PHOTOS: Uber, Bolt Drivers Protest In Abuja

Uber and Bolt Drivers Protest in Abuja Over Reduction in Commission on Monday, September 14, 2020

 

Dozens of Uber and Bolt drivers are protesting in the nation’s capital Abuja against their service providers.

The protesting drivers are calling for a review in charges for services, commissions, and proper profiling of users.

The drivers insist that charges for services in Abuja remain the lowest when compared with other cities in the country.

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Fuel Hike: Police Arrest Protesters In Lagos

 

Some protesters expressing their displeasure over the recent petrol and electricity tariff hike have been arrested by officers of the police force in Lagos. 

The arrest took place on Thursday at the Ojuelegba area of the metropolis where the demonstrators were staging a protest.

Also arrested alongside the protesters were some journalists.


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There are claims that over fifteen people have been arrested in connection with the march.

More details as regards the situation is expected to come in shortly.

Thousands Protest In Mauritius Over Giant Oil Spill

People wave the national flag as they attend a protest against the government's response to the oil spill disaster that happened in early August at St Louis Cathedral in Port Louis, on the island of Mauritius, on August 29, 2020. Beekash Roopun / L'Express Maurice / AFP
People wave the national flag as they attend a protest against the government’s response to the oil spill disaster that happened in early August at St Louis Cathedral in Port Louis, on the island of Mauritius, on August 29, 2020. Beekash Roopun / L’Express Maurice / AFP

 

Tens of thousands of Mauritians protested Saturday in the capital Port Louis over the government’s handling of a giant oil spill off its pristine Indian Ocean coast.

The Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio crashed into a reef off southeastern Mauritius last month spewing more than 1,000 tonnes of oil into waters that are home to mangrove forests and endangered species.

After the boat split in two, the larger piece was towed out to sea and sunk, but the smaller section remains stranded on the reef.

The call for the march came from an ordinary citizen, Jean Bruneau Laurette, who has become a hero among many for daring to oppose Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth.

People hold up the national flag and placards as they protest against the government's response to the tanker oil spill disaster that happened in early August in Port Louis, on the island of Mauritius, on August 29, 2020. Fabien Dubessay / AFP
People hold up the national flag and placards as they protest against the government’s response to the tanker oil spill disaster that happened in early August in Port Louis, on the island of Mauritius, on August 29, 2020. Fabien Dubessay / AFP

 

Laurette, a maritime security expert, says the government has been hiding the truth about the circumstances of the oil spill. He has filed a case against the environment ministry.

Up to 75,000 protesters thronged the square in front of the cathedral in downtown Port-Louis, an AFP reporter said, in the biggest demonstration in 40 years.

Many of them were dressed in black — the colour of mourning. Public anger has boiled over in Mauritius after at least 34 melon-headed whales were found dead or seriously ill near the site of the spill.

Fisheries minister Sudheer Maudhoo had said there was “no trace of hydrocarbons on them or in their respiratory system”.

“This rally is an occasion to send a message to tell Pravind Jugnauth he has messed up,” marcher Jocelyne Leung, 35, told AFP.

“This is the first time that a citizens’ demonstration has gathered such a big crowd,” said Ajay Gunness, the number two of the opposition MMM party.

Many protesters carried the national flag, sang the national anthem, and called for Jugnauth to step down.

Authorities and experts from Japan and Britain are still investigating the true extent of the ecological damage to an island whose economy depends heavily on tourism.

This archipelago is a tourist haven and many of it’s 1.3 population derive their livelihood from tourism or fishing.

Veteran politician Jugnauth, whose current stint in power began in 2017, has denied making any mistakes in handling the spill.

 

 

AFP

Social Distancing: Germany Police Stop Mass ‘Anti-Corona’ Protest

Protesters hold a banner in front of a policeman during a counter demonstration near the Humboldt university on August 29, 2020 in Berlin, in opposition to a rally called by far-right and COVID-19 deniers against restrictions related to the new coronavirus pandemic.
John MACDOUGALL / AFP

 

German police Saturday halted a march by some 18,000 coronavirus sceptics in Berlin because many were not respecting social distancing measures.

The mass protest against pandemic restrictions had been allowed to go ahead after a bitter legal battle.

But it had barely begun at 0900 GMT at the city’s iconic Brandenburg Gate, when it was forced to stop due to a police injunction.

“The minimum distancing is not being respected by most (of the demonstrators) despite repeated requests,” the police said. “There is no other option than to break up the gathering.”

After the announcement, the demonstrators shouted “Resistance” and “We are the people,” a slogan often used by the far-right, and sang the German national anthem.

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Police had vowed to turn out in force and strictly monitor compliance with mask-wearing and social distancing at the protest.

Berlin police chief Barbara Slowik had warned that if the demonstrators did not adhere to virus safety rules, police would clear the area “very quickly”.

“We will not be able or willing to watch tens of thousands assemble and create infection risks,” she added.

Berlin city authorities had previously decided not to allow the Saturday demonstration to go ahead, fearing that the estimated 22,000 protesters would not keep a distance of 1.5 metres (five feet) apart or comply with face mask requirements.

The ban sparked outrage from organisers and their supporters who flooded social media with angry messages vowing to protest anyway, with some even calling for violence.

But on the eve of the demo, Berlin’s administrative court sided with the demonstrators, saying there was no indication that organisers would “deliberately ignore” social distancing rules and endanger public health.

‘We Must Defend Freedoms’

A crowd, including people of all ages and families with children, had gathered Saturday morning at the Brandeburg Gate, the starting point for the march.

The protesters waved German flags and shouted “Merkel must go!”, a chant often used by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party against Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“I’m not an extreme right-wing sympathiser, I’m here to defend our fundamental freedoms,” said Stefan, a 43-year-old Berlin resident with a shaved head and a T-shirt with the words “Thinking helps” written in large print.

“We’re here to say: we have to be careful! Coronavirus crisis or not, we must defend our freedoms,” Christina Holz, a 22-year-old student, told AFP.

Around 3,000 police officers, including 1,000 federal police, were scheduled to be deployed for the demonstration, alongside specialist equipment including water cannon, Slowik said.

The rally came as coronavirus cases continue to rise in Germany, with daily new infection numbers reaching highs not seen since April.

At a press conference on Friday, Merkel said confronting the virus will become more challenging in the coming autumn and winter months.

Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states on Thursday introduced tougher coronavirus restrictions to curb the pandemic, including a minimum 50 euro ($59) fine for people caught not wearing face masks where one is compulsory.

“We will have to live with this virus for a long time to come. It is still serious. Please continue to take it seriously,” Merkel warned.

Counter Demos

The court decision to allow the protest shines a light on the battle lines being drawn up between those who are content to follow government-mandated protection measures and those who believe that governments shouldn’t be able to dictate how people live.

At the start of August, a similar “anti-corona” march in Berlin took place with 20,000 protesters, a mixture of the hard left and right, anti-vaccination campaigners, conspiracy theorists and self-described “free thinkers”.

Police broke up the protest early after participants repeatedly flouted Covid-19 safety regulations.

The far-right welcomed Friday’s court ruling allowing the latest demo to go ahead, with Leif-Erik Holm, a lawmaker for the anti-migrant AfD party, calling it “a victory for freedom”.

But several groups intend to stage counter-demonstrations to the main protest.

Anne Helm from the left-wing party Die Linke and an MP in Berlin’s parliament, said: “There must be no tolerance towards racists, anti-Semites, right-wing extremists, and Nazis. That is why I call on all Berliners to take part in the counter-events.”

Several countries around the world have seen protests against coronavirus restrictions and lockdown measures in recent months.

AFP

UN In Libya Urges Probe After Violence At Protest

(FILES) In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

The UN mission to Libya on Monday urged the Government of National Accord (GNA) to conduct an “immediate and thorough investigation” after violence at a protest in Tripoli a day earlier.

Hundreds gathered in the capital on Sunday evening to protest deteriorating living conditions and denounce corruption in the war-torn country, before security personnel fired into the air to disperse them, witnesses said.

“UNSMIL calls for an immediate and thorough investigation into the excessive use of force by pro-GNA security personnel in Tripoli yesterday which resulted in the injury of a number of protesters,” the UN mission said in a statement, without specifying how many people were wounded.

Videos and photographs circulating on social media showed men in military attire aiming their guns towards protesters in one of the capital’s streets.

Ayman al-Wafi, a young man in his twenties who attended the protest, told AFP that demonstrators had left Tripoli’s Martyrs’ Square after “security forces started firing in the air”.

Angered by chronic water, power, and petrol shortages in a country with Africa’s largest proven crude oil reserves, the mostly young people had marched through the city centre chanting slogans including “No to corruption!”

Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha called those responsible for the violence “outlaws who infiltrated the security forces” supervising the protest.

The interior ministry on Sunday evening said in a statement that the men “do not belong to the security forces” and would be arrested.

Libya has endured almost a decade of violent chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

The country is plagued by water shortages and power blackouts that snuff out air-conditioners in the searing summer heat.

The situation has been compounded by the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has spread in the country despite social distancing measures.

Considering “the continuing immiseration of the Libyan people and the ever-present threat of renewed conflict, it is past time for Libyan leaders to put aside their differences and engage in a fully inclusive political dialogue,” the UN mission said.

The protest came just two days after the country’s warring rival administrations announced separately that they would cease all hostilities and hold nationwide elections.

AFP

Labour Unions, Women Protest Against Rape In Oyo

 

Labour unions and Non-Governmental Organisations in Oyo State have taken to the streets to protest against rape and other forms of gender violence in the state.

The women wing of the labour unions and a group of students from the University of Ibadan asked both the state government and residents to take bolder steps to curb the menace.

They were seen carrying placards with various inscriptions like “Women are not sex toys,” “No to rape is a collective responsibility,” “rape is a lifetime injury” among several others.

Speaking to Channels Television on Friday, the protesters explained that efforts were ongoing to lobby states and the National Assembly to ensure a quick review and passage of Anti-Rape and Domestic Violence laws in the country.

READ ALSO: Benue Lawmaker Remanded In Prison Over Criminal Conspiracy, Kidnapping

Addressing the protesters, the Chief of Staff to Governor Seyi Makinde, Bisi Ilaka said the state government will do all within its power to secure the lives of residents in the state.

Oyo State recently recorded cases of violent attacks on residents of Akinyele Local Government Area where at least six women were raped and murdered.

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Thai PM Downplays Democracy Movement’s Spread To Schools

Anti-government protesters hold up their phone flashlights during a rally at Democracy Monument in Bangkok on August 16, 2020. – Protesters gathered for a rally in Bangkok on August 16 against the government as tensions rose in the kingdom after the arrest of three activists leading the pro-democracy movement. Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP.

 

Thailand’s premier on Tuesday played down the spread of the country’s democracy movement to high schools where students have been raising a three-fingered salute as a protest symbol against the military-aligned government.

The country has seen near-daily protests in recent weeks by university students demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha and a frank discussion of the role of the unassailable monarchy.

Their demands have gained traction among a broad demographic and a protest in Bangkok on Sunday drew more than 10,000 people — the largest political gathering since former military chief Prayut came to power in a 2014 coup.

This week the movement has taken hold in high schools where teenagers have been holding up three fingers each morning as the national anthem plays, according to Twitter posts with the hashtag #badstudent that have gone viral.

“All I see are the innocent intentions of the students,” premier Prayut said Tuesday, claiming the youngsters were being peer-pressured into joining.

“I heard from students that some don’t want to join but they are being bullied.”

Protesters are calling for an overhaul of Prayut’s government, a rewrite of the constitution and the abolition of a controversial royal defamation law.

The law shields Thailand’s super-rich King Maha Vajiralongkorn from criticism and carries a sentence of up to 15 years in jail per charge.

After Sunday’s massive protest, the hashtag campaign “Tie a white bow against the dictator” started trending on Twitter.

Images of high school students with white ribbons on their hair, wrists and backpacks proliferated.

Anti-government protesters hold up their phone flashlights during a rally at Democracy Monument in Bangkok on August 16, 2020. – Protesters gathered for a rally in Bangkok on August 16 against the government as tensions rose in the kingdom after the arrest of three activists leading the pro-democracy movement. Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP.

 

But there have also been allegations of intimidation and harassment of pupils levelled against school staff and plainclothes police.

The United Nations agency overseeing child rights on Tuesday issued a statement voicing “concern” about the “potential harm” children could be facing.

“UNICEF urges all actors to ensure that children and young people… are able to voice their opinions peacefully about issues that affect their present and future, without fear or intimidation,” the statement said.

National Police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen called the allegations of harassment “rumour” but encouraged students to file any legal grievances.

“If there is strong evidence… you are entitled to bring legal action against them,” he told AFP.

Legal aid group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights issued an online form encouraging students to lodge complaints anonymously.

AFP

Belarus Workers Stage Strikes Over Disputed Vote

Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko addresses employees of the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant (MZKT), in Minsk, on August 17, 2020. – The Belarusian strongman, who has ruled his ex-Soviet country with an iron grip since 1994, is under increasing pressure from the streets and abroad over his claim to have won re-election on August 9, with 80 percent of the vote. Lukashenko met with workers at the plant and downplayed the protests, saying that in general factories were working. (Photo by Nikolay PETROV / BELTA / AFP)

 

Workers at factories in Belarus answered opposition calls for fresh strikes on Monday after a historic weekend protest over President Alexander Lukashenko’s disputed re-election brought tens of thousands to the streets.

In footage widely shared on social media, Lukashenko was confronted by workers at the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant (MZKT) who shouted him down with chants of “Leave!” as he tried to give a speech.

A visibly angry Lukashenko walked off the stage, saying: “Thank you, I have said everything. You can shout ‘Leave’.”

Pressure has been building on the ex-Soviet nation’s longtime leader since the August 9 election, which he claims to have won with 80 percent of the vote.

In the biggest demonstration to date, more than 100,000 people took part in a “March for Freedom” in Minsk on Sunday following calls from main opposition figure Svetlana Tikhanovskaya for continued demonstrations.

A brutal police crackdown on post-election protests has drawn widespread condemnation and appears to have turned even Lukashenko’s support base at state-owned industries against him.

European Union leaders are to hold an emergency video summit on Belarus on Wednesday, EU Council President Charles Michel announced, while Germany said it was prepared to back an expansion of previously announced sanctions.

Hundreds of workers and protesters gathered outside the MZKT plant where Lukashenko was visiting, waving the red-and-white flag of the opposition and demanding his resignation.

Workers at the Minsk Tractor Works (MTZ) also told AFP that several thousand staff had walked off the job.

After flying in by helicopter, Lukashenko told workers he would not give in to calls for a new election.

“You will never expect me to do something under pressure,” he was quoted as saying by his press service. “If anyone is unwilling to work and wants to leave, no one will harass you, do as you please, the door is open.”

Demonstrators also gathered outside the Minsk headquarters of state television, where some staff were reported to have joined the strikes.

“I know how scared you are, because we are all scared. Thank you for overcoming your fear and joining the majority,” Maria Kolesnikova, a senior opposition leader, told the protesters.

Workers of potash producer Belaruskali have also said they may go on strike, according to independent local news site tut.by. Potash, used to make fertiliser, is a major source of income for Belarus, which is one of the largest producers in the world.

– Tikhanovskaya ‘ready’ to lead –

Lukashenko has defied calls to stand down after the August 9 election that saw him imprison his closest rivals, shun independent observers and unleash a brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters who said he fabricated ballot results.

The opposition called for a general strike after hundreds of workers at state-run factories first downed tools last week in a sign that Lukashenko’s traditional support base was turning against him.

In a video posted online Monday, Tikhanovskaya said that although she never planned to enter politics she was prepared to take over the country’s leadership.

“Fate decreed that I’d find myself on the frontline of a confrontation against arbitrary rule and injustice,” Tikhanovskaya said in exile in Lithuania.

“I am ready to take responsibility and act as a national leader during this period.”

Tikhanovskaya has demanded the authorities release all detainees, remove security forces from the streets and open criminal cases against those who ordered the crackdown.

She has also said she will organise new elections if Lukashenko steps down.

Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus for 26 years, is facing an unprecedented challenge to his leadership.

Pressure is growing at home and abroad and EU leaders last week agreed to draw up a list of targets for a new round of sanctions.

– UK ‘watched with horror’ –

Britain said Monday it did not recognise the results of the “unfair” elections and called for an independent investigation into the results.

“The world has watched with horror at the violence used by the Belarusian authorities to suppress the peaceful protests that followed this fraudulent presidential election,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

“The UK does not accept the results.”

NATO member Lithuania warned on Monday that Belarus had started military drills on its western border and accused Lukashenko of escalating tensions following the elections.

The Kremlin, which is Lukashenko’s closest ally, has said it is ready to step in if necessary through the CSTO military alliance between six ex-Soviet states.

More and more Belarusians have taken to the streets over the last week to denounce the election result and support Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old political novice who ran after other potential candidates including her husband were jailed.

A violent police crackdown on protesters saw more than 6,700 people arrested, hundreds wounded and two people dead.

AFP

Election Crisis: Workers Protest At Belarus Factory, State Television HQ

Workers of Minskenergo (Minsk Energy Company) shout during a rally in Minsk, on August 17, 2020, after incumbent president rejected calls to step down in a defiant speech. Sergei GAPON / AFP
Workers of Minskenergo (Minsk Energy Company) shout during a rally in Minsk, on August 17, 2020, after incumbent president rejected calls to step down in a defiant speech. Sergei GAPON / AFP

 

Protesters gathered outside a factory and the headquarters of state television in Minsk on Monday following a call from Belarus’s opposition for a general strike over a disputed election.

AFP journalists saw protesters waving the opposition’s red-and-white flag at the television channel and the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant (MZKT), where President Alexander Lukashenko was visiting.

Workers at the Minsk Tractor Works (MTZ) also told AFP that several thousand staff had walked off the job.

Footage posted by the tut.by news website showed crowds of workers from other plants marching to the MZKT plant to join the protest.

READ ALSO: Tens Of Thousands Rally In Belarus As Lukashenko Vows To Stay On

Protesters at the plant chanted “Leave!” and “We will not forget, we will not forgive.”

Senior opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova joined the crowd and urged them to head next to the state television offices.

“We are going to (state) television to support our colleagues in the resistance,” she said.

Lukashenko met with workers at the plant and downplayed the protests, saying that in general factories were working.

“If anyone does not want to work and wants to walk out… please the doors are open,” state news agency Belta quoted him as saying.

He again rejected calls to step down, saying: “You will never expect me to do something under pressure.”

 

AFP

Latest Thailand Pro-Democracy Protest Draws At Least 10,000

Anti-government protesters take part in a rally by the Democracy Monument in Bangkok on August 16, 2020. – Protesters gathered for a rally in Bangkok on August 16 against the government as tensions rose in the kingdom after the arrest of three activists leading the pro-democracy movement. Mladen ANTONOV / AFP.

 

An anti-government protest in Thailand drew at least 10,000 people on Sunday, police said, the largest political demonstration the kingdom has seen in years as a pro-democracy movement gathers steam.

Student-led groups have held near-daily protests across the country for the past month to denounce Premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha — a former army chief who led a 2014 coup — and his military-aligned administration.

By Sunday evening the protesters — who are demanding major democratic reforms — had taken over the busy intersection around Bangkok’s Democracy Monument, which was built to mark the 1932 revolution that ended royal absolutism.

Police closed off surrounding main roads to stop incoming traffic, and an official at Bangkok’s Metropolitan Police Bureau told AFP the crowd size had grown to 10,000 by 6 pm (1100 GMT).

“Down with the dictatorship,” the students chanted, many holding signs critical of the administration. Others held pigeon-shaped cutouts representing peace.

The gathering at Democracy Monument is the largest the kingdom has seen since Prayut staged a putsch in 2014.

Tensions have risen over the last two weeks with authorities arresting three activists. They were released on bail after being charged with sedition and violating coronavirus rules.

They were told not to repeat the alleged offences, but one of them — prominent student leader Parit Chiwarak — arrived at the protest venue on Sunday flanked by cheering supporters.

Partly inspired by the Hong Kong democracy movement, the protesters claim to be leaderless and have relied mostly on social media campaigns to draw support across the country.

“Give a deadline to dictatorship” and “let it end at our generation” were the top Twitter hashtags in Thailand on Sunday.

The protesters are demanding an overhaul of the government and a rewriting of the 2017 military-scripted constitution, which they believe skewed last year’s election in favour of Prayut’s military-aligned party.

A rally last week by around 4,000 demonstrators also called for the abolition of a law protecting Thailand’s unassailable monarchy, and for a frank discussion about its role in Thailand.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn sits at the apex of Thai power, flanked by the military and the country’s billionaire business elite.

A draconian “112” law can see those convicted sentenced to up to 15 years in jail per charge.

During Sunday’s demonstration, which drew a diverse crowd of all ages, many said they agreed with the student demands.

“We can’t let the students walk on this difficult path alone,” a 68-year-old woman told AFP, declining to provide her name.

– Growing discontent –

But the increasingly bold pro-democracy movement also has its detractors.

Standing at one corner of the monument’s intersection were dozens of royalist protesters carrying portraits of the king and queen.

“Long live the king,” shouted the royalists dressed in yellow shirts — the king’s colours.

Prayut last week described the protesters’ demands as “unacceptable” for Thailand’s majority, calling the pro-democracy movement “risky”.

He struck a more conciliatory tone in a televised speech later, appealing for unity and saying the “future belongs to the young”.

Thailand has long seen a cycle of violent protests and coups, with the arch-royalist army staging more than a dozen putsches since 1932.

The growing discontent also comes as the kingdom goes through one of its worst economic periods since 1997 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Millions have been left jobless, and the crisis has exposed the inequalities in the Thai economy, which is perceived to benefit the elite, pro-military establishment.

AFP

Protesters Storm Lebanon Foreign Ministry After Deadly Blast

A Lebanese protester waves the national flag during clashes with security forces in downtown Beirut on August 8, 2020, following a demonstration against a political leadership they blame for a monster explosion that killed more than 150 people and disfigured the capital Beirut.  JOSEPH EID / AFP
A Lebanese protester waves the national flag during clashes with security forces in downtown Beirut on August 8, 2020, following a demonstration against a political leadership they blame for a monster explosion that killed more than 150 people and disfigured the capital Beirut. JOSEPH EID / AFP

 

Lebanese protesters stormed the foreign ministry in Beirut on Saturday as anger exploded over a deadly blast that made hundreds of thousands homeless and shocked the world.

Thousands of demonstrators, some of them brandishing nooses, had descended on the city centre to vent their fury at politicians they blame for Tuesday’s explosion, which levelled Beirut port and killed 158 people.

As security forces fired tear gas to disperse strone-throwing demonstrators, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said he would seek early elections, saying it was the only way to “exit the country’s structural crisis”.

Demonstrators marched through streets ravaged by the blast, gathering in the central Martyrs’ Square, where a truck was on fire.

The police said an officer had fallen to his death after an “assault” by “a number of murderous rioters” during the protests.

“A member of the Internal Security Forces died while…. helping people trapped inside the Le Gray hotel” in downtown Beirut, the police force said on Twitter, without providing additional details.

That came after a group led by retired Lebanese army officers stormed the foreign ministry and declared it the “headquarters of the revolution”.

“We are taking over the foreign ministry as a seat of the revolution,” Sami Rammah, a retired officer, announced by loudspeaker from the ministry’s front steps.

Lebanese protesters destroy the interior of the headquarters of the Lebanese association of banks in downtown Beirut on August 8, 2020, following a demonstration against a political leadership they blame for a monster explosion that killed more than 150 people and disfigured the capital Beirut. ANWAR AMRO / AFP
Lebanese protesters destroy the interior of the headquarters of the Lebanese association of banks in downtown Beirut on August 8, 2020, following a demonstration against a political leadership they blame for a monster explosion that killed more than 150 people and disfigured the capital Beirut. ANWAR AMRO / AFP

 

“We call on all the anguished Lebanese people to take to the streets to demand the prosecution of all the corrupt,” he said, appealing to the international community to boycott the government.

In an apparently coordinated strategy, others stormed the headquarters of the country’s banking association, a focal point of anger during recent mass protests over corruption and Lebanon’s collapsing economy.

They were later chased out by security forces who entered via a back door and doused the fire.

A group also briefly entered the economy ministry, scattering piles of documents in the street.

The Lebanese Red Cross said it had taken 63 people from the protest to nearby hospitals and treated another 175 at the scene, without specifying who they were.

As rescuers made last-ditch attempts to find survivors amid the rubble, efforts were afoot to drum up international support for the disaster-hit country ahead of a virtual aid conference on Sunday.

A fire at the port on Tuesday ignited a stock of ammonium nitrate, triggering an explosion that was felt as far away as Cyprus, and destroyed entire neighbourhoods and wounded at least 6,000.

It was widely perceived as a direct consequence of corruption and incompetence, perhaps the most egregious case of callousness on the part of Lebanon’s long-reviled elite.

‘Criminals’

“You were corrupt, now you are criminals,” read one banner at the demonstration, while protesters chanted: “Revenge, until this regime reaches an end.”

Rita, whose home was gutted by the blast, said: “They have robbed us of everything. We have nothing left: no dreams, no future… no dignity, no money, and now, no houses.”

“We should not be forced to live this way,” added the 33-year-old protester.

The health ministry said 158 people were confirmed to have died in the disaster, while 21 were still missing.

A Palestinian girls carries the national flag and the Lebanese flag during a candle light vigil in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on August 5, 2020, in support of Lebanon a day after a blast in a warehouse in the port of the Lebanese capital sowed devastation across entire city neighbourhoods. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP)

 

The Netherlands announced that its ambassador’s wife was among the dead.

The blast has prompted an impressive aid response from both inside and outside Lebanon, but demonstrators’ chants and the mock gallows they set up in the street made it clear that people want heads to roll.

But some of Lebanon’s leaders seemed to consider the outpouring of international solidarity as an opportunity to break the government’s diplomatic isolation.

Foreign support

Lebanon defaulted on its debt for the first time ever this year and the current leadership has so far failed to address the economic emergency and agree on the reforms needed to negotiate an international rescue package, despite intense Western pressure.

Speaking on Friday evening, Aoun said “the explosion has led to the lifting of the isolation”.

Hassan Nasrallah, the chief of powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah, said the disaster had created “an opportunity” to get the world to work with Lebanon again.

A man holds a sign reading “Solidarity with Beyrouth” and a candle on August 5, 2020, in Toulouse, during a gathering to pay tribute to the Lebanese people a day after a powerful explosion tore through Lebanon’s capital, resulting from the ignition of a huge depot of ammonium nitrate at the city’s main port. (Photo by REMY GABALDA / AFP)

 

Three senior diplomats were in Beirut Saturday in a show of solidarity with the disaster-hit city, where 300,000 people were made temporarily homeless by the port explosion.

Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit met top officials ahead of expected visits by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel.

High-stakes probe

So far 21 people have been detained over the blast, including Badri Daher, director-general of Lebanon’s customs authority.

But Aoun has rejected calls backed by Macron for an international, independent investigation into the blast.

Five lawmakers have quit since the blast.

Few Lebanese seemed to have any trust that the leadership would incriminate its own in an investigation chaired by senior officials.

Analyst Nasser Yassin of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, said Lebanon’s reviled leaders were clearly seeking to take advantage of the situation.

“The fear is that the authorities will benefit from this great disaster and from the international and Arab attention they are getting,” he said.

 

AFP

Bristow Pilots, Engineers Shut Down Operations

 

NAAPE members stage a protest on Monday in Lagos over alleged pay disparity by Bristow Helicopters.

 

Aviation workers under the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) have shut the operations of Bristow Helicopters across the country owing to a pay disparity.

The association claimed the management has been unfair to Nigerian staff who do the same job as the expatriates but earn less.

During the demonstration, the workers were seen singing solidarity songs at the Head Office of Bristow Helicopters in Lagos which has been shut down.

They accused the company of paying expatriates their full remuneration in dollars but insisted on benchmarking salaries of national pilots and engineers to an obsolete rate of N345 per dollar, saying it was not obtainable on any legal foreign exchange window in the world.

The protesters also claimed that Bristow has refused to train qualified persons for Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) and failed to fully reimburse individuals who have successfully completed their ATPL through self-sponsorship.

According to them, this is a deviation from the agreement in place at the time and disproportionate matching and capped reimbursement cash figure for self-sponsored pilots on ATPL with an employment bond of N30 million.

 

They accused the company of odious laying off of young cadet and trainee engineers after several years of tearful sacrificial toiling on the basis of a promised career in the company.

The workers also claimed that they have consistently engaged the management of the company to address the issues raised but such efforts have failed.

They accused the company of discrimination and victimisation, stressing that members were no longer mentally conditioned to safely deliver their professional obligations.

In its reaction, the management of Bristow Helicopters denied the allegations and described the strike by the workers as illegal.

According to the company, the action of the workers runs contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian Labour Laws and Practices.

In a statement, it also faulted the claims by the striking workers that all negotiations have broken down.

The company’s management, however, said it remained committed to continuing the dialogue with the association.

A file photo of a chopper owned by Bristow Helicopters.

 

Read the full statement from the company below:

We have been made aware of a notice of indefinite strike by the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) to commence at 00hours on 3rd August 2020 contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian Labour Laws and Practices.

Contrary to NAAPE’s assertion that all negotiations have broken down, the company remains willing and prepared to continue dialogue with NAAPE but NAAPE have elected to abandon negotiations to embark on a strike action which is both illegal and unwarranted.

NAAPE has highlighted some issues as being “under contention” and it is necessary to clarify these issues, most of which arise out of an agreement executed in 2019 between Bristow and NAAPE (“the 2019 Agreement”).

Bristow proposed to put a ‘pause’ on the Pilots and Engineers Conditions of Service (COS) negotiations recognizing the recent global outbreak of COVID 19, the plummeting of global oil prices and the mandatory 22% OPEC cuts to Nigeria’s crude oil production – All which have had a significant impact on our business and capacity utilization in Nigeria.

It is important to state that notwithstanding the economic challenges in the aviation industry since the spread of COVID-19 Bristow pilots and engineers have remained the best paid in their industry and have not suffered any reduction or change in their salaries, at a time when operations have reduced by 50%.

In the 2019 Agreement, the parties agreed the relevant exchange rate at which the salaries of Bristow Pilots and Engineers would be calculated. In the agreement, both parties agreed on NGN345/$1 (at a time when the CBN exchange rate was NGN306/$1) with a provision for adjustment if the NAFEX rate moves in either direction by 20% or more.

Currently, the NAFEX rate has not reached the agreed threshold.  Bristow has fully complied with the provisions of the agreement with NAAPE.  By its demand, NAAPE is seeking to act contrary to the legally binding agreement it signed voluntarily.

In the signed 2019 agreement, Bristow committed to full sponsorship of up to four senior first officers SFOs within a financial year for their ATPL course, dependent upon operational requirements and the prevailing market realities.

Three individuals were identified, and the process of training commenced. Unfortunately, and through no fault of Bristow, the selected individuals were unable to obtain the necessary travel and study visas.

Furthermore, the proposed school identified was unable to obtain the required accreditation from the US Government for them to be used as a fully licensed training organisation.

Bristow has documents to prove that the claim of non-reimbursement of funds for self-sponsored pilots is false as two senior first officers SFOs (who have now been promoted to Captains) have been reimbursed fully for the cost of their ATPL courses.

Bristow rejects the accusation of any sharp practice regarding bonding of Pilots. The pegged ATPL reimbursement cost is in line with the costs presented to the company by individuals seeking reimbursement.

Bristow complies with all relevant laws and procedures and the exit of any employees will be in accordance with such laws and procedures.

The implementation of the engineering matrix is in line with the 2019 Agreement. NAAPE is now demanding that Bristow ‘shorten’ the current engineering matrix from fifteen (15) years to ten (10) years, which is contrary to the 2019 Agreement.

Given the far-reaching implications this has for experience and safety levels within our operations, we have offered to bring in independent subject matter experts to provide unbiased and professional advice regarding NAAPE’s demands.

NAAPE is yet to accept this proposal. Safety underpins everything Bristow does and under no circumstances shall Bristow compromise its standards or the safety of its operations.

Bristow has not and will not be in the practice of “jettisoning” legally binding agreements. Each base of operation has its peculiarities. For the particular base in question, Bristow was unable to run a two-pattern shift system due to factors outside of Bristow’s control.

An agreement was reached with NAAPE where their members will run extended shifts and in turn, get compensated for the extra hours worked.

Following extensive reviews with all stakeholders, Bristow has communicated (to NAAPE) its readiness to implement the two-shift system subject to lifting of travel restrictions in the affected base.  Bristow has commenced the review and publication of a two-shift roster.

The accusations of discriminatory policies and victimisation of Nigerian nationals are completely without merit.  Since inception in 1969 and to date, the company has trained and employed more National pilots and engineers in the industry, and at very significant costs.

In addition, the salaries and benefits payable to the National pilots and engineers continue to be the highest in the market. The majority of the company’s pilots and engineers are Nigerian nationals, yet NAAPE seeks to paint a false narrative of a company with mostly foreign pilots and engineers.  This is certainly not the case in Bristow!

In conclusion, the allegations raised by NAAPE are rejected in their entirety.  The company notes that most of the issues being advanced by NAAPE are contrary to the provisions of the 2019 Agreement and the company will request that NAAPE complies with the terms of that agreement.

Notwithstanding NAAPE’s position, Bristow remains willing to engage and dialogue on the issues.  It requests that NAAPE does the same.

Bristow is proud to provide a safe environment that promotes equity and places ability above mediocrity ensuring that Bristow’s Nigerian Pilots and Engineers remain among the best paid and best trained in the industry globally.

Signed

Bristow Management