PHOTOS: Sowore In Court With ‘Spiritual Adviser’

 

The trial of Omoyele Sowore and four others has commenced at the Chief Magistrate Court, Wuse Zone 2, Abuja.

All five of them are standing trial for criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and inciting the public.

Sowore showed up in court on Tuesday alongside his spiritual adviser who was clad in a red and black striped attires as well as cowries.

 

Sowore had in a tweet called for a December 31 crossover protest, asking Nigerians to pick up a candle and a placard showing their grievances against the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

He and others later staged the protest, an action that led to their arrest by security operatives.

Terror As Boko Haram Insurgents Attack Dikwa LGA In Borno

Borno is situated in northeast Nigeria.
A map of Borno, a state in north-east Nigeria.

 

There are reports that insurgents have attacked Dikwa Local Government, a Borno town some 90 kilometers east of Maiduguri.

The attack is coming 24 hours after the state governor Babagana Zulum returned from a trip after spending three nights in Dikwa.

Zulum left Maiduguri on Wednesday, a day after Marte was liberated, and proceeded to Dikwa where he stayed till Saturday, proceeded to Ngala, and returned to Maiduguri on Sunday.

The attack reportedly occurred on Monday night through the early hours of Tuesday, with the insurgents destroying government facilities, the Shehu’s palace and hospitals belonging to NGOs.

Read Also: President Buhari Celebrates Release Of Abducted Zamfara Schoolgirls, Calls For Greater Vigilance

Channels Television gathered from sources stuck in Dikwa that the insurgents are currently moving freely in the town, and have mounted a checkpoint at the exit preventing people from fleeing to Maiduguri.

The Chief of Army staff had recently visited the headquarters of the Army Super Camp 9 located in Dikwa is where he gave troops a 48-hour ultimatum to clear insurgents from neighboring Marte local government.

At least 35,000 people had fled Marte to Dikwa when the insurgents attacked.

But officials say they are not able to return the displaced people even after the military liberated the town (Marte) because of reports of land mines planted on the roads by the insurgents.

It is not clear at this moment if there are any casualties.

Nigeria Receives First Batch Of COVID-19 Vaccines

 

Nigeria has received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines.

The NAFDAC-approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, around noon on Tuesday, via an Emirates airline.

Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, had said on Saturday that Nigeria will receive its first tranche of about 4 million doses of the coronavirus vaccines.

 

 

On the ground to take delivery of them were top government officials including the PTF Chairman, Boss Mustapha; the Minister for Health, Osagie Ehanire; the Minister for Information, Lai Mohammed; and the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Chikwe Ihekweazu.

Speaking last week, the Health Minister had noted that also noted that once the vaccines arrive in the country, about 70% of the population is expected to be inoculated within two years.

 

Top government officials at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport to receive the vaccines on March 2, 2021.

 

“We have been told to open an account with Afreximbank under the African Union; we have done that already successfully because we are going to pay for that part of the vaccine. The COVAX vaccine is free, at no cost to us, it is made from donations,” Mr Ehanire said.

“We want to immunise about 60 to 70% of our population. If COVAX immunises 20, then we have about 40 to 50 to immunise within the next two years. So, we have to pay for that minus any donations that we get like the MTN donation, for example, all those ones reduce the quantities that we have to purchase or any other that in future are given to us free of charge.

The minister made the comments on February 24, the same day that Ghana became the first country to receive vaccines from COVAX- a global scheme to procure and distribute Covid inoculations for free for poorer countries.

The 600,000 doses delivered to Ghana were the Oxford/AstraZeneca formula, made under license by the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India.

Meanwhile, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency on Monday announced that Nigerians can now register for the COVID-19 vaccination via its website.

Read Also: [PHOTOS] Freed Zamfara Schoolgirls Arrive Govt House, Scheduled For Medical Examination

“To register for #COVID19 Vaccination, visit our website http://nphcda.gov.ng and click on ‘COVID-19 Vaccination e-registration,” the agency said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, noted that frontline health workers would be one of the first set of people to get the vaccine.

“The first will be the frontline health workers because they are facing the battle heavily,” he said. “They will come first then, secondly, we will look at the elderly – those above 60, 65 years and particularly with comorbidities (people who have existing health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease – they will also be in that group.

“We will also be looking and the strategic leadership of the country, and then we would be looking at some other people like those at the point of entry, border post managers, and things like that; This will be the order in terms of priority for now.”

Insecurity: President Buhari Meets With National Security Council

 

President Muhammadu Buhari is presiding over a meeting of the National Security Council at the State House.

The meeting which started at 9:00 am is taking place at the Council Chambers.

It is expected to review the current security situation in the country, with a view to addressing the rising cases of kidnapping and banditry.

In attendance is the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and Chief of Staff to President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.

Others are the Ministers of Defence, Retired Major General Bashir Magashi, Police Affairs, Maigari Dingyadi, Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, as well as Chief of Defence Staff Major General Lucky Irabor, Service Chiefs and Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu.

This comes at a time that the country battles series of security challenges especially abductions.

The most recent was the abduction of schoolgirls last Friday from the Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, in Talata Mafara Local Government Area of Zamfara State.

They have, however, regained their freedom.

The freed Zamfara Schoolgirls arrived at the State Government House in the capital city, Gusau in the early hours of Tuesday, wearing face masks and light blue and brown chadors.

Shortly after, they had breakfast and are now scheduled to visit the hospital for checks before a reunion with their families.

317 of the girls were said to have been abducted from their boarding school.

But the Governor, Bello Matawalle, put the number of abducted and recovered schoolgirls at 279.

Seven of the girls had earlier escaped their captors.

Governor Matawalle said the 279 were released with the help of repentant bandits without any ransom paid.

PHOTOS: Freed Zamfara Schoolgirls Arrive In Govt House

 

The freed Zamfara Schoolgirls have arrived at the State Government House in the capital city, Gusau.

They arrived there in the early hours of Tuesday, wearing face masks and light blue and brown chadors.

Shortly after, they had breakfast and are now scheduled to visit the hospital for checks before a reunion with their families.

317 of the girls were said to have been abducted last Friday from their boarding school, the Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, in Talata Mafara Local Government Area of Zamfara State.

 

 

Read Also: Tuesday Update: Vaccine Arrival & Fuel Queues In Abuja

The Governor, Bello Matawalle, however, put the number of abducted and recovered schoolgirls at 279.

Seven of the girls had earlier escaped their captors.

Governor Matawalle said the 279 were released with the help of repentant bandits without any ransom paid.

Their abduction is the latest in a series of increasing abductions witnessed in the country within the last three months.

 

President Buhari Celebrates Release Of Abducted Zamfara Schoolgirls, Calls For Greater Vigilance

President Muhammadu Buhari presided over a Virtual Ground Breaking Ceremony of the Kano-Katsina-Jibya-Maradi with a branch line to Dutse Railway Project in State House on February 9. 2021.
President Muhammadu Buhari presided over a Virtual Ground Breaking Ceremony of the Kano-Katsina-Jibya-Maradi with a branch line to Dutse Railway Project in State House on February 9. 2021.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed overwhelming joy over the release of the abducted female students in Zamfara State.

Reacting to the development, in a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Garba Shehu, on Tuesday the President said “I join the families and people of Zamfara State in welcoming and celebrating the release of these traumatized female students.”

He also said he was excited that their ordeal came to a happy end without any incident, adding that “being held in captivity is an agonizing experience not only for the victims but also their families and all of us.”

While celebrating the release of the students, the President called for greater vigilance by the people so that human intelligence could be collected early enough to nip the bandits’ plans in the bud.

He also warned that the time has come to reverse, completely, the grim and heartbreaking incidents of kidnapping.

“Ransom payments will continue to prosper kidnapping,” President Buhari said while urging the Police and the Military to go after the kidnappers and bring them to justice.

The freed Zamfara Schoolgirls arrived at the State Government House in the capital city, Gusau in the early hours of Tuesday, wearing face masks and light blue and brown chadors.

 

 

Shortly after, they had breakfast and are now scheduled to visit the hospital for checks before a reunion with their families.

317 of the girls were said to have been abducted last Friday from their boarding school, the Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, in Talata Mafara Local Government Area of Zamfara State.

The Governor, Bello Matawalle, however, put the number of abducted and recovered schoolgirls at 279.

Seven of the girls had earlier escaped their captors.

Governor Matawalle said the 279 were released with the help of repentant bandits without any ransom paid.

Their abduction is the latest in a series of increasing abductions witnessed in the country within the last three months.

French Court Convicts Ex-President Sarkozy On Corruption Charges

In this file photo taken on December 10, 2020, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy looks on as he arrives for the last day of his trial on corruption charges at Paris courthouse. Bertrand GUAY / AFP

 

A French court on Monday convicted former President Nicolas Sarkozy on charges of corruption and influence peddling, handing him a three-year prison sentence of which two years are suspended.

Sarkozy was accused of offering to help a judge obtain a senior job in Monaco in exchange for inside information on an inquiry into his campaign finances.

Taking into account the two years suspended, the sentence of one year jail means it is unlikely Sarkozy will physically go to prison, a punishment that in France usually applies to jail terms of above two years.

China Bans Harsh Punishments In Schools

A pro-Beijing supporter holds China's national flag as he and others gather outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on November 12, 2020, a day after the city's pro-Beijing authorities ousted four pro-democracy lawmakers. Anthony WALLACE / AFP
A man holds China’s national flag. Photo: Anthony WALLACE / AFP

 

 

China has banned school teachers from meting out any punishment that can cause physical or mental trauma, after a string of student deaths linked to harsh discipline in recent years.

New rules issued by the Ministry of Education that take effect Monday forbid punishments at schools that humiliate students, as well as reinforcing the existing ban on corporal punishment.

Banned practices include caning, making students stand or kneel on the floor for hours and verbal abuse.

Students are now encouraged to write an apology letter or do classroom chores for minor offences such as forgetting to do their homework.

Those who commit more severe offences like bullying may be suspended or advised to undergo counselling.

China outlawed corporal punishment in 1986, but enforcement has been lax and parents often turn a blind eye to the practice.

The ministry did not say how it plans to punish teachers who do not obey the rules.

Chinese media regularly reports cases of children who have died after being beaten by teachers or have taken their own lives following public humiliation at school.

A 10-year-old girl in the southwestern province of Sichuan died after her maths teacher pulled her ears and beat her head for getting two sums wrong, state news agency Xinhua reported in September.

A fifth-grader in eastern Jiangsu province killed herself last June after her teacher allegedly criticized her essay for lacking “positive vibes”, China Daily reported. The teacher had allegedly slapped her and humiliated her in front of the class.

A new family education law prohibiting corporal punishment at home is also due to be taken up when China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress, meets later this week.

Austrian Skier Schneeberger Undergoes Operation On Broken Leg

 

Austria’s Rosina Schneeberger has undergone surgery for a double leg fracture following a violent crash during the women’s World Cup super-G race in Val di Fassa, the Austrian ski federation said Monday.

“She was operated on early Sunday evening in Innsbruck and the surgery went well,” the federation revealed.

Schneeberger fractured her right tibia and fibula after crashing heavily at the top of the course. She was knocked off her feet after clipping a gate and skidded down the slope and into the safety nets.

Racing was interrupted as the emergency staff attended to the Austrian and a helicopter arrived to carry her away on a stretcher.

Sunday’s race had already been interrupted following a crash involving Norwegian Kajsa Vickhoff Lie. She also had to be lifted off the course by helicopter after breaking her left leg.

Vickhoff Lie lost her footing halfway through her run, spinning, falling and then sliding at speed into the safety nets where she was flipped over as she bumped downhill. In the absence of fans, screams were clearly audible.

Schneeberger, 27, had been absent from the World Cup circuit for almost three years between 2017 and 2020 following a serious knee injury.

No Fuel Price Increase In March, Says NNPC

 

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has denied reports of any increment in the price of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) in the country in March 2021.

The NNPC disclosed this in a statement signed on Sunday by the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Dr. Kennie Obateru.

Obateru stated that the Corporation was not contemplating any raise in the price of petrol in March in order not to jeopardize ongoing engagements with the organised labour and other stakeholders on an acceptable framework that will not expose the ordinary Nigerian to any hardship.

Read Also: Monday Update: Zamfara Schoolgirls, COVID-19 Vaccines and Dangote Refinery

The NNPC also cautioned petroleum products marketers not to engage in arbitrary price increase or hoarding of petrol in order not to create artificial scarcity and unnecessary hardship for Nigerians.

The Corporation also stated that it has enough stock of petrol to keep the nation well supplied for over 40 days and therefore, urged motorists to avoid panic buying.

It further called on relevant regulatory authorities to step up monitoring of the activities of marketers with a view to sanctioning those involved in products hoarding or arbitrary increase of the pump price.

‘Ready To Go’: Okonjo-Iweala Says As She Takes WTO Reins

New Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala removes her face mask as she arrives at the WTO headquarters to take office on March 1, 2021 in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP / POOL

 

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has officially resumed as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

As she took up the new role on Monday, the former Nigerian finance and foreign minister said she was eager to get straight to work as the first woman and first African to lead the beleaguered World Trade Organization.

“I am coming into one of the most important institutions in the world and we have a lot of work to do,” Iweala said as she arrived for her first day on the job in Geneva.

“I feel ready to go.”

Hopes abound that the 66-year-old will be able to help the WTO address a range of towering challenges, including navigating through the global economic crisis triggered by the pandemic.

“The WTO is too important to allow it to be slowed down, paralysed and moribund,” she told AFP a day after her nomination last month.

 

 

Known as Dr. Ngozi, she is taking the helm after the WTO was left adrift for six months following the sudden departure of Brazilian career diplomat Roberto Azevedo last August, a year ahead of schedule.

Following a lengthy selection process, Ngozi, a development economist who spent 25 years at the World Bank, was finally anointed by the WTO’s 164 members on February 15.

From an initial eight candidates, Ngozi was the clear favourite among the last two standing in November. However, her appointment was delayed by former US president Donald Trump blocking her nomination.

The arrival of his successor Joe Biden made it possible for her to receive the consensus backing required to end the impasse.

 

In At The Deep End

Ngozi is hitting the ground running, with her first day on the job in Geneva coinciding with the annual meeting of the WTO’s General Council.

“I am hoping to be able to listen in and see what delegations have to say, what ambassadors have to say, about the key issues,” she told journalists about her expectations for her first day.

Delegates are expected to agree that the organisation’s next ministerial conference, which had been scheduled for last year but was postponed due to the pandemic, will be held in Geneva in December.

Questions remain as to whether the new WTO chief, considered a strong-willed trailblazer, will be able to mould the organisation in her image before then.

While some observers voice hope that Ngozi will inject much-needed energy, others stress she has little wiggle room to make dramatic changes, given that WTO decisions are made by member states — and only when they can reach consensus.

Ngozi has said she is keen to push long-blocked trade talks on fishery subsidies across the finish line in time for the ministerial conference, but with negotiations dragging on, that could be a tough sell.

And in the midst of a global economic crisis, she has plenty of other challenges on her plate.

She has voiced particular concern about growing protectionism and nationalism during the coronavirus crisis and insists that trade barriers must be lowered to help the world recover.

 

New Director-General of the World Trade Organisation Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (C) poses for pictures with WTO Deputy Directors-General Alan Wolff (L) and Karl Brauner upon her arrival at the WTO headquarters to take office on March 1, 2021 in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP / POOL

 

Vaccines IP Wrangle

Among the issues to be discussed Monday is a controversial push for the WTO to waive intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines.

Dozens of nations say this would help boost production and access and would rein in the pandemic sooner, but the notion has been fiercely rejected by pharmaceutical giants and the countries that host them.

Ngozi chaired the Gavi vaccine alliance before running for the WTO and has made tackling the pandemic one of her priorities.

In a likely bid to avoid a row on day one, Ngozi has called for flexibility, encouraging voluntary licensing agreements, such as the one agreed between AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India, whereby the SII factory manufactures the pharmaceutical giant’s Covid-19 vaccines.

The Ottawa Group, which brings together the EU and 12 countries including Brazil, Canada and Switzerland, will meanwhile demand that countries commit not to hindering the flow of medical goods during the pandemic, and removing customs duties on those considered essential.

Another daunting challenge facing the new director-general will be following through on her vow to breathe life back into the appeals branch of the WTO’s dispute settlement system.

The Appellate Body, sometimes called the supreme court of world trade, ground to a halt in December 2019 after years of relentless US opposition.

The United States, along with European countries and Canada, also want an overhaul at the WTO, believing it has not responded correctly to the trade distortions caused by China.

We Are Not Sure Of When Schools Will Reopen – Niger Govt

Niger is a state in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria and the largest state in the country.
Niger is a state in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria and the largest state in the country.

 

The Niger State Government has said that it is not sure of when the boarding schools that were shut down will reopen as a result of the insecurity ravaging the state.

The state Commissioner for Education, Hon Hannatu Jibrin, said this during the reunion and handing over of the kidnapped Kagara students to their families on Sunday.

According to the Commissioner, the government is meeting with parents, teachers and other stakeholders to come up with a template for the reopening of the schools.

“The security challenge facing this state is huge and we have to ensure things are put in proper place before we will think of reopening the school. I can’t say when they will go back to school or when it will be reopened but we will ensure that the SS3 students are kept in touch with, to see how we will manage them so that they won’t miss anything and still write the final examination. Schools and students are delicate, but we are talking to the parents and other stakeholders to come up with a template for the reopening of the school,” she said.

While admonishing the students, the commissioner encouraged them not to be discouraged by their experience adding that they should go back to the society as better people and identify a path to see how they can get out of the trauma caused by their abduction.

The Director-General of the Child’s Right Agency in the state, Hajia Mariam Kolo, who has been at the forefront of counselling of the students to get them out of the trauma described what they went through as indeed a harrowing experience.

She, however, said she was happy with the students’ response to their counselling.

Mariam also stated that the agency has done its best and that there would be a follow up on the students adding that the feedback from them will determine what steps would be taken next.