Nasarawa Assembly Inaugurates Committee To Investigate N1bn School Projects

Speaker of the Nasarawa House of Assembly, Ibrahim Balarable

 

The Nasarawa State House of Assembly, has inaugurated an Ad hoc committee to investigate secondary schools renovation contract awarded in 2018.

This comes two years after the State Ministry of Education spent N1billion to renovate secondary schools across the state.

Speaker of the House of Assembly, Ibrahim Balarable set up the committee on Tuesday when the Secretary to the State Government, Ahmed Tijjani and the Commissioner for Education, Hajiya Fati Sabo appeared before the House.

Balarabe explained that their invitation was to explain their roles in the utilisation of the fund approved and released for the project which according to him has been abandoned.

The Speaker noted that the invitation of the SSG and the Commissioner was not to witch hunt them but to ensure that the right thing is done for the purpose of accountability and good governance.

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“After listening to the SSG, who was a former Commissioner for Education when the contract was awarded in 2018 without completion up till this moment.

“It is in view of this that we are setting up an Ad hoc committee to investigate the projects in the interest of our children and overall development of the state.

“The committee include the Chairman and members of the House Committee on Education, Chairmen of House Committees on Finance, Public Account and Works respectively.

“I urge the committee to do a thorough job as it is sad and unfortunate that our children in some secondary schools are learning under the trees, the Speaker said.

In his reaction, the SSG admitted that the sum was released in November 2018 by the government to the Ministry of Education for the renovation of schools.

“Yes, the renovation work is ongoing as the contract was given in 2018 when I was a commissioner for Education,” he said.

Speaking also, the Commissioner for Education revealed that N84million was given to the ministry when she assumed office in 2019 to pay contractors for the same projects.

Boris Johnson Faces Probe Over Luxury Holiday – Report

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks in London, on November 30, 2019. SIMON DAWSON / POOL / AFP

 

Britain’s parliamentary watchdog is investigating Prime Minister Boris Johnson amid questions over who paid for his recent Caribbean holiday, it was reported Sunday.

The Observer newspaper said that Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary commissioner for standards in the House of Commons, had launched an inquiry earlier this week.

Johnson and his fiancee Carrie Symonds, with whom he recently announced he was expecting a baby, went on a trip to the privately owned island of Mustique over the New Year.

In the register of MPs’ interests, he claimed the £15,000 (17,300-euro, $19,600) holiday  was provided by David Ross, a businessman and donor to his Conservative party.

However there was confusion after Ross initially denied handing over any money, and later clarified that it was a “benefit in kind”.

The main opposition Labour party urged the commissioner to investigate.

Downing Street, which previously insisted that everything had been declared properly, declined to comment on news of the inquiry.

AFP

NATO Chief Backs Assessment That Iran Missile Downed Ukrainian Plane

 

 

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Friday he had no reason to doubt reports from Western capitals suggesting an Iranian missile brought down a Ukrainian airliner, killing 176 people.

“I will not go into details about our intelligence but what I can say is we have no reason to not believe the reports we have seen from different NATO-allied capitals,” Stoltenberg said.

Canada and Britain have both said Iran shot down the plane outside Tehran, possibly mistakenly.

UK PM Says Information Suggests Ukraine Jet Hit By Iran Missile

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to the media on November 30, 2019.  SIMON DAWSON / POOL / AFP

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday that there was now “a body of information” that the Ukrainian Boeing 747 that crashed in Iran, killing all 176 people aboard, was brought down by an Iranian missile.

His comments follow a similar message by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“There is now a body of information that the flight was shot down by an Iranian Surface to Air Missile. This may well have been unintentional,” Johnson said in a statement on the air disaster in which four British passengers died.

Johnson reiterated the call for “all sides urgently to de-escalate to reduce tensions in the region.”

The Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) Boeing 737NG went down on Wednesday, shortly after Tehran launched missiles at US forces in Iraq in response to the killing of a top Iranian general in a US drone strike in Baghdad.

“We are working closely with Canada and our international partners and there now needs to be a full, transparent investigation,” into the plane crash, Johnson added.

The British PM also called for “an immediate and respectful repatriation of those who’ve lost their lives to allow their families to grieve properly”.

Iranian Missile Brought Down Airliner, Says Canadian PM

Minister of National Denfence Harjit Sajjan (C) and Chief of Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance (R) listen as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (L) speaks during a news conference on January 9, 2020, in Ottawa, Canada. DAVE CHAN / AFP

 

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday multiple intelligence sources indicate that Iran shot down a Ukrainian airliner after it took off from Tehran, killing all 176 onboard, including 63 Canadians.

Trudeau’s comments came as video emerged that appeared to show the moment the airliner was hit.

That and other footage posted on social media increasingly pointed to a catastrophic mistake by Tehran’s air defense batteries in bringing down Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 early Wednesday.

The video, which The New York Times said it verified, shows a fast-moving object rising at an angle into the sky before a bright flash is seen, which dims and then continues moving forward. Several seconds later an explosion is heard.

Citing information from allies as well as Canada’s own intelligence, Trudeau said the plane appeared to have been hit by an Iranian surface-to-air (SAM) missile.

“We know this may have been unintentional. Canadians have questions, and they deserve answers,” Trudeau told reporters.

He was backed by other Western leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who said mounting evidence supported a missile strike, which “may well have been unintentional.”

US President Donald Trump indicated that Washington officials believed the Kiev-bound Boeing 737 was struck by one or more Iranian missiles before it ditched and exploded outside Tehran.

The US National Transportation Safety Board late Thursday said it had received formal notification of the crash from Iran and would send a representative to join the crash probe.

Iran’s foreign ministry earlier invited the US planemaker Boeing to “participate” in the inquiry.

The flight went down in the dark just minutes after takeoff, with no radio message from the pilot to indicate distress, according to the Iranian Civil Aviation Organization.

It was carrying 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and three Britons.

With tensions high between the United States and Iran, the disaster unfolded just hours after Tehran launched ballistic missiles towards bases in Iraq housing US troops.

Iran retaliated for the January 3 US drone strike in Baghdad that killed a top Iranian general.

The Iranian government said the missile strike scenario made “no sense,” however, arguing that several internal and international flights had been sharing approximately the same airspace.

Tehran later asked Ottawa to share its information with Iranian investigators.

‘Canadians want answers’

Trudeau said Canada was working with allies to ensure a credible probe.

“The families of the victims want answers, Canadians want answers, I want answers,” he said.

“This government will not rest until we get that.”

Canada’s transportation safety board on Thursday said it had accepted an invitation from Iran’s civil aviation authority to join the inquiry.

Britain’s Johnson called Thursday for a full, transparent investigation.

‘I have my suspicions’

Trump would not directly confirm what US intelligence was saying privately.

“I have my suspicions,” Trump said, adding that “somebody could have made a mistake.”

But unnamed officials told US media that satellite, radar, and electronic data indicated Tehran’s air defense units downed the aircraft.

ABC News reported that an unnamed official said it was “highly likely” the plane was brought down by two SAMs.

Black boxes

Ukraine called for United Nations support for a broad investigation and sent 45 crash investigators to Tehran to take part in the inquiry led by Iranian authorities.

Investigators are pursuing several possibilities, including engine failure, a missile strike or an act of terror.

“If any country has information that can help conduct a transparent and objective investigation into the tragedy, we are ready to receive it and cooperate in further verification,” the Ukraine presidency said in an English-language statement.

Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran’s civil aviation organization and deputy transport minister, said Iran and Ukraine were “downloading information” from the aircraft’s black boxes retrieved from the crash site.

“But if more specialized work is required to extract and analyze the data, we can do it in France or another country,” he said.

Analysts were examining photographs posted online of the wreckage and a private video apparently taken of the flight when it was struck for evidence that it was downed by a missile.

“I think this has a very good possibility of being accurate,” John Goglia, a former US aviation safety expert on the National Transportation Safety Board, said of the missile theory.

“Airplanes that have just taken off and have made a climb to 8,000 feet, that’s entering the safest period of time in the flight. So even an engine failure at that altitude should not cause the type of event we’ve just observed,” he told AFP.

The Ukrainian airline crash brought back memories of another tragedy, involving a US military error.

In 1988, an Iran Air flight was mistakenly shot down over the Gulf by a surface-to-air missile fired from the US warship USS Vincennes.

All 290 people aboard, most of them Iranians, were killed.

Ex-Footballer Investigated Over Child Pornography In Germany

(File photo) German defender Christoph Metzelder during the Euro 2008 Championships quarter-final football match Portugal vs Germany at St Jakob-Park in Basel. Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP

 

Former Germany and Real Madrid footballer Christoph Metzelder, 38, is under investigation for allegedly sharing child pornography via the messenging service WhatsApp, German prosecutors confirmed Wednesday.

“We can confirm an investigation against Christoph Metzelder on suspicion of sharing child pornography, including digital images,” a spokeswoman for the Hamburg prosecutor’s office, Liddy Oechtering, told AFP.

The 2002 World Cup finalist is alleged to have used WhatsApp to send pornographic photos of children to a woman in Hamburg, Oechtering said.

The woman reported the images to the Hamburg police, who opened investigations alongside public prosecutors in August.

Oechtering confirmed reports that investigators had carried out raids in two locations on Tuesday, but declined to give further details.

According to a report in Spiegel magazine, the raids were on Metzelder’s home and offices in Duesseldorf, and led to the seizure of a laptop and a mobile phone.

Oechtering said the footballer had not been detained, adding that “we are currently analysing the materials seized.”

Metzelder played for major clubs such as Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in a career spanning 15 years.

He retired from football in 2014 and has since worked as a pundit for Sky Sports Germany and president of his local club TuS Haltern.

Since 2006, the 38-year-old has run a foundation in his own name to support socially disadvantaged children across Germany.

He has also recently appeared as a pundit on public broadcaster ARD, who said Wednesday that they had “suspended the co-operation until the accusations have been clarified”.

His is the second high-profile legal case involving a former Germany defender in two days.

On Tuesday, prosecutors in Munich confirmed that Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng was under investigation for a reported dangerous assault on his ex-partner.

AFP

Sweden Reopens Rape Probe Against Assange

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange/ AFP

 

Swedish prosecutors said Monday they were reopening a 2010 rape investigation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

“I have today decided to reopen the investigation … There is still probable cause to suspect that Mr Assange committed rape,” the deputy director of public prosecutions, Eva-Marie Persson, told reporters.

AFP

Macron’s Aide Probed Over ‘False Testimony’ In Bodyguard Scandal

In this video grab taken on July 19, 2018 a man is identified as Elysee Chief Security Officer Alexandre Benalla wearing a police visor as he drags away a demonstrator during May 1 protests in Paris.  Tahar Bouhafs / AFP

 

Paris prosecutors Monday opened a probe into alleged false testimony in the case of French President Emmanuel Macron’s former bodyguard who was filmed hitting protesters at last year’s May Day rally.

Those targeted include the president’s cabinet chief Patrick Strzoda, prosecutors said in a statement.

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The scandal — which saw Alexandre Benalla fired last year after a video emerged of him roughing up protestors — continues to overshadow the Macron presidency.

A perjury probe has been opened targeting Benalla as well as Vincent Crase, a former staffer of Macron’s ruling party, and Strzoda, prosecutors said in a statement.

It comes after several protagonists in the case testified before the commission of inquiry of France’s upper house, the Senate.

The investigations were opened after the Senate signalled deficiencies in testimony to the Paris prosecutors.

The Senate complained of “incoherence and contradictions” in the testimony of Strzoda and two other top aides of Macron, chief of staff Alexis Kohler and presidential security chief Lionel Lavergne.

A former bouncer, Benalla began working as a bodyguard for Macron during the young candidate’s election campaign in 2016 before being promoted to a senior security role in the presidential palace following Macron’s election in May 2017.

After being given leave by the presidency to attend the May Day protest as an observer, he waded into the fray wearing a police helmet, grabbing a female demonstrator by the neck and hitting a male demonstrator.

The presidency initially held off reporting Benalla to the authorities.

Benalla was fired and placed under investigation after Le Monde newspaper broke the story in July 2018. It was Strzoda who authorised Benalla to attend the demonstration.

A French Senate commission of inquiry found “major flaws” in the government’s handling of the affair and said it suspected Macron’s aides of trying to cover up some of the details.

Perjury can be punished in France with up to five years in jail.

AFP

France Probes Injury Of 73-Year-Old Yellow Vest Protester

French police rush towards Genevieve Legay, an Attac activtist, who collapsed on the ground in Garibaldi Square during a rally by the anti-government “Yellow Vests” (Gilets jaunes) movement in the city of Nice, southeastern France, on March 23, 2019.  Valery HACHE / AFP

 

French officials faced fresh questions Sunday about the handling of the “yellow vest” protests after an elderly activist was seriously injured during a police charge in the southern city of Nice.

Prosecutors there have opened an inquiry to try to establish what happened Saturday when 73-year-old Genevieve Legay suffered head injuries.

When paramedics evacuated veteran activist Legay from the demonstration she was bleeding from the head, but still conscious, AFP journalists at the scene noted.

Her daughter later said that she had suffered several fractures to the skull and subdural haematomas.

READ ALSO: Thousands Mark Three Months Of France’s ‘Yellow Vest’ Protests

Arie Alimi, the family’s lawyer, told AFP that they would be filing a formal complaint against the authorities for violence against “a vulnerable person”. The region’s governor would be named in the lawsuit, to be submitted on Monday.

“The police charge was very violent,” he said. “Mrs Legay … has been very badly injured.” But contrary to some reports, she was in a stable condition and not in a coma, he added.

Photos and video footage from Saturday’s protest showed her carrying a rainbow-coloured flag with the word “peace” written on it.

Legay is an activist with the social justice campaign group Attac. The group published a message on its website calling for an inquiry to establish who was responsible for her injuries.

 Demos restricted  

In an interview with Nice-Matin published Monday, President Emmanuel Macron wished her “a speedy recovery, and perhaps some form of wisdom”.

“When you are frail and may be pushed around, you do not go to places that are defined as prohibited and do not put yourself in situations like this,” he said.

Both local prosecutors and France’s justice minister Sunday pointed out that protests in some parts of the city center had been banned.

The minister. Nicole Belloubet, was asked about the incident in an interview with French channel BFMTV.

While wishing Legay a speedy recovery, she said, “I do find it curious all the same that when a demonstration had been banned, as was the case in Nice, someone goes with the declared intention of demonstrating in that place there.”

“There were some areas, in some cities, where demonstrations were banned. Following warnings, a person who stays there is likely to commit a crime and it is in this context that the events happened.”

Nice prosecutor Jean-Michel Pretre said they were doing everything they could to find out what happened.

“When you stay in a protest after the regulatory (police) warning that people have to disperse, it’s a crime.”

In Legay’s case, however, it was not clear whether she had been in the banned area, or on the edge of it when police moved against the protesters.

Demonstrations this weekend were also banned in certain parts of Paris and in the centers of Toulouse, Bordeaux, Dijon, and Rennes.

 2,000 convictions 

French courts so far have convicted around 2,000 “yellow vest” protesters of offences since the marches began last November, Belloubet told BFMTV.

“Of the 2,000 convictions that have already taken place, the figure that should be retained is that 40 percent are prison sentences,” she said. They ranged from one month to three years, according to justice ministry figures.

The other 60 percent of convictions involved community service, suspended sentences or other non-custodial sentences, the minister added.

Nearly 1,800 cases arising from the protests, in Paris and other French cities every Saturday since November 17, were still to be resolved and a total of 8,700 people had been detained, she said.

More than 40,000 people took to the streets across France on Saturday for the 19th consecutive week of anti-government protests, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said.

The government redeployed soldiers from its Sentinelle anti-terror force to guard public buildings in Paris, freeing up 6,000 police in Paris to tackle any flare-ups of violence.

AFP

China Probes Factory Blast As Death Toll Hits 47

Chinese President Xi Jinping

 

Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered local governments Friday to prevent any more industrial disasters after a chemical plant blast left 47 people dead, injured hundreds and flattened an industrial park in the latest such catastrophe to hit the country.

Thursday’s explosion in the eastern city of Yancheng, Jiangsu province was one of the worst industrial disasters to hit China, with Xi acknowledging that the country has seen a rash of major accidents in recent years.

Xi — who is on a state visit to Italy — urged “all-out efforts” to rescue those trapped and to identify the cause of the accident “as early as possible”, according to the official news agency Xinhua.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, has established a team to investigate the explosion, with State Councilor Wang Yong headed to the scene to lead rescue and response efforts, state media said.

The explosion toppled several buildings in the industrial park and caused a huge fire that raged through the night, while rescuers scrambled to find survivors in the wreckage of the plant owned by a company with a chequered past.

READ ALSO: Three Rescued Days After Indian Building Collapse

The windows of homes a few kilometers (miles) away were shattered.

“We knew we’d be blown up one day,” said one 60-year-old woman surnamed Xiang who had harboured concerns about safety and pollution for a long time.

More than 600 people have received medical treatment following the blast, according to the city government.

Among them, at least 90 are seriously injured. Hundreds of rescuers have been dispatched to the scene, local authorities said, and some 4,000 people have been evacuated from the blast site.

In a shopping street in Yancheng, a bus was converted into a blood donation centre, with about 20 to 30 people lined up.

Local authorities, who are investigating the cause of the accident, said an unspecified number of people were taken into police custody on Friday.

The facility involved in the explosion belonged to Tianjiayi Chemical, a firm with 195 employees established in 2007 that mainly produces raw chemical materials, including anisole, a highly flammable compound.

Tianjiayi Chemical has a history of violating environmental regulations, according to online records from Yancheng city’s environment and ecology bureau.

In 2015 and 2017, the firm was fined for violating rules on solid and water waste management.

 Toxic water 

In the aftermath of the explosion, several residents told AFP they were concerned about pollution from the industrial accident.

“We don’t have drinkable water here,” Xiang said. “Why hasn’t the government sent us some water?”

According to a report released Friday by Jiangsu province’s ecology and environment department, several rivers near the blast site are contaminated with chemicals, including chloroform and dichloromethane.

The force of the explosion — which was so powerful that it apparently triggered a small earthquake — blew out windows and dented metal garage doors of buildings as far as four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the site.

Nearby residents — many of them elderly — have started sweeping up the glass, and in some cases, seemed to have abandoned their homes entirely.

On the road where Xiang lived, consisting of basic two-storey homes, almost all the windows and some window frames were blown in.

The woman was sitting at home when the explosion occurred and said the force rocked her house and badly damaged her front door.

There was no immediate government help, she said, and residents were clearing the street themselves.

“I have no one to help me here,” said a grandmother and single mom surnamed Wang.

“What am I going to do with all the shattered glass on the floor and a broken wall?” the 57-year-old told AFP, tearing up.

 Workers trapped 

The blast toppled buildings, trapping workers. State broadcaster CCTV showed rescuers pulling a survivor from the wreckage.

Workers covered in blood were seen running out of the factory.

An aerial view of the blast area showed a large swath of destruction in the industrial park, where multiple fires had initially raged.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze Friday after battling raging flames through the night. Three chemical tanks and five other areas had been on fire.

Deadly industrial accidents are common in China, where safety regulations are often poorly enforced.

In November, a gas leak at a plant in the northern Chinese city of Zhangjiakou that will host the 2022 Winter Olympics killed 24 people and injured 21 others.

In 2015, China saw one of its worst industrial accidents when giant chemical blasts in the northern port city of Tianjin killed at least 165 people.

AFP

Facebook Faces Criminal Probe Of Data Deals – Report

Facebook Faces 'Oppenheimer Moment' Over Trump Scandal

 

US prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into Facebook’s practice of sharing users’ data with companies without letting the social network’s members know, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

A grand jury in New York has subpoenaed information from at least two major smartphone makers about such arrangements with Facebook, according to the Times.

Regulators, investigators and elected officials around the world have already been digging into the data sharing practices of Facebook which has more than two billion users.

READ ALSO: A Day Not To ‘Like’ For Facebook, Hit By Outage, Criminal Probe

The social network’s handling of user data has been a flashpoint for controversy since it admitted last year that Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy, used an app that may have hijacked the private details of 87 million users.

“It has already been reported that there are ongoing federal investigations, including by the Department of Justice,” a Facebook spokesman said in response to an AFP inquiry.

“As we’ve said before, we are cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously. We’ve provided public testimony, answered questions, and pledged that we will continue to do so.”

Facebook has shared limited amounts of user data with smartphone makers and other outside partners to enable its services to work well on devices or with applications. Regulators, and now prosecutors, appear intent on determining whether this was done in ways that let users know what was happening and protected privacy.

The California-based social network has announced a series of moves to tighten handling of data, including eliminating most of its data-sharing partnerships with outside companies.

The focus of the grand jury probe was not clear, nor was when it started, according to the Times, which cited unnamed sources.

AFP

UEFA Opens Probe Into Neymar’s Referee Rant

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar/ AFP

 

UEFA have opened disciplinary proceedings on Neymar after his foul-mouthed outburst about referees following Paris Saint-Germain’s controversial Champions League exit to Manchester United last week, the governing body announced on Wednesday.

Injured Brazil forward Neymar launched into a diatribe against the match officials shortly after the defeat on Instagram.

He watched on incredulous from the sidelines at the Parc des Princes as United were awarded a stoppage-time penalty for a debatable handball via the video assistant referee (VAR) system.

Marcus Rashford crashed home the spot-kick to give the Premier League side a last-gasp 3-1 win that saw them into the quarter-finals on away goals.

READ ALSO: Schalke Boss Vows Not To Resign Despite Humiliating Man City Defeat

“It’s a disgrace. They get four guys who don’t understand football to watch a slow-motion replay in front of the TV … Go fuck yourselves!” Neymar wrote in Portuguese on the social media website.

The 27-year-old was so reportedly enraged he had to be restrained by PSG staff to stop him entering their dressing room.

“A disciplinary investigation has been initiated … in connection with the comments made on social media by the Paris Saint-Germain player Neymar following the above-mentioned match,” UEFA said in a statement.

If found guilty Neymar risks punishment ranging from a fine to suspension.

AFP