Lebanese Protesters Back On The Streets As Economy Crumbles

Lebanese protesters attack a bank at Al-Nour square following the funeral of a fellow protester in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli, on April 28, 2020. Ibrahim CHALHOUB / AFP.

 

Lebanese protesters angered by a spiralling economic crisis clashed with security forces in the country’s north overnight as a months-old anti-government movement gained new momentum despite a coronavirus lockdown.

A 26-year-old protester died on Tuesday from a bullet wound he had sustained during the confrontations between the army and hundreds of demonstrators that rocked Lebanon’s second city of Tripoli.

Sixty people were injured, including some 40 soldiers, during the exchange which saw protesters throw stones at troops who fired live rounds into the air to try to disperse the angry crowds under clouds of tear gas.

The overnight violence was the latest in a string of anti-government protests and social unrest fuelled by unprecedented inflation that this week saw a free-falling Lebanese pound reach record lows against the dollar.

Angered by the financial collapse, demonstrators across Lebanon have rallied, blocked roads and vandalised banks for two days, re-energising a protest movement launched in October against a political class the activists deem inept and corrupt.

“I came down to raise my voice against hunger, poverty and rising prices,” Khaled, a 41-year-old protester, told AFP from Tripoli, adding that he could no longer support his three children since he lost his job selling motorcycle spare parts.

– ‘Social explosion’ –

Lebanon is mired in its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war, now compounded by a nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus which has killed 24 people and infected almost 700 more.

The Lebanese pound has lost more than half of its value on the black market, where it traded at a record low of around 4,000 pounds to the dollar this week.

Economy Minister Raoul Nehme on Tuesday said that prices have risen by 55 per cent, while the government estimates that 45 per cent of the population now lives below the poverty line.

This has unleashed a public outcry against a government that has yet to deliver a long awaited rescue plan to shore up the country’s finances more than three months since it was nominated to address the crisis.

“No reform measures have been taken,” Sami Nader, director of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs, told AFP.

The only major step taken has been the suspension of Eurobond debt payments, he said, referring to a March announcement by the government that it would default on its sovereign debt for the first time due to dwindling foreign currency reserves.

With no clear government plan to exit the crisis, Nader said, Lebanon is heading “towards an inevitable social explosion”.

– Bank attacks –

Public anger has been increasingly directed at banks which are accused by protesters of helping a corrupt political class drive the country towards bankruptcy.

Lebanese banks, many of which are owned by prominent politicians, have since September imposed restrictions on dollar withdrawals and transfers, forcing the public to deal in the nose-diving Lebanese pound.

Since March, banks have stopped dollar withdrawals altogether, further fuelling public anger.

In Tripoli, the army accused demonstrators overnight of torching three banks, destroying several ATM machines and attacking an army patrol and military vehicle.

It said 40 soldiers were wounded and nine people were arrested.

In a later statement, it expressed “regret” at the death of Fawaz al-Samman who died after being hit in the thigh with a bullet.

His sister Fatima told AFP that she blames the army, which said it would open an investigation into the death.

The Association of Lebanese Banks said that commercial banks would be closed in Tripoli on Tuesday because of “attacks and acts of vandalism”.

In Beirut, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a bank before dawn, according to the official National News Agency.

In the southern city of Sidon, protesters threw stones and fire crackers at the central bank headquarters late Monday, the NNA said.

Late Saturday, assailants lobbed an explosive device at a bank in Sidon.

The attack came a day after Prime Minister Hassan Diab said Lebanese bank deposits had plunged $5.7 billion in the first two months of the year, despite curbs on withdrawals and a ban on transfers abroad.

AFP

Oil Market In Turmoil As Equities Slump

An oil pumpjack operates in Signal Hill, south of Los Angeles, California on April 21, 2020, a day after oil prices dropped to below zero as the oil industry suffers steep falls in benchmark crudes due to the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic. Frederic J. BROWN / AFP.

 

Oil-price turmoil gripped traders once more Tuesday, a day after US crude futures crashed below zero for the first time as the coronavirus crisis crippled global energy demand and worsened a supply glut.

The commodity rout also sent world equity markets spiralling lower, as investors fretted it could compound an expected deep global economic downturn.

WTI had Monday collapsed to an unprecedented intra-day low of minus $40.32.

Negative prices mean traders must pay to find buyers to take physical possession of the oil — a job made difficult with the world’s storage capacity at bursting point.

Storage is a particularly big problem in the US where WTI oil is delivered at a single, inland point. In Europe, where Brent is the benchmark, there are several such points and their proximity to the sea allows some of it to be stored on tankers.

READ ALSO: Berlin, Other German States To Make Wearing Of Mask Compulsory

This week’s massive sell-off came ahead of Tuesday’s expiry of the May contract. Most trading has now moved to the June contract, and May WTI was back in positive territory by the late European afternoon.

– ‘Slice of pizza’ –

“Ever thought that it could be imaginable to see the price of US oil valued at less than a pizza? Or even a slice of pizza? How about for it to actually cost to sell US crude?” said Jameel Ahmad, head of currency strategy and market research at FXTM.

“All of this was previously thought to be unthinkable — but it became very real for traders as the price of US oil turned negative for the first time in history.”

European benchmark Brent North Sea oil for June delivery tumbled to an 18-year low, before coming off worst levels in volatile deals.

“Players are now paying buyers to take oil volumes away as the physical storage limit will be reached. And they are paying top dollar,” said Rystad Energy analyst Louise Dickson.

Oil markets have been ravaged this year after the pandemic was compounded by a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

While the two big oil producing nations have drawn a line under the dispute and agreed with other countries to slash output by almost 10 million barrels a day, that is not enough to offset the lack of demand.

– Stock markets sink –

Equity markets were meanwhile also deep in the red on Tuesday, having enjoyed a healthy couple of weeks thanks to massive stimulus measures and signs of an easing in the rate of new infections globally.

Key eurozone stocks markets closed with declines of up to four percent, while London did a little better thanks to a weaker pound.

On Wall Street, the DJIA was over 600 points down by the late New York morning.

“Continued dysfunction in the crude oil markets” was the main factor behind the decline, analysts at Charles Schwab said, “while the Street continues to assess the timing of when the US economy may be able to reopen”.

Analysts warned the drop in stock markets could be an indication that the recent surge may have been hasty, and that another prolonged sell-off is possible.

– Key figures around 1540 GMT –

West Texas Intermediate (May delivery): UP 42 percent at $4.46 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate (June delivery): DOWN 28.5 percent at $14.60

Brent North Sea crude (May delivery): DOWN 22.1 percent at $19.93

Brent North Sea crude (June delivery): DOWN 23.3 percent at $19.87

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 3.0 percent at 5,641,03 points (close)

Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 4.0 percent at 10,249.85 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 3.8 percent at 4,357.46

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 4.1 percent at 2,791.34

New York – Dow: DOWN 2.6 percent at 23,031.81

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 2.0 percent at 19,280.78 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 2.2 percent at 23,793.55 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.9 percent at 2,827.01 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0867 from $1.0862 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 107.54 yen from 107.62

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2289 from $1.2442

Euro/pound: UP at 88.44 pence from 87.30

AFP

Jukun-Tiv Crisis: Nasarawa Governor Sule Sues For Peace

(FILE) Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Sule, speaks during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on March 16, 2020.

 

 

Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasaraw State is suing for peace between the Tiv and Jukun ethnic groups in Benue and Taraba states especially as the country battles to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The governor made this call on Tuesday during a meeting at the Government House in Lafia, the state capital to broker peace between the two warring parties.

“We are the same people, we have TIVs in Benue and Taraba states but let each of them see the two States as their homes. Let them not consider a situation where once we have a problem, we run to where we have the majority of our people.

“If we continue to do that, we would not solve these problems. It will not make any sense especially at a time like this when the whole world is fighting COVID-19 and we have our brothers and sisters who want to live in peace being killed and their assets destroyed in the name of a petty problem that has nothing to do with life.

“I am praying and hoping that this will be the first and the last meeting so that we can have a lasting solution to this and every one of you will write your name in gold that you have finally come here, face each other directly, solve this problem and we have gone back and our people are living finally in peace,” he said.

The meeting which held behind closed doors was chaired by the Deputy Governor, Emmanuel Akabe and had the deputy governors of Taraba, Haruna Manu and his Benue state counterpart, Benson Abounu in attendance.

Also, in attendance were security personnel, traditional rulers, lawmaker and government functionaries from the three states.

This is not the first meeting held between the two groups but the governor hopes that this mediation will ignite a lasting solution to the conflict.

Those Calling For Oshiomhole’s Removal Will Fail – Uzodinma

Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma speaks to journalists. (file photo)

 

Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State has reacted to the purported removal of the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Adams Oshiomhole.

Speaking to journalists on Friday in Owerri, the state capital, Uzodinma said those calling for Oshiomhole’s removal will fail.

According to him, patriotic forces within the ruling party will not allow Oshiomhole to be humiliated out of office.

He also accused some members of the party of working with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to create a crisis.

“Many of us, leaders of the party, are aware that those clamouring for the chairman’s removal are working with the PDP to destabilise the party but they will fail.

“We will not allow them to humiliate our National Chairman out of office through illegal means or allow any action that will bring the party to public ridicule,” Uzodinma said.

While insisting that the APC chairman has not done anything to warrant his removal, the governor vowed that every arsenal will be deployed to ensure that the plan of those plotting his removal is foiled.

READ ALSO: Sanusi Arrives In Lagos From Nasarawa

Speaking further, Uzodinma said the guidelines of the party are clear on how the National Chairman can be removed from office which must be through the National Executive committee (NEC), adding that anything outside that was illegal.

He noted that the plot to remove Oshiomhole is a clear case of witch hunt otherwise those behind it would have come through the proper channel which is the party’s NEC, but they have refused to do so because they know they have no genuine case against him.

The governor also wondered why a genuine APC member will want to remove Oshiomhole who, according to him, has done so well for the party.

Rather than his removal, Uzodinma wants party members to come together, savour their victory at the last elections and plan how to consolidate for the future.

We’re In A Crisis, Let’s Find A Rational Solution – Akintoye

An elder statesman, Professor Banji Akintoye says Nigeria is in a crisis situation.

 

An elder statesman, Professor Banji Akintoye says Nigeria is in a crisis situation, hence calling on the citizens to find a rational solution.

Akintoye stated this on Monday during a gathering of eminent Nigerians including Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka and Professor Pat Utomi at the Muson Centre in Lagos.

“We are already in a crisis. If in our sober difference to reality find that we can no longer hold together as one family, then let us together peacefully find a rational solution and let us never again plunge into any kind of war,” he stated.

The elder statesman noted that peace was a panacea for development in the nearest future.

READ ALSO: Osinbajo Arrives Kano To Commission Flyover Bridges, Other Projects

He however wants the citizens to collective address issues that may affect them, noting that the nation keep recording a growing population.

The event tagged ‘Never Again’, is aimed at reminiscing on the woes of the war which ended in January 1970 and adjudged as one of the worst scenarios of civil rife across the world.

One of the speakers, Professor Anya Anya, who is the chairman of the occasion believes violence cannot provide the solution to the problems facing the nation.

According to him, Nigeria must learn from the mistakes of the past and what some say was a failure of leadership.

He added that Nigeria was not the only country that has gone through such a situation as the civil war, stressing that losing a war was not necessarily a badge of failure.

Syria Crisis: Death Toll Hits 380,000 In Almost Nine-Years

 

Almost nine years of civil war in Syria has left more than 380,000 people dead including over 115,000 civilians, a war monitor said in a new toll Saturday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of sources across the country, said they included around 22,000 children and more than 13,000 women.

The conflict flared after unprecedented anti-government protests in the southern city of Daraa on March 15, 2011.

Demonstrations spread across Syria and were brutally suppressed by the regime, triggering a multi-front armed conflict that has drawn in jihadists and foreign powers.

The conflict has displaced or sent into exile around 13 million Syrians, causing billions of dollars-worth of destruction.

The Britain-based Observatory’s last casualty toll on the Syrian conflict, issued in March last year, stood at more than 370,000 dead.

The latest toll included more than 128,000 Syrian and non-Syrian pro-regime fighters.

More than half of those were Syrian soldiers, while 1,682 were from the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah whose members have been fighting in Syria since 2013.

The war has also taken the lives of more than 69,000 opposition, Islamist, and Kurdish-led fighters.

It has killed more than 67,000 jihadists, mainly from the Islamic State group and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a group dominated by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

The total death toll does not include some 88,000 people who died of torture in regime jails, or thousands missing after being abducted by all sides in the conflict.

With the support of powerful allies Russia and Iran, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has inched his way back in recent years to controlling almost two-thirds of the country.

That comes after a string of victories against rebels and jihadists since 2015, but also his forces being deployed to parts of the northeast of the country under a deal to halt a Turkish cross-border operation last year.

Several parts of the country, however, remain beyond the reach of the Damascus government.

They include the last major opposition bastion of Idlib, a region of some three million people that is ruled by the jihadists of HTS.

An escalation in violence there in recent weeks has caused 284,000 people to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.

In the northeast, Turkish troops and their proxies control a strip of land along the border after seizing it from Kurdish fighters earlier this year.

Kurdish-led forces control the far east Syria, where US troops have been deployed near major oil fields.

Syria’s conflict is estimated to have set its economy back three decades, destroying infrastructure and paralysing the production of electricity and oil.

In Zimbabwe, Surviving Means Improvising And Some Luck

At Least 31 Dead As Cyclone Idai Hits Eastern Zimbabwe

 

In crisis-stricken Zimbabwe, where prices are soaring, the local dollar is plummeting and time is always short, even a trip to the gas station can be an adventure in the struggle to survive.

Filling a tank used to require just a few minutes. Now it takes a day of patience and some ingenuity at the gas station. Even then, success is not guaranteed.

As the sun sets on Harare, Tinashe Magacha is about to spend the night in his car, like hundreds of motorists in the queue, hoping to refuel the minibus he uses for work.

“While I am queueing, my bus is on the road with my driver transporting passengers. If I fill up this car, I will drain the fuel with a hosepipe to the commuter bus.”

All that effort comes with a hefty price tag. Fuel prices more than doubled in January, triggering protests suppressed in a bloody crackdown by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime.

For months, lines of cars stretching for several kilometres at petrol stations have become the latest manifestation of the economic ruin left by Robert Mugabe, who died on September 6 almost two years after a coup ended his 37-year rule.

Zimbabwe has been mired in the crisis since the early 2000s after Mugabe’s controversial land reform programme that saw the violent seizure of white-owned farms and investors fleeing the country.

Zimbabwe never recovered. Today there are shortages of everything. From fuel to washing powder, to license plates and passports. Even local currency is in short supply.

Cash Shortages

Ruined by hyperinflation and the plummeting Zimbabwean dollar, the country and its banks are desperately short of currency.

Forced to pay his bus tickets in hard currency to go to work, Crispen Mudzengerere must spend hours at his bank to withdraw, if he is lucky, at best 100 dollars (about 8 euros) in cash.

He could buy some from street traders, but the service is “taxed” at least 30 per cent commission.

“To get 20 dollars, I need to spend 26 dollars. I have to pay for my own money,” he said.

To cut back on transportation costs, Mudzengerere got creative. He now does double shifts at his restaurant, which allows him to have four days of rest, and travel less.

In Zimbabwe, resourcefulness and patience have become indispensable weapons for dealing with daily survival.

But hustling cannot solve everything. The first victim of the crisis has been the value of wages, destroyed by hyperinflation – 175 per cent in June — and the depreciation of the local currency.

Within a year, Zimbabweans say, the value of their salaries has been divided by fifteen.

The toll has been harsh. Wakanai Murambidzi, a cleaner in a bank, was unable to pay her children’s school fees. They were forced out of school earlier this month.

“I did not pay the full last school fees. I don’t know what to do. I am stuck,” she said.

“We regret removing Mugabe,” she said, referring to the military coup that ended the former president’s reign in 2017.

“We used to buy bread for one dollar. Now it is 10.”

Contraband

Amidst the economic ruin, a new type of market has emerged in Harare, in the poor district of Mbare.

Shoppers here won’t find any fresh vegetables, fruit or meat, but only non-perishable foods like rice, sugar and bars of soap, all illegally imported from neighbouring South Africa.

Prices, untaxed and sold without intermediary, are unbeatable here.

“We are smuggling,” shopkeeper Blessing Chiona says, with all her goods laid on a wooden pallet in the mud. “The prices change up to three times a day.”

Beside her, dozens of her colleagues wait for customers under the sun. Here, two litres of cooking oil go for 24 dollars in cash, compared with 34 dollars in supermarkets.

Sheltered under an umbrella, Chiona sends text messages of shopping lists to delivery drivers, known as “malayitsha” or couriers in Ndebele language, who travel back and forth between Zimbabwe and South Africa with minibuses full of passengers and goods.

As if these struggles were not enough, Zimbabweans also have to work around the country’s interminable power cuts, sometimes up to 18 hours a day.

Street seller Misheck Masarirevhu has found his solution: with a mini solar panel, he charges a car battery during the day, which he uses to charge his phone once at home.

Jocelyn Chaibva, a 59-year-old pharmacist, gets up in the middle of the night, when the electricity is back on for a few hours in her neighbourhood, to put on the washing machine.

“It requires a PhD to survive here,” said Luckmore Bunu, one of her colleagues. “If you come from abroad, you don’t survive a month here but we are used to it.”

Tiv/ Jukun Crisis: Taraba Govt Holds Security Meeting With Stakeholders

Taraba Assembly Holds Last Plenary, Remembers Departed Members

 

The Taraba state government has held a security meeting to bring to an end the unabated clashes between the Tiv and Jukun tribes in the state.

The meeting which is a follow up to the one held in Abuja, was held behind closed doors and some recommendations were made.

Briefing journalists shortly after the meeting, the state’s Deputy Governor Haruna Manu disclosed that a committee will be set up on Monday, September 16, where 15 persons from both Tiv and Jukun will present their interests.

Manu added that a joint patrol team involving all security agencies in the state will be set up with dedicated lines for distress calls to curb kidnapping and banditry.

Beyond that, he also noted that another recommended was that both Benue and Taraba states will liaise with the National Boundary Commission for adequate demarcation of their boundaries in order to minimise the conflict between the two tribes.

‘My Entire Home Is Destroyed’, Sudan Villagers Lament Over Nile Floods

 

Days after a devastating flood swallowed up his village, Alsediq Abdelqader bulled his truck through the waters in a desperate attempt to locate his small house north of the Sudanese capital.

Flash floods from the Nile inundated his home last week in Wad Ramli village on the eastern river bank, expelling him and his family who managed to clamber aboard a ferry to the nearest dry land.

His drive through the flash floods was not easy as he had to avoid floating mattresses, house appliances and broken tree branches.

“My entire home is destroyed,” said the 57-year-old. “I have lived all my life in this village and I have never seen a flood like this before.”

“I’m struggling to recognise my house and trying to identify it, as some others have done, by the trees around it.”

His home is among thousands destroyed or damaged by the floods that struck at least 15 states, affecting nearly 200,000 people across Sudan.

The worst hit area was White Nile state in the south.

About 62 people were killed and nearly 100 injured overall, said the official SUNA news agency quoting a health ministry official as saying the crisis “did not reach the level of being declared a disaster.”

Volunteers and aid workers immediately rushed to Wad Ramli when the savage floods hit.

Authorities dispatched lorries and boats to wade through the thick water to rescue families and salvage their furniture and valuables.

But Abdelqader was among the less fortunate, unable to find their belongings.

“I have not managed to recover any of my furniture or belongings. My family is now staying with relatives in a nearby village,” said Abdelqader.

‘Mosquitoes Everywhere’

On the main road outside Wad Ramli, piles of sodden furniture are strewn about as homeless families shelter in dozens of make-shift tents.

The crisis comes as Sudan ushers in a political transition to civilian rule.

A prime minister and a civilian majority ruling body are to oversee a three-year transitional period following the ouster of veteran ruler Omar al-Bashir in April.

On Friday, the newly-appointed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok visited Wad Ramli and gave directives to intensify aid efforts.

The UN says the crisis is expected to drag on until October.

“We have not been able to survey the number of houses affected in Wad Ramli due to the rising water levels,” said Farouk Ahmed, supervisor of a Red Crescent aid team.

He estimates the village alone had about 6,000 residents.

And as Wad Ramli inhabitants reel from the floods, residents of nearby villages are bracing themselves for water levels to keep rising.

In Wawesi Gharb village, about half a kilometre (500 yards), 35-year-old farmer Sami Ali says he is running out of ways to roll back the water threat.

“We placed piles of sandbags around houses to reduce the damage in case we were flooded especially after the water surrounded our village from all sides,” he said.

Another resident, 24-year-old Hozeifa al-Ser, expressed fear of an outbreak of diseases especially as “mosquitoes and flies are hovering everywhere”.

‘We Will Go Back’

Mobile health clinics were set up outside the village to serve Wad Ramli but aid workers say medicine and food are in short supply.

In the tents, hundreds of villagers are pondering ways return to their lives.

Along with her two sisters and their families, Nafisa al-Saeed said they plan to go back home after the water recedes.

“We lived in this village all our lives. We will have to go back and rebuild our houses. Authorities just have to build flood barriers but we will not leave this place,” she said.

But 19-year-old Shehab al-Din Mohamed says he lost his documents and identification cards as well as university application papers.

“The academic year will start soon and I have no idea how I would submit my documents after I lost everything,” he said.

“It seems like we will be living here (in the tent) until October, and I have no idea what to do.”

Edo Assembly: I Don’t Think There Is Any Crisis – Obaseki

Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki.

 

Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki has dismissed the rumour of crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.

The governor said this while receiving the report of a reconciliatory committee set up to look into all post-election matters at the All Progressives Congress (APC) Secretariat in Benin.

Addressing journalists in the state on Saturday, he said the APC is ready to reconcile its aggrieved members, stressing that there is no crisis rocking the party or the House of Assembly.

READ ALSO: ‘Nothing Unusual About Meeting With My Brother’, Oshiomhole Says About Obaseki

“It has ended actually. We are just waiting for the members to come back and get inaugurated. I don’t think there is any crisis.

“For those people who don’t want to make peace or people who don’t want to belong to a family, as long as the party gives an opportunity to be members of that family, if it’s not utilised, there is not much we can do,” he said.

The governor’s comment come two weeks after meeting with APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, following weeks of disagreement.

Obaseki after the meeting said there is no rift between himself and his successor Governor Godwin Obaseki and there is nothing unusual about them holding a meeting.

Oshiomhole, who described Obaseki as his brother said the alleged rift between them is the creation of people with personal interest.

Edo Assembly Crisis, Reflection Of Immature Politics, Says Odigie-Oyegun

APC Ex-Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun

 

The former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), John Odigie-Oyegun, says the crisis rocking the Edo State House of Assembly is a reflection of immature politics.

Odigie-Oyegun, who spoke to journalists in Benin, criticised the National Assembly’s order directing Governor Godwin Obaseki to issue a fresh proclamation of the state’s parliament.

He noted that while President Muhammadu Buhari’s office is sovereign, the office of the state governor is sovereign and should be treated as such.

According to the APC chieftain, anyone who treats the governor with disdain is indirectly questioning the legitimacy of the people on him.

READ ALSO: Atiku, SERAP, Others Condemn Sowore’s Arrest

“Our politics has to start maturing. Our politics has to start being civilised. Our politics has to move from killings, maiming, thuggery and the rest of it.

“Our politics has to move to a stage where you can differ with somebody and state the good reasons for differing. I don’t think it has ever happened in this country that the National Assembly will issue instructions to a sovereign government.

“People don’t seem to realise it, there are two sovereignties. We have the President who represents the sovereignty of this nation and the governor reflects the sovereignty of the state,” he said.

Odigie-Oyegun also advised APC leaders to stop heating up the polity with unguarded utterances, stressing that anyone who doesn’t want the governor for a second term can do that through the ballot in the party’s primaries.

Venezuela Crisis: ‘I Am Very Optimistic’, Says Maduro After Talks With Opposition

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro

 

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro said Monday he was “optimistic” after dialogue between his government and the opposition resumed in Barbados.

The South American nation was plunged into political turmoil in January when National Assembly speaker Juan Guaido declared himself acting president in a direct challenge to Maduro’s authority.

The opposition leader is recognized by the United States and more than 50 other countries but has been unable to dislodge Venezuela’s socialist leader, who is backed by Russia, China and Cuba.

READ ALSO: Ex-UN Official Jailed For Child Abuse In Nepal

Delegations from both sides arrived in Barbados Monday morning to revive discussions after a previous round in Norway petered out.

“I am very optimistic… Today they had a five-hour session, and I think that step by step, with strategic patience, we can find a path to peace,” Maduro said in a broadcast on the state television channel VTV.

Without giving details, he said that a six-point agenda was being discussed with “the whole country in mind.”

“If you work with goodwill and there is no American interventionism, I am sure that we will reach an agreement,” said Maduro, who blames the United States for fanning the crisis.

The Barbados talks will be the third round since the Oslo talks in May, although Guaido had originally said last Tuesday there were no plans to re-open talks with Maduro’s “murderous dictatorship” following the death of an officer in custody over an alleged coup plot.

The suspicious death of retired naval officer Rafael Acosta Arevalo had sparked international condemnation.

Guaido said Sunday he wants the talks to lead them towards Maduro’s departure from the presidency he has held since 2013 to a transitional government, and then “free elections with international observers”.

 Ravaged by crises 

Some members of the opposition oppose the Barbados talks, fearing they may reinvigorate Maduro, but Enrique Marquez, vice president of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, said they are the best option.

“A violent solution… could generate loss of governance even for a new government,” he told AFP.

Along with the negotiations in Barbados, Guaido had a closed-door meeting on Monday in the capital Caracas with Enrique Iglesias, the European Union’s special advisor for Venezuela.

Afterwards, Iglesias met with Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez.

“Iglesias has confirmed his commitment to the dialogue process,” Rodriguez said on Twitter.

Oil-rich Venezuela has been ravaged by five years of recession marked by shortages of food, medicine and other basic necessities, and the economic woes have been exacerbated by the political crisis.

Delegations representing the Venezuelan rivals met face-to-face in Oslo for the first time in late May, in a process begun two weeks earlier under Norwegian auspices to find a solution to the nation’s multiple crises.

Maduro has repeatedly said that the dialogue will continue with the opposition “for peace in Venezuela.”

Guaido has called Maduro a “usurper” for staying in power after a 2018 election widely dismissed as a sham.

Meanwhile, Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo stressed in a TV interview that military intervention is not the solution to the Venezuelan crisis, and offered his country’s assistance in reaching a negotiated solution.

AFP