Kagara Abductees Released – Official

The photo was taken from the Kagara school after the attack on February 17, 2021.

 

The abductees from Government Science Secondary School Kagara, in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State have been released.

A government official who confirmed the release to Channels TV said they are on their way to Minna, the state capital.

According to him, the children were released from a location close to where the fifty-three abductees were released a week ago.

They are expected to be received by Governor Abubakar Bello at the Government House in Minna.

Twenty-seven students and 14 others were abducted from the school.

Gunmen had on February 17 stormed the school and whisked away 42 people, including 27 students from the Kagara school.

READ ALSO: From Chibok To Jangebe: A Timeline Of School Kidnappings In Nigeria

Sources told Channels Television that the armed men invaded the school at about 2:00 am and were shooting sporadically before carrying out their nefarious act.

Some teachers and their family members residing within the college staff quarters were also said to have been abducted by the gunmen.

The bandits were said to have worn a military uniform and entered the school premises which has about 1000 students, overpowered the security guard, before whisking away the students and staff.

Prior to that, over 300 students of the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State were also abducted in December 2020.

They were, however, all rescued shortly after.

 

Three Arrested In Ogun For Allegedly Beating 23-Year-Old Man To Death

 

The police in Ogun have arrested three men accused of beating a 23-years-old boy to death over an alleged phone theft.

Three suspects who are all residents of Iju Ota were arrested after the father of the victim, Mr Ajibade Gbenga, rushed to the Onipanu Divisional Headquarters of the police to report that his son, Samuel, had been accused of stealing two mobile phones and beaten to death.

According to the man, the suspects beat Samuel up till he lost consciousness after accusing him of stealing the phones. The young man was rushed to the General Hospital in Ota for medical attention but was confirmed dead on arrival by a doctor.

In a statement on Sunday, the police spokesperson in the state, DSP Abimbola Oyeyemi, said after the complaint, the Chief Superintendent of Police in the division, Bamidele Job, led his detectives to the scene and arrested the three suspects.

According to the police spokesperson, if not for the intervention of the police, an angry crowd would have lynched the three suspects after realising that the young man was dead.

An investigation has been started by the police after which those charged will be prosecuted.

“The Commissioner of Police, CP Edward Awolowo-Ajogun, has ordered the immediate transfer of the suspects to the homicide section of the state criminal investigation and intelligence department for further investigation and diligent prosecution,” Oyeyemi said.

He added that the police commissioner warned that the command will not tolerate any form of jungle justice in the state.

Rather than take laws into their hands, he urged members of the public to always report anyone suspected to have committed a crime to the law enforcement agency for proper investigation and prosecution.

Meanwhile, the corpse of the deceased has been moved to the General Hospital’s mortuary for post mortem examination.

Oyo Tension: Culprits Behind Violence In Igangan Will Be Brought To Justice – Police

Buildings burnt during the violence in Igangan, Oyo State

 

The Commissioner of Police in Oyo State, Ngozi Onadeko, has called for calm in the state, promising that action will be taken against those behind the recent violence and ethnic tension in the state.

“Investigation into the arson and the breach of the peace, which occurred at Igangan will be investigated to logical conclusion and culprits shall be brought to justice,” read part of a statement issued on behalf of the commissioner by the command’s spokesperson, CSP Fadeyi Olugbenga, on Saturday.

The police boss, who blamed the situation in the state on “the inciting pronouncement of Chief Sunday Adeyemo, A.K.A Sunday Igboho”, warned that security agencies will not watch while some criminal elements take laws into their hands.

The statement, however, did not confirm or deny a report that the Inspector-General of Police had ordered Adeyemo’s arrest.

Adeyemo had issued a quit notice to herders in the state and on Friday held a rally in Igangan to buttress his position.

According to the police the rally is responsible for the violence which resulted in houses and cars being burnt in the town.

“Following the fear of threats to public peace, occasioned by the inciting pronouncement of Chief Sunday Adeyemo, A.K.A Sunday Igboho, the Oyo State Police Command jointly with the Operation Burst had embarked on visibility/confidence building patrol of the areas concerned,” the police said.

“Sadly, the relative peace and calmness, being enjoyed, due to the visibility patrols of the Security Agencies were truncated by the visit of Sunday Igboho to Igangan, at about 16:30hrs [4:30 pm] on 22nd January 2021.

“The visit had culminated in a mob action by some youths in the town, who, armed with different types of weapons, embarked on arson and a breach of peace. In the process, grievous hurt was committed against one of the police officers, while discharging his statutory duties.”

READ ALSO: Houses, Vehicles Burnt, Policeman Injured In Igangan

While investigating the situation and trying to prevent a breakdown of law and order in the state, the police appealed for calm.

The CP called on well-meaning and peace-loving elders in the community to caution and advise restive youths to sheath their swords and shun violence in addressing the complex situation at hand.

She also urged the youths to avoid being used as pawns to ignite an ethnic war.

Warning people against taking laws into their hands, the police said that a “substantial number of suspects (of different ethnic backgrounds)” were arrested in connection with virtually all the cases of kidnapping or assassination, which had occurred in the State.

Some have been arraigned in court and are being remanded in correctional facilities, while investigations are still ongoing in some of the cases.

Makinde’s Vow

As tensions escalated on Friday in the Ibarapa axis of the state when Igboho visited Igangan, the Oyo State Governor, ‘Seyi Makinde, vowed that his government will not allow anyone to cause ethnic tension or harass anyone carrying out legitimate business in the state.

Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, says security is the major pillar of his administration.

The Governor, who made the comments when the new police boss in Oyo state, Mrs. Ngozi Onadeko, paid him a courtesy visit in his office, urged her to ensure the police arrest miscreants causing tension and threatening the peace of the state.

“For people stoking ethnic tension, they are criminals and once you get them, they should be arrested and treated like common criminals,” Makinde said.

“For this administration, the major pillar for us is security, because we know that all the good economic plans we have won’t be possible in an atmosphere of chaos and insecurity.

“So, when people say things that are neither lawful nor within the spirit of Nigeria’s Constitution, it is not acceptable here. And they cannot hide under the guise of protecting Yoruba’s interest to perpetuate chaos in the state.

“I am sure that since you came in, you must have heard about some things happening at Ibarapa axis of the state. I will still say it here that we are not after Hausa-Fulani. We are after criminals.

“We are after hoodlums and bandits irrespective of their tribe, religion, or creed. Those are the people we are after. If you look into the records, when we had the armed robbery incident at Okeho in Kajola Local Government Area of the state, some people were killed, some were arrested and we found out that they were from Ebira, from Kogi State. So, we want to go after the criminals – whether they are Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani, or whomever they are.”

SERAP Asks FG To Disclose Details Of Planned N729bn Payments To 24.3 Million Nigerians

SERAP wants Humanitarian Affairs Minister, Sadiya Umar-Farouk (pictured left), to provide more information about a plan she announced last week.

 

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadia Umar-Farouk to publish details of the proposed payments of N729bn to 24.3 million poor Nigerians for six months.

The non-governmental organisation also wants the minister to provide details about the mechanisms and logistics for the payments, list of beneficiaries, how they have been selected, projected payments per state, and whether the payments will be made in cash, through Bank Verification Numbers or other means.

SERAP’s request follows the announcement by the minister last week that the Federal Government would pay about 24.3 million poor Nigerians N5,000 each for a period of six months.

She had disclosed the plan at the inauguration of the Federal Government’s emergency intervention database for the urban poor, saying the payments would serve as a cushion for those further impoverished by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But SERAP is demanding an explanation of the rationale for paying out the amount, which it says translates to five-per cent of the country’s budget of N13.6 trillion for 2021.

It also wants to know if the proposed spending is part of the N5.6 trillion budget deficit.

READ ALSO: President Buhari Commits $100m To Fight Terrorism In ECOWAS Sub-Region

In the Freedom of Information request dated 23 January 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said, “Publishing the details of beneficiaries and selection criteria, as well as the payment plan for six months, would promote transparency and accountability, and remove the risks of mismanagement and diversion of public funds.

“Transparency and accountability in the programme would improve public trust, and allow Nigerians to track and monitor its implementation, and to assess if the programme is justified, as well as to hold authorities to account in cases of diversion, mismanagement and corruption.”

To improve transparency and accountability, SERAP believes it is important for the minister to get the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to jointly track and monitor the payments.

It is giving the government seven days from the receipt or publication of its FoI request to grant it.

“If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you to comply with our request,” the NGO said in a statement by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, on Sunday.

SERAP explained that although the provision of support and assistance to vulnerable Nigerians is a human rights obligation, the amount involved (five per cent of the 2021 budget) requires anti-corruption safeguards.

Having such safeguards, according to it, will “ensure the payments go directly to the intended beneficiaries, and that public funds are not mismanaged or diverted”.

“SERAP notes that the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended], UN Convention against Corruption, and African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party require the government to set the highest standards of transparency, accountability and probity in programmes that it oversees,” it said.

“The government has a responsibility to ensure that these requirements and other anti-corruption controls are fully implemented and monitored and that the payments are justified in light of the huge budget deficit and borrowing, and whether there are better ways to spend N729bn to support poor Nigerians.”

Gunmen Kill LGA Chairman In Taraba

Gunmen Kill LGA Chairman In Taraba
Salihu Dovo

 

 

Gunmen have killed the Chairman of Ardo-Kola Local Government Area of Taraba State, Salihu Dovo. 

His murder followed his abduction by the men in the early hours of Sunday at his residence in the Sabon Gari area of Jalingo, the state capital.

A family source who preferred anonymity said the gunmen took the LGA  Chairman to an unknown destination and a few hours later called his family members to come pick up his corpse in the bush.

According to the source, the men who were about 20 in number came in through the fence of the house, attacked the security guards before gaining entrance into the main building.

READ ALSO: Oyo Tension: Culprits Behind Violence In Igangan Will Be Brought To Justice – Police

Before whisking the LGA boss away, the source who was in the house when the incident occurred, said the gunmen also made away with some of their mobile phones.

He said no ransom was demanded from the family.

The State’s Police public relations officer David Misal told Channels television via the phone that two persons have been arrested in connection with the crime and an investigation has been launched to further unravel those behind the dastard act.

Meanwhile, the remains of the deceased have been moved to the morgue of the Federal Medical Centre Jalingo.

Dovo who was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, the ruling party in the state, was caretaker chairman of Ardo-Kola LGA from 2017 to 2020.

In May 2020, he successfully contested in the LGA elections and was inaugurated as Chairman of the LGA in June 2020.

Nigeria’s COVID-19 Cases Exceed 120,000 As NCDC Confirms 1,633 New Infections

A health practitioner tests for COVID-19. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun / Channels TV
A health official takes samples for a COVID-19 test. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun / Channels TV

 

 

COVID-19 cases in Nigeria crossed the 120,000 mark on Saturday as the country and the world race to contain a second wave of the pandemic.

The Nigeria Centre For Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed 1,633 cases and five deaths for the day with the nation now maintaining a run of recording more than a thousand cases per day. On Friday, the country had recorded more than 2,000 daily cases for the first time.

READ ALSO: Nigeria Records Over 2,000 COVID-19 Cases In One Day For First Time

NCDC’s latest data takes the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 120,602. Out of that number, 95,901 people have recovered and have been discharged, while 1,502 people have died. This means that there are currently 23,933 active confirmed cases in the country.

 

A breakdown of the cases recorded on Saturday shows that 498 cases were recorded in the nation’s COVID-19 epicentre, Lagos. This was more than double the 214 cases reported by Plateau State for the day.

The Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, had 176 cases; Rivers had 99 cases; Kaduna recorded 98 cases, while Edo and Anambra states had 87 and 86 new cases, respectively.

In Akwa Ibom, 50 cases were reported, Osun – 47, Kano and Oyo got 40 cases each, Kwara – 39, Ebonyi, Niger and Taraba each had 28, while Ogun and Ondo got 27 and 21 new cases respectively.

Others are Ekiti with 12, Katsina – 7, Borno – 6, and Delta with two cases.

Confirmed Cases by State

States AffectedNo. of Cases (Lab Confirmed)No. of Cases (on admission)No. DischargedNo. of Deaths
Lagos44,5809,26535,030285
FCT15,6824,63110,932119
Plateau7,4658206,59253
Kaduna7,2741,0396,17956
Oyo4,9968234,10172
Rivers4,8448703,89678
Edo3,5484952,920133
Ogun3,1334882,60639
Kano2,7703432,35473
Delta2,2234341,73752
Ondo2,1881422,00046
Kwara1,7933311,42438
Katsina1,730331,67027
Enugu1,6442481,37521
Gombe1,5671881,33742
Nasarawa1,4901,15232513
Osun1,3953021,06627
Ebonyi1,3302281,07230
Abia1,162811,06912
Bauchi1,120401,06317
Imo91712477617
Borno8807077436
Akwa Ibom77530146410
Anambra72036633420
Benue69416351318
Sokoto6898757626
Bayelsa6558155024
Niger61718641714
Adamawa60834423826
Ekiti507654348
Jigawa4414238811
Taraba3247923312
Kebbi2675120313
Yobe21161978
Zamfara179141605
Cross River179116612
Kogi5032

Apart from undermining the health systems of most countries, the raging COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed the vulnerability of countries that depend on importation to meet their pharmaceutical needs.

Like many other African countries, Nigeria falls in the category of nations with very minimal pharmaceutical sufficiency as the country depends largely on the importation of products from China, the U.S., and India. The report below looks at what can be done to upscale the local production of pharmaceutical products in Nigeria.


 

Explosion At Rumuodumaya Gas Plant Causes Panic

 

A fire outbreak at a natural gas plant on the outskirt of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital last night, led to an explosion which created panic among residents in the area.

A journalist who lives in the area told Channels Television that the reverberation from the explosion shook the foundation of the buildings in the neigbourhood.

The incident at Rumuodumaya, along the Rumuokoro – Igwuruta road, which leads to the Port Harcourt International Airport is said to have occurred at about 8:45 pm when the plant operators were discharging gas from a truck.

The fire has been put out, but operation at the plant is suspended.

On Sunday morning, the South-South Zonal Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency in Rivers State, Walson Brandon said the agency had started evaluating the level of damage at the plant, and the safety of all staff.

READ ALSO: Gas Explosion Rocks Delta Community, Kills Three Children

The explosion, which officials say is minor, comes barely two days after an explosion at a gas plant in another South-South state, Delta, killed at least four persons including three children, and left 11 others with burns.

In reaction to the explosion in Agbor, Ika South Local Government Area, Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, visited the victims and the bereaved; and promised to review how gas plants are sited in the state.

“I’m aware that we have some of these facilities even in more densely populated areas and I’m going to sit with the House of Assembly – we have to do an immediate legislation that will not allow such (incident) anymore,” he said.

About three weeks earlier, a fire, and possibly an explosion, had been averted after a gas leak was detected at a facility in Elibrada community in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State.

 

Partial Lockdown Imposed On Beijing Over Covid-19 Outbreak

Medical workers wearing protective suits as a precaution against COVID-19 deliver a patient to the fever clinic at a hospital in Beijing on January 13, 2021. GREG BAKER / AFP

 

 

A partial lockdown was imposed on the Chinese capital Wednesday, with 1.6 million residents banned from leaving Beijing, after a handful of cases were detected.

Seven cases were reported in the city on Wednesday, including six in southern Daxing district.

All 1.6 million residents of Daxing must not leave Beijing unless they have received special permission from the authorities and tested negative for Covid-19 in the past three days, the district said.

Meetings of 50 or more people in the district have been banned, while “weddings should be postponed and funerals simplified,” the district government said.

It also ordered all kindergarten, primary and secondary students in the district to study at home.

Residents of five Daxing neighbourhoods where the cases were detected were ordered to remain indoors.

Daxing includes one of the city’s two international airports.

Pedestrians walk in the central business district (CBD) of Beijing on January 18, 2021.
WANG Zhao / AFP

 

 

China has largely brought the virus under control even as the rest of the world struggles with mounting deaths and overburdened hospitals.

But a spate of small, localised outbreaks has prompted Chinese officials to order mass testing, strict lockdowns and to prepare to move thousands into quarantine facilities to stamp out a resurgence.

China reported 103 new cases on Wednesday, including the seven in Beijing.

The outbreaks, including in neighbouring Hebei province, have put China on high alert for a potential wave of cases ahead of the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.

Meanwhile, nearly three million people in northeastern Jilin province were placed under lockdown on Monday after a travelling salesman infected over a hundred people.

Heilongjiang, another northeastern province, has reprimanded 16 officials for “not doing their duty” to prevent recent clusters of cases in the province, the provincial Communist Party newspaper Heilongjiang Daily reported Wednesday.

Foreigners Without Face Masks Punished With Push-Ups In Bali

An undated handout picture released on January 20, 2021 by Bali’s Satpol PP, the provincial public order agency, shows an official looking on while a man performs push-ups as punishment for not wearing or improperly wearing face masks. Handout / SATPOL PP / AFP

 

Foreigners caught not wearing face masks on the Indonesian resort island of Bali are being subject to an unusual punishment: push-ups.

Video footage circulating on social media this week shows tourists in T-shirts and shorts being made to do the exercise in sweltering tropical heat as masked security officials stood over them.

Bali authorities made wearing a face mask in public mandatory last year as Indonesia battled a raging Covid-19 outbreak.

In recent days, however, scores of foreigners have been caught without face coverings, said security official Gusti Agung Ketut Suryanegara.

More than 70 people paid a fine of 100,000 rupiah ($7), but about 30 others said they did not have the cash.

Instead, they were ordered to do push-ups.

Those not carrying a mask had to do up to 50, while those who were wearing one improperly were punished with 15.

“At first, they would claim that they didn’t know the regulation,” Suryanegara told AFP. “Then they said they forgot, or that the mask was wet or damaged.”

Some Indonesians on the island, which is a pocket of Hinduism in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, have also been hit with the unusual punishment.

Bali’s authorities have also warned that foreigners who break virus regulations could be thrown out of the country, although so far there have no reports of anyone being deported for failing to wear a mask.

The island, which has been hammered by the epidemic, remains officially closed to overseas tourists but is home to many long-term residents from abroad.

Foreigners living elsewhere in Indonesia can still visit.

AFP

UK COVID-19 Strain In Over 60 Countries, Says WHO

 

The UK coronavirus strain has spread to at least 60 countries, the World Health Organization reported on Wednesday, after US President-elect Joe Biden led a moving tribute to American victims.

Covid-19 has claimed more than two million lives globally since it was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan more than a year ago, while the total number of reported cases is edging towards 100 million, according to an AFP tally.

The arrival of mass inoculation drives in the United States, Europe, and Asia had brought hope that the end of the epidemic was in sight.

But deep concern over new variants of the deadly pathogen has triggered governments around the world to toughen constraints on restriction-weary populations as officials grapple with how to slow infections until vaccines become widely available.

In its weekly update, the WHO announced the strain first found in the UK was now in 10 more countries than seven days ago.

It said the South African variant — which similarly is believed to be more transmissible — has been reported in 23 countries and territories.

The number of new deaths climbed to a record high of 93,000 over the previous week, it added, with 4.7 million new cases reported over the same period.

Biden leads tributes

The US is by far the worst-hit nation with more than 400,000 deaths, and incoming Commander-in-Chief Biden focused on healing at a memorial for victims on the eve of his inauguration.

Almost a year after the US registered its first fatality, the pace of the pandemic has picked up with 100,000 deaths in the past month alone.

“It’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation,” Biden said in sombre remarks on Tuesday in Washington at the National Mall reflecting pool, where lights were turned on as a memorial to those who have died.

“Let us shine the lights in the darkness along the sacred pool of reflection and remember all who we lost,” Biden said.

The President-elect has made tackling the pandemic his top priority, as he prepares to take office in Washington on Wednesday.

He is already being forced to take action, with his aides contradicting an order from outgoing President Donald Trump to lift travel bans to Europe and Brazil designed to stop the spread.

Beijing lockdown

In China, which has largely brought the virus under control, a partial lockdown was imposed on the capital Beijing on Wednesday, with 1.6 million residents banned from leaving the city.

The country is battling its largest resurgence of Covid-19 cases in nearly a year, although the official figures are startlingly low compared to the rest of the world: just seven cases were reported in Beijing on Wednesday.

Authorities ordered residents of the southern Beijing district of Daxing — which includes one of the city’s two international airports — to remain indoors.

But in Wuhan, the city of 11 million people now synonymous with the coronavirus, there were scenes of relaxation and travel freedoms this week.

Wet markets throng with shoppers, elderly dancers rehearse in the parks, and bars sell “Wuhan Stay Strong” craft beer.

“Wuhan had a tough year in 2020,” Wang Chen, a 20-year-old resident, told AFP outside the exhibition, adding that China “handled the crisis very well.”

Olympic spirit

Despite mounting case numbers, organisers of the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics are “unwavering” on holding the event this year.

In an interview with AFP ahead of the six-month countdown, Games CEO Toshiro Muto insisted the sporting showpiece was still possible, but conceded people are “anxious”, including in Japan where Tokyo is under a state of emergency.

“We are not discussing cancellation,” he said, while admitting organisers couldn’t rule out staging the event without spectators.

“Holding the Games is our unwavering policy, and at this point in time we’re not discussing anything other than that.”

However, his view was in contrast to that of a senior official from the London 2012 Games Keith Mills, who told the BBC Tokyo officials should be making plans to cancel.

Meanwhile, on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, dozens of foreigners caught without masks have been subjected to an unusual punishment — push-ups in the street.

Video footage showed people in T-shirts and shorts doing the vigorous exercise on pavements in the sweltering tropical heat, as masked security officials stood over them.

AFP

Trump Pardons Steve Bannon, Lil Wayne, 71 Others On Last Day

This combination of pictures created on January 3, 2018, shows a file photo of Trump and Bannon. SAUL LOEB, JOE RAEDLE / AFP

 

 

United States President Donald Trump on Wednesday pardoned 73 people, including his former aide Steve Bannon and other allies, just hours before he was due to leave office.

The list of those pardoned — as well as 70 others whose sentences were commuted — was released by the White House in a statement during the early hours.

Neither Trump nor his relatives were on the list.

Bannon had been charged with, and pleaded not guilty to, defrauding people over funds raised to build the Mexico border wall, a flagship Trump policy.

He was Trump’s campaign manager during the 2016 election, before becoming a senior adviser to the president. He left the White House acrimoniously in 2017, Trump later giving him the derogatory moniker “Sloppy Steve.”

But Wednesday’s statement read: “Mr. Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen.”

US media earlier reported that the president made his last-minute decision after speaking to Bannon by phone.

Former Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy was similarly pardoned, after pleading guilty last year to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws.

And the rapper Lil Wayne, who faced 10 years in jail after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon last month, also made the list.

The star, listed as Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., had shown “generosity through commitment to a variety of charities, including donations to research hospitals and a host of foodbanks,” the release added.

Lil Wayne pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm and ammunition last month.

– Transfer of power –

Some lesser-known individuals were also pardoned. Among them was Steve Bowker.

“Nearly 30 years ago, Mr. Bowker pled guilty to a violation the Lacey Act, which prohibits trafficking in wildlife, when he arranged for 22 snakes owned by Rudy “Cobra King” Komarek to be transported to the Miami Serpentarium,” the statement read.

“Although he did not ask for any animals in return, he was offered 22 American alligators. After pleading guilty, Mr. Bowker was sentenced to probation.”

Other pardons included people whose cases have been championed by criminal justice activists.

Wednesday’s announcement came after another raft of pardons late last year, including of Trump allies Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, George Papadopoulos and Alex Van Der Zwaan.

All five had pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial as a result of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia during the 2016 election.

President-elect Joe Biden, who beat Trump in an election in November last year, was due to be sworn in as his successor later Wednesday.

Until then, the incumbent retains the power to issue further pardons.

Trump was due to skip the inauguration ceremony, in a stark break from presidential tradition, flying straight from the White House to his Florida home.

Having spent weeks claiming — without evidence — that the election was stolen from him, he was yet to personally congratulate Biden on his win, and did not invite him for a customary visit to the Oval Office.

Tensions have soared of late on Capitol Hill, where the Senate is expected to soon put Trump on trial following his record second impeachment by the House of Representatives over a riot by his supporters in the Capitol building.

The spectacle will clash with the opening days of Biden’s tenure, as the new president seeks to swiftly confirm his Cabinet picks and push through aggressive legislation including a $1.9 trillion package to rescue an economy buffeted by the coronavirus pandemic.

leg/jfx

Electoral College Confirms Joe Biden’s Victory

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden gestures after speaking during election night at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware, early on November 4, 2020. ANGELA WEISS / AFP
Joe Biden.            Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP

 

 

Joe Biden was confirmed as the next US president on Monday as the Electoral College formalized his victory over Donald Trump, all but closing the door on the incumbent’s efforts to overturn the result of the 2020 election.

As Biden appealed to Americans to “turn the page” on the divisive contest, electors met across all US states to seal his win, with California pushing Biden over the majority of 270 votes — and clearing the way for him to take office on January 20.

But with his ability to steal the spotlight still intact, Trump announced moments later that Attorney General Bill Barr, who contradicted the outgoing president’s claims that the November 3 election was marred by fraud, would leave his post next week.

“Our relationship has been a very good one,” Trump tweeted, making no mention of their divergence. “Bill will be leaving just before Christmas to spend the holidays with his family.”

While a senior administration official said Barr resigned of his own accord and was not pushed out, the extraordinary convergence of events highlighted the tensions underlying Trump’s “lame duck” final weeks in office.

The 200-plus-year-old Electoral College procedure is merely a formality in confirming the will of the people expressed at the polls, but the process carried added significance given the turbulence of last month’s election and Trump’s refusal to acknowledge his own defeat.

California’s electors burst into applause as the presiding officer read out the tally of 55 in favor of Biden and none opposed — confirming Barack Obama’s former vice president as the nation’s 46th president.

“Democracy prevailed. We the people voted…. The integrity of our elections remains intact,” Biden said in excerpts from a speech he was expected to deliver in his home city of Wilmington, Delaware later Monday.

“Now it is time to turn the page, to unite, to heal,” Biden said. “I will be a president for all Americans.”

This year, the somewhat arcane Electoral College procedure was at the center of an ugly — and many warn dangerous — challenge led by Trump against the credibility of US democracy.

Soundly beaten by Biden on November 3, Trump continues to claim, without evidence, that he was the real winner.

Court after court has turned down the Republican team’s claims of election fraud and last Friday the US Supreme Court dealt a final legal blow when it threw out an appeal lodged by Trump allies from Texas and other Republican-led states.

Disinformation

Formal Electoral College confirmation drew a further line under the election, which saw Biden make Trump a rare one-term president after campaigning on a message of vanquishing the Covid-19 pandemic, healing political division and restoring traditional US diplomacy.

Until now, a majority of Republicans in Congress have either backed Trump’s claims or at least turned a blind eye, with many refusing to call Biden the president-elect.

Disinformation spearheaded by the president and spread by popular commentators on Fox News and new conspiracy theory-mongering outlets like Newsmax means many Americans have all but given up faith in their own institutions.

Thousands of Trump supporters, including members of far-right groups, protested in Washington at the weekend, brawling with counter-protesters, while in Georgia footage showed armed activists in camouflage parading at the state Capitol to support Trump’s claims.

Polls show as few as one in four Republican voters accept the election results.

Trump maintained his stream of threats and unsubstantiated claims on Twitter Monday, citing “massive VOTER FRAUD” and declaring that certifying election results would be “a severely punishable crime.”

The legal Electoral College vote, however, has now left the Trump train almost no place left to go.

Ahead of Biden’s inauguration one major formality remains, when Congress, presided over by Vice President Mike Pence, opens up and counts the electoral votes on January 6.

In the latest sign of a shifting tide, the staunchly Trump-supporting editorial board of The Wall Street Journal told Trump that his time is up.

“President Trump’s legal challenges have run their course, and he and the rest of the Republican Party can help the country and themselves by acknowledging the result and moving on,” it said.

AFP