brendan Galloway's run and the 28-year-old burst through the centre of Chelsea's defence to head home the cross in the 17th minute.

The visitors had Begovic - in for the injured Thibaut Courtois - to thank for preventing the home side from doubling their lead immediately afterwards as he produced two superb saves in quick succession, first clawing away Arouna Kone's point-blank header before diving to his right to deny James McCarthy from distance.

But Begovic could do nothing to stop Naismith from adding to his tally as he arrowed a fine left-footed strike into the far corner from 20 yards not long afterwards.

Chelsea then carved out their first real opportunity as Cesar Azpilicueta sprung the offside trap only for Stones to race across to block his effort.

Mourinho's side continued to struggle against an organised Everton defence but Matic got them back into the game with a spectacular 30-yard drive that bent away from the despairing Tim Howard.

Eden Hazard almost levelled before half-time, his shot deflecting narrowly wide after good work from Diego Costa, before John Terry powered a header just over the bar.

The second half began in scrappy style but Romelu Lukaku spurned a good chance to double Everton's lead when he fired straight at Begovic from inside the box, with John Terry perhaps lucky to avoid conceding a free-kick after nudging the ball into the keeper's hands.

Kone stung the hands of Begovic with another effort before Chelsea saw Pedro's penalty appeals waved away a coming-together with Naismith and Lukaku was once again denied by a good Begovic stop.

Costa wasted Chelsea's best chance of an equaliser when he dawdled on the ball inside the area and allowed Phil Jagielka to time his recovery tackle perfectly, with Everton content to play on the counter as the visitors' poured men into attack, with Lukaku again wasting an opening with an overhit cross.

Mourinho threw on Kenedy, Radamel Falcao and Willian in an effort to find an equaliser, but Everton secured their second win of the league season as Naismith latched onto Barkley's clever through-ball before firing low under Begovic to complete his hat-trick with eight minutes left.

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3.4m Nigerians living with HIV-AIDS

The Country Director of UNAIDS, Mr Bilali Camara, Friday said 3.4million Nigerians are living with HIV/AIDS virus in Nigeria and in 2014 alone 60,000 children were infected. Camara made this disclosure during a courtesy visit to the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila.

aidsHe also advised the Nigerian government to encourage pharmaceutical companies to produce retroviral drugs locally rather than relying on imported ones. On the number of those infected he explained that of the total number, 60 thousand are children who suffer from the scourge through mother-to-child transmission or contaminated blood, 124thousand were affected in total.

He said the trend has put Nigeria on the scale of nations that need to do more to curb the scourge of HIV/Aids, adding that it’s the duty of interventionist agencies like the UN to alert nations on the need for more effective actions aimed at curbing the menace.

“We as Africans have a responsibility to take up the global initiative on Aids for the benefit of our people. Domestic resources have proved inadequate to match the global drive for eradication of the disease.

“We must make sure that investment coming from outside is matched with what we are making inside as Africans”, he said.

Mr. Camara also re-echoed the resolve expressed by President Buhari before world leaders that all Nigeria and Africa need is global assistance against corruption to enable it stand and fight alone to curb other social malaise plaguing it.

The House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila in his response expressed dismay at the magnitude of the scourge with regards to the figures reeled out, saying that HIV/Aids has clearly become a human right issue that requires more commitment from all stakeholders.
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Obasanjo gets scared when he sees me, i will soon expose him - Alamieyeseigha

It's about 10 since the impeachment and subsequent imprisonment of former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha by former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, but the past still remains a bitter and unforgettable one for the former Bayelsa governor.

Alamieyeseigha, who spoke to newsmen in his country home in Yenagoa, said that he had forgiven all those who plotted and sent him to jail purely for political reasons even though the experience remains very painful to him.

The former governor was impeached and removed from office in December 2005 and was subsequently sent to jail for alleged mismanagement of Bayelsa State funds.

Some of his property alleged to have been secured with stolen funds in and outside Nigeria were confiscated and given to Bayelsa State by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) working in conjunction with foreign security agencies.

But Alamieyeseigha, who was granted state pardon by his former deputy governor and immediate past President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, last year, said that Obasanjo has not known peace because of the role he played in events leading to his impeachment, arrest and subsequent imprisonment.

He recalled that Obasanjo nearly fainted the first time he met him after his release from prison. He said the former president, who met him accidentally at the Katsina Airport became jittery on seeing him and managed to shake hands with him. Alamieyeseigha said: “I have forgiven all those who plotted against me, including former President Obasanjo. I know all those who plotted against me and sent me to jail. I cannot be living in the past as it does not help me in any way.

“What I passed through is painful all right but it would not have happened if it was not permitted by God. It is even more important to me that I am still alive today because I passed through many shadows of the valleys of death and still came out of them. ‘’I have met Obasanjo at very close quarters twice since I came out of prison.

I did not know that he was at the VIP Lounge at the Katsina Airport to attend the marriage of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s daughter. Obasanjo came face to face with me at the airport when I went to use one of the rest rooms. It happened that as I opened the door to ease myself, I saw Obasanjo sitting face to face with me and he almost passed out.

“But I held his hands. He was scared and he felt uneasy all through. Then he began to ask ‘DSP, DSP, DSP! What have I done to deserve shaking your hands?’ There were many people there, one of them was Kenny Martins, the then chairman of the Police Equipment Fund.

“I told Obasanjo ‘I was only shaking you for two reasons: one-because of the fear of the Almighty God, who created us and two, for the fact that I am the Ganuma Katsina and you are a visitor to my emirate and tradition demands that I should welcome visitors’. “That prompted Kenny to get up also and greet me, saying ‘great leader, great leader’ and he came and hugged me.’’

The former governor said his second post-prison encounter with Obasanjo took place aboard a Dubai-bound flight where the former president met him seated in the business class and addressed him as ‘Fayose’ out of fear . His words: “The second encounter with Obasanjo was when we met on a flight going to Dubai. When Obasanjo came, I was already seated in the Business Class and he had no choice but to greet me.

But because of possible fear of seeing me, Obasanjo called out ‘Fayose, Fayose, Fayose.’ I protested to him that I am not Fayose and I said: ‘Former President Olusegun Matthew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo, you are a devil incarnate.’ “I warned him not to talk again or he would face my anger. And I tell you, throughout the flight he could not say anything to me.

The only thing Obasanjo managed to say was to ask me whether I was the only one who had ever been sent to the prison. ‘DSP, is it only you that entered prison? Don’t you remember that I was also imprisoned? You entered prison and I also did.’’ In spite of his criticism of the former president, Alamieyeseigha, still has some kind words for Obasanjo.

Describing Obasanjo as a leader, who keeps his word and works hard, the former governor said he has a dossier on Obasanjo and would reveal it in his forthcoming memoirs to enable Nigerians know what the man had been doing since 1966.

“But one thing I know about Obasanjo is that he is a leader. If Obasanjo gives you his word, it remains his bond. You can call him any time of the night, and he will pick his phone directly.
He is ready to sit with you on how to solve a problem but he would not allow you to talk. That is the type of character he is. I have a dossier on Obasanjo and I will expose him and Nigerians will read it in my memoir,” Alamieyeseigha said.
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Abandoned projects, reason for N30bn loan – Wike

The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has said that he decided to take loans after he assumed office in order to pay backlog of salaries owed workers and complete some abandoned projects in the state.

Wike said on Friday that it would have been difficult for his administration to pay contractors if he had waited for the next federal allocation.

He explained that since he met an empty treasury on the assumption of office as the state governor, the loans helped him to kick-start the new administration with contractors moving back to sites.

Pointing out that every loan taken by his government was tied to specific projects with verifiable and workable repayment plan; Wike stated that the issue of unpaid pensions, overseas students’ allowances had been addressed.

Wike, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Opunabo Inko-Tariah, was reacting to the criticism by the All Progressives Congress that his administration took N30bn loan in 30 days.

He noted that there wouldn’t have been any need for the loans if the immediate past administration had been prudent in the management of the state’s resources.

He said, “Rotimi Amaechi in one of his valedictory speeches admitted that the state is broke and he is bequeathing an empty treasury to Governor Wike.

“We inherited an empty treasury festered by huge pecuniary liabilities such as backlog of salaries, pensions, fees for students on scholarships and a plethora of other burning issues, including abandoned projects.

“Therefore, there is nothing wrong with the governor going for loans; the issue is not whether loans are taken, but the judicious application of such loans is what should be the issue.” He added that the APC was paranoid by the fact that he was performing creditably to the admiration and satisfaction of the people.

Reacting, the State APC Publicity Secretary, Mr. Chris Finebone, told Saturday PUNCH that what the governor described as achievements were aimed at deceiving the people.

Finebone said, “As far as we are concerned, there is no achievement. All he (Wike) claims to have been doing is to deceive the people. But we are careful enough to notice and tell the people that so far, it has been deception and not real.”
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Senate president, Bukola Saraki donates pension to law graduates

The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, on Friday donated his pension as a former Governor of Kwara State to two best graduating students of the Faculty of Law, University of Ilorin, for the 2014/2015 academic session.

The beneficiaries are Tosin Mohammed and Adam Ndakuku.

While presenting N500, 000 cheque under the aegis of Abubakar Bukola Saraki Pension Scholarship Scheme to each of the beneficiaries, Saraki said ABSPSS would give priority to indigent, but brilliant students who are indigenes of Kwara State.

He said the gesture was part of his campaign promises.

Saraki said, “My aim is to ensure that the fund is used as a form of social security to support existing state scholarship scheme. The plan is to further give vent to my belief that government alone cannot effectively take care of the needs of our people.

“Individuals who are well endowed and blessed should support government’s efforts. That is one of the things that today’s occasion represents.

“It is also my belief that the best resource Nigeria has to propel her development is her human resource. The best brains in the world are in this country. Those who can change the course of Nigeria’s development and make it faster and in compliance with world standard are already here.

“Today, the two people to whom we are presenting the scholarship awards made First Class in Law, particularly in a world-rated University like our own University of Ilorin. This is the calibre of people for which this scholarship scheme is meant.”
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Asset Deceleration: APC governors refuse to follow Buhari example

Following the Buhari and Osinbajo public asset deceleration made last week, governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress have said they will not follow the example laid by President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in declaring their assets publicly.

The governors stated that it is not compulsory for them to declare their assets publicly and that they would not be pressured to follow the president’s action.

APC governors
According to them, there is no law mandating the governors to publicly state their worth in terms of property and cash

The President had said, “I recall that in 1975 when the late Murtala Mohammed became the Head of State, we were lined up in the corridor – governors, ministers, members of the Supreme Military Council – and officials of the Ministry of Justice were brought and every individual was made to declare his assets.

“So right now, all heads of state and government, governors, ministers, and permanent secretaries will have to declare their assets because it is a constitutional requirement.”

However, one week after Buhari and Osinbajo declared their assets, the APC governors said they were only required to make details of their properties known to the Code of Conduct Bureau and not the public.

The Plateau State Governor, Mr. Simon Lalong, revealed that it was not his responsibility to publish his assets, but that of the CCB.

While claiming that his assets declaration form is with the CCB, Lalong said that all that the law required was for him to declare his assets before the CCB, adding that the law did not mandate him to make them public.

He said, “I have declared my assets as required by the law and it is left for the Code of Conduct Bureau to publish it. I don’t think that the law makes it mandatory for me to publish my assets. Anybody who wants to know should approach the bureau for the form I filled and submitted to it.”

Imo State Governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha, will also not declare his assets publicly. He alleged that those asking him to declare his assets were the supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party, who were bent on frustrating his administration as a result of the shock the party suffered during the last general elections.

Okorocha said, “I will not rule the people of the state by public opinion. There were no calls for declaration of assets during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.”

He advised Nigerians not to use the APC’s “change” promise against the party in whatever way.

Okorocha, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Sam Onwuamado, told one of our correspondents that the declaration of assets by Buhari was a welcome development, but added that it was an individual’s decision.

He said, “This is an individual thing. Governor Okorocha believes he is a second-term governor, he is not a new governor that should be declaring assets. Meanwhile, there is no law that says governors should declare their assets.

“When former President Goodluck Jonathan was in power, who talked about declaration of assets? What President Buhari has done is a good thing, but it is not mandatory.”

Edo State Governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, also said he would be the last person to make details of his assets public.

The Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Public Affairs,, Prince Kassim Afegbua, said, “My governor has said while it is constitutional for public officers to declare their assets, making it public is not a matter enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.

“Every public officer is bound to declare, but the idea of making it public is not in the constitution.”

A Government House source told one of our correspondents that the Osun State Governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, was not ready for public declaration of his assets since he had sent details of his worth both in physical property and cash to the CCB.

The media aide to the governor, Mr. Semiu Okanlawon, also said, “The constitution does not state that the governor should declare his asset publicly. I know that the governor has declared his assets to the CCB.”

The media aide said, “The governor has met all the necessary constitutional requirements.”

The Secretary to the Ogun State Government, Mr. Taiwo Adeoluwa, who spoke on behalf of Governor Ibikunle Amosun, stressed that public declaration of assets is not statutory.

Similarly, the Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, said no law compelled him to declare his assets publicly.

The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Ibraheem Dooba, said his boss has declared his assets as the law stipulates and has submitted his assets declaration form to the CCB.

“The governor said he declared his assets before being sworn in and no law compels him to make his assets public.”

Also, the Special Adviser to Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, Mallam Isa Gusau, said the governor had not held any discussion on the public declaration of his assets.

The same is true for the Kano State Governor, Alhaji Abdullahi Ganduje.

His Director of Press and Publicity, Baba Dantiye, said in a text message to Saturday PUNCH that the governor had yet to discuss the matter with him.

In Nassarawa State, Governor Tanko Al-makura has remained silent on the issue of public declaration of his assets.

His Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Tukur Ahmed, also refused to speak for the governor on the governor’s asset declaration.”

A similar situation exists in Adamawa State where Senator Jibrilla Bindow holds sway.

The governors’ supporters, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said it was not the requirement of the law for anyone to make a public declaration of his assets.

One of them said, “It is a personal decision of the governor to choose to make his assets and liabilities public.

“However, he has complied with the law by filling and submitting his assets declaration forms with the CCB.”

Attempts to speak with the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Yohanna Mathias, failed as he neither picked his telephone nor responded to the text messages sent to him as of the time of filing this report.

Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, has also yet to publicly declare his assets.

His Senior Special Adviser on Media, Imam Imam, said he was in transit when one of our correspondents asked him when his principal would publicly declare his assets.

It was gathered that the Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, would not declare his assets publicly.

“Governor Ajimobi has already made his assets public through the Code of Conduct Bureau before the last general elections,” a government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told one of our correspondents on Friday in Ibadan.

The source added, “Ajimobi made his assets known twice – in 2011 and 2015 – before the governorship elections which he contested and won. He did this because he has nothing to hide.”

His Lagos State counterpart, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, is also not planning to make his assets public.

A senior government official who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the governor had complied with what the law stipulates. He said, “There is no moral reason for the governor to make his assets public.

“He did not promise to do so during his campaigns. Buhari made it a campaign issue and he has fulfilled his promise.”

A social commentator and policy analyst based in Lagos, Dr. Anthonia Orji, said it was necessary for the governors to follow in the footsteps of President Buhari.

She said it would go a long way in telling Nigerians that their administrations embrace transparency.

She noted that the actions of Buhari and Osinbajo had in some way proved to Nigerians that the duo had no tolerance for corruption.

She said, “Fighting corruption starts with transparency and truthfulness. That is what Buhari and Osinbajo have done. They are telling the world that they have nothing to hide.

“They are not afraid to be questioned and criticised, which are good things for the country to move forward.
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Ex-militants to Buhari - 'Develop Niger Delta or there won’t be peace'

Ex-Militants in the Niger Delta under the Third Phase Group has called on the Federal Government to aggressively pursue development of the Niger Delta to forestall another crisis in the region. 

The former militants, who flayed the actions of former Presidential Adviser to the President on the Amnesty Programme, Kingsley Kuku, said that the call is timely as such failure in the past led to increase in militancy and unrest, which caused drastic drop in national earning.

They warned the current handlers to be mindful of what plagued the Kuku regime, claiming that the amnesty programme was a huge failure under its immediate past coordinator, Kuku.

The Ex-militants call was contained in a joint statement by National Chairman, Diepreye Ogbetebe; Vice Chairman, John Government; Secretary, Etarighobe Thompson and Delta State Chairman, Prince Ogor.

They spoke as another Niger Delta group, Egbema Voice in Warri North Local Government Area, Delta State, yesterday, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to call security agencies employing state apparatus to terrorize and harm the reputation of ex-militant leader, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, to order.

The ex-militants said: “The Programme under Kuku specifically failed as a result of mismanagement of funds allocated for the programme by the Federal Government. Five groups under the third phase were marginalized and there were malicious diversion and deprivation of genuine and real persons that surrendered their arms and ammunition for which the slots were legitimately approved for.”

They also listed “incompetent, corrupt and unfair representation of Phase III by the so called self-imposed national leaders, deprivation/non-documentation of some of the ex-militants during the documentation exercise handled by inter-agency task forces in the various JTF barracks” as factors that hallmarked the past regime.

The group said that proper verification of arms and ammunition surrendered by various groups and war lords was not done before the allocation and disbursement of the 3642 slots to commence the Phase III of the programme.

“Despite the infinitesimal amount of the 3642 slots approved for Phase III, most of the camps that surrendered less than 20 guns were given up to 50 slots while some of the camps that surrendered above 50 guns were given three slots due to malicious diversion of slots,’’ they said.

Urging the current coordinator of the amnesty programme to look into the issues of ex-militant leaders and their foot followers in the Niger Delta region who were not documented, they said that such neglect was what led to frequent vandalization of pipelines and crude oil facilities in the region by various action groups in Ijaw and the rising Urhobo Gbagbako group.

They also called for immediate payment of all outstanding allowances to its leaders as well as train and engage them with gainful employments to reform and create a conducive environment for the nation.

Meantime, the Egbema Voice, in a statement by Chief Wilfred Elebiri and two others, said: “In as much as we are not opposed to the anti-corruption crusade of this government, we sincerely and will wholeheartedly condemn and fight any person or group of persons that will use the state paraphernalia to intimidate and humiliate our High Chief or any Niger Deltan.”

It continued: “We are making the call because the man, High Chief Ekpemupolo has not done anything that warrants such barbaric action. He is a leader in the Niger Delta with strong followership and he is committed to the freedom, justice, fairness and equal rights. Therefore, we cannot sit and watch while these group of people, all in the name of political vengeance, bring the name of our brother and the people of Niger Delta to disrepute.”

It said the actions of the agents/agencies of the administration, so far, were merely to discredit any person or persons perceived to be on the other side of the divide, adding, “these actions are deliberately targeted at the peace-loving people of Niger Delta whose resources these oligarchy has been feeding on all along.”
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REVEALED: 50 countries share Nigerians’ $1bn medical tourism spending

About 50 countries benefited from the $1bn spent by 30,000 Nigerians on medical tourism in 2014, an Internet portal,, has revealed.

Forty per cent of the amount, according to the portal, was spent by Nigerians to get medical care in India alone.

The Chief Executive Officer of the company, Saurabh Maskara, named other countries that benefited from the rest of the money to include Singapore and Malaysia, among others. As a result of the huge amount of money spent on seeking medical help abroad, Maskara said the beneficiary countries had now identified medical tourism as their national industry.

He, however, noted that many Nigerians seeking medical help abroad lacked access to the right information that could help locate hospitals where they could get efficient and affordable treatment.

Maskara said, “ has resolved to remove the noticeable non-transparent practices which existed in the system.

“ is trying to fix this problem by partnering JCI accredited hospitals and allowing patients to communicate with hospitals directly.

“Apart from the rich, the poor who cannot afford medical travel are often lucky to have organisations and good hearted philanthropists to support them. Majority of people travel for four major areas namely: cardiology, orthopaedic, renal dialysis issue and cancer.

“India issues M type visa for medical tourism where most Nigerian head for affordable high quality health care. Many Indian hospital chains are in the process of opening up hospitals in Nigeria.

“India requires you to have Oral Polio Vaccination certificate and yellow fever certificate, except for infants below the age of six for travelling to that country.

“High quality hospitals in India such as Arthimis, Max, and Primus, among others offer heart bypass for as low as $7,000 compared to $130,000 in the United States and $40,900 in UAE. Lot of them provide cashless services to policy holders of insurance Aetna Global Service, International BUPACIGNA International, and International SOS, GSG/ Tiecare International.

“Companies in the Unites States often give incentives to employees to travel abroad for medical treatment to bring down their operating costs. Lot of these people are travelling eastwards to Asian destination.”
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