U.N. Calls For Release Of Venezuelan Opposition Leaders, Protesters

President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro

Venezuela must release peaceful protesters and allow a prompt, independent investigation into the deaths of at least 10 people in protests at the weekend, the United Nations human rights chief said on Tuesday.

In a statement, U.N. Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein also called for the release of two prominent opposition leaders, who were arrested in raids at their homes.

Leopoldo Lopez, a 46-year-old hardliner, and Antonio Ledezma, a 62-year-old veteran politician, were both under house arrest, the former for his role in leading street demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro in 2014, and the latter on charges of plotting a coup,

U.N. Office of the High Commissioner For Human Rights (OHCHR) Spokeswoman, Ravina Shamdasani, said, “The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights is deeply concerned that Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma have had their house arrest revoked and they have been placed back in custody.

“The High Commissioner is calling on Venezuelan authorities to ensure that all those who have been detained for the exercise of their human rights to peaceful assembly, to the freedom of expression, to the freedom of association, to be promptly released.”

Shamdasani said the detention of the two prominent opposition figures had already been declared arbitrary by the U.N. working group on arbitrary detention, which is the authority on these matters.

“So we are asking the government to respect this decision and to promptly release these two men,” she said.

The pro-government Supreme Court said in a Facebook statement the measures were taken because the men had been planning to flee.

Terrorism War: UN, AU, ECOWAS Express Support For Nigeria

World Faces Worst Humanitarian Crisis Since 1945 - UNThe United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), and ECOWAS have condemned and deplored the Boko Haram terrorists ambush in Maiduguri, against a convoy of personnel of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company accompanied by geologists, under military escort.

Different sources revealed that around 50 persons were killed during the attack.

The AU, UN, and ECOWAS reaffirmed their support to the people and the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in their implacable struggle against terrorism.

The Unions also reiterated their support to all ECOWAS states to fight against terrorism, by encouraging them to implement the ECOWAS counter-terrorism strategy aimed at eradicating this menace in the region.

In a statement, the Unions sincerely wish the injured a swift recovery and express their deepest condolences to the victims and their families, as well as the people and Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

READ ALSO: Osinbajo Condemns Boko Haram Ambush

Earlier, the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo has condemned the appalling ambush, attack and abduction of soldiers, and civilians who were carrying out their duties to the Nation in the Lake Chad Basin Frontier Exploration.

He said the objective of this patriotic exercise is to open up new areas for oil exploration for the common good of all Nigerians. The terrorist attack resulted in a number of deaths of hardworking and innocent Nigerians, and the abduction of some.

Prof. Osinbajo commiserates with the families, relatives, and associates of those who lost their lives in the despicable onslaught and wishes the injured speedy recovery.

SERAP Writes UN To Probe FG, Queens College Over Students’ Death

Alleged Corruption: SERAP Writes Buhari Over SGF's CaseThe Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has petitioned four UN Special Rapporteurs.

The group is urging them to use their “good offices and mandates to request the Nigerian government and the authorities at Queen’s College, Lagos to end continuing suffering of students, ensure justice and effective remedies for the unnecessary loss of lives of three pupils of the school.”

The rapporteurs petitioned are: Ms. Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education; Mr Leo Heller, Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation; Ms. Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food; and Professor Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.

In a statement by the SERAP Deputy Director Timothy Adewale, the organization expressed “serious concern that alleged corruption by the leadership of the school has ruined the lives of several pupils, and squandered their potential for personal development.

These girls have depended on the integrity of the authorities both at the Federal Ministry of Education and the school levels but have been badly let down by those entrusted with the power to provide them with access to quality education in a safe environment.”

According to SERAP, “the apparent failure to exercise due diligence and to fulfil the obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the right of these girls to quality education is buttressed by the fact that the school management repeatedly ignored early warnings and complaints from students and parents, the failure to improve facilities and conditions in the school, and the alleged demand of illegal fees and bribes from parents by the school authorities.”

The petition copied to Mr Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, read in part: “SERAP is concerned about the failure of the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Education to diligently, effectively and efficiently exercise its regulatory and oversight functions over Queen’s College and other unity schools across the country. Corruption seems a commonplace across different levels at Queen’s College.”

“The absence of accountability mechanisms within the Federal Ministry of Education is further illustrated by the failure to sanction the leadership of Queen’s College for apparently failing to prevent unnecessary loss of lives and to protect the girls’ right to education in a safe and protected environment.”

“Many of the girls have suffered devastating consequences of corruption, neglect and incompetence, leading to a disregard for their human rights. Yet, those suspected to be responsible for these serious human rights violations have continued to escape justice, thus benefiting from impunity.”

“SERAP believes that preventing and punishing the alleged corruption, mismanagement and failure of the Federal Ministry of Education and the school authorities to exercise due diligence to prevent the unnecessary loss of lives would help to remedy the situation, and to re-establish trust in the legitimacy and integrity of Queen’s College and other public schools.”

“Although the International Human Rights Law requires that the material conditions of teaching staff must be continuously improved, the reverse is the case at Queen’s College and several unity schools across the country, as the general working conditions of teachers have deteriorated sharply, reaching unacceptably low levels.

Not only is this inconsistent with the government’s international obligations to establish minimum educational standards but it is also a failure of the responsibility to closely monitor educational institutions.”
“SERAP believes that Nigerian children have the right to safety in school establishments that are conducive to a positive learning environment.”

SERAP therefore urged the Special Rapporteurs to:

Put pressure on the Federal Government of Nigeria and the authorities at Queen’s College to urgently end the apparently deteriorating situation and living conditions of girls in the school and to strengthen the school’s reputation.

Ask the Federal Government of Nigeria to establish Code of Conduct for Queen’s College and other unity schools across the country, including on the proper professional conduct required of the schools’ authorities and their relationship with Parents Teachers Association and other bodies, and to specify the consequences of non-compliance as well as provide for timely remedial action.

To urge the Federal Government of Nigeria to audit Queen’s College and other unity schools across the country and to compel the schools’ authorities to embrace ‘integrity pledges’ between those schools and parent groups in order to incentivise anti-corruption practices and improve the schools’ reputation.

Also, ask the Federal Government of Nigeria to promptly, thoroughly, impartially and transparently investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the three girls, and to bring anyone that is found to be responsible to justice as well as provide adequate compensation to the victims and their families, and publicly guarantee non-repetition.

And request to visit the country to assess the efforts by the Federal Ministry of Education and Queen’s College to implement these recommendations.

It was reported that, three students of Queen’s College, Lagos–Vivian Osuinyi, Bithia Itulua and Praise Sodipo–died between February and March 2017 primarily due to systemic corruption and the failure of the authorities including the Federal Ministry of Education, and the leadership of the school to exercise due diligence to ensure the right to life of the students including by ensuring access to safe drinking water and sanitation.”

“An investigative Team found that school management ignored parents’ and old students’ early warnings on contaminated water and foods.

No one has yet to be held to account for these alleged serious violations of human rights. According to the Investigative Team, the three girls died as a result of consumption of contaminated water and foods in the school.

Many students also became seriously ill between January and March 2016, with several reporting different forms of infections. Many girls manifested signs of skin, vaginal and abdominal infections, stooling and vomiting.”

Saraki’s Acquittal: SERAP Asks FG To Establish UN-Backed Anti-Corruption Commission

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has criticised the decision of the Code of Conduct Tribunal to dismiss charges against Senate President Bukola Saraki and called for the involvement of the United Nations in Nigeria’s anti-corruption war.

In this regard, SERAP called on the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, “to urgently and proactively pursue the establishment of a UN-backed International Commission Against Corruption and Impunity to assist our criminal justice system to effectively and efficiently investigate and prosecute high-level corruption cases in the country, like it happened in Guatemala, for example”.

“This government needs help in its fight against corruption, and strong leadership is now needed to urgently design a complementary and supportive plan,” SERAP added in a statement by its Deputy Director, Mr Timothy Adewale.

It said the verdict of the CCT meant that such and intervention had become imperative in order for President Muhammadu Buhari to win his anti-corruption war.

SERAP also called on the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, to urgently take over the prosecution of Saraki and appeal the CCT verdict, which it said “sends a damaging message”.

Explaining further, it said, “The acquittal of Mr Saraki has exposed deep flaws in the country’s legal framework against corruption, and seriously weakened any notion of accountability of high-ranking public officials accused of corruption.”

According to SERAP, a UN-backed commission will help to improve Nigeria’s criminal justice system in the short, medium and long terms so that it will be better able to prosecute complex grand corruption cases.

“It would also meet the longstanding and legitimate demands of the Nigerian people for vigorous and meaningful action against corrupt leaders, past or present,” it added.

UN Expands North Korea Blacklist

World Faces Worst Humanitarian Crisis Since 1945 - UNThe U.N. Security Council on Friday expanded targeted sanctions against North Korea after its repeated missile tests, adopting the first such resolution agreed by the United States and Pyongyang’s only major ally China since President Donald Trump took office.

The Trump administration has been pressing China aggressively to rein in its reclusive neighbour, warning that all options are on the table if Pyongyang persists with its nuclear and missile development.

The United States has struggled to slow North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, which have become a security priority given Pyongyang’s vow to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.

Adding names to the U.N. blacklist – a global travel ban and asset freeze – was the minimum sanctions measures the Security Council could have taken and comes after five weeks of negotiations between Washington and Beijing.

The resolution, adopted unanimously by the 15-member council, sanctions four entities, including the Koryo Bank and Strategic Rocket Force of the Korean People’s Army, and 14 people, including the head of Pyongyang’s overseas spying operations.

North Korea’s Koryo Bank handles overseas transactions for Office 38, a shadowy body that manages the private slush funds of the North Korean leadership, according to a South Korean government database.

The measures adopted on Friday could have been agreed by the council’s North Korea sanctions committee behind closed doors, but Washington convinced China to back a public vote on the blacklist, amplifying the council’s unhappiness with Pyongyang’s defiance of a U.N. ban on ballistic missile launches.

Katowice To Host UN Climate Conference

The Government of Poland on Thursday           announced the City of Katowice as the host venue for the 2018 United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference.

Poland was chosen as the upcoming President by the Eastern European Group, whose turn it is to host the conference following Asia-Pacific in 2017.

Though there were Several potential locations that were considered by the Polish authorities
as the host city for the event, Poland was selected which will make it the fourth time that the country has presided over a UN climate change conference.

Two previous Conferences of the Parties (COPs) were held in Poland; COP 14 was held in Poznań in 2008, and COP 19 was held in Warsaw in 2013. Poland also presided over COP 5 in Bonn in 1999.

On Thursday Polish Environment Minister Prof. Jan Szysko chose the occasion of a visit to Poland by Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to announce that Katowice had been given the green light.

Mrs Espino thanked the Government of Poland for agreeing to host COP 24, adding that she looked forward to working with Szysko and his team to make the conference a success on all fronts.

She said, “2018 will be another important year for international climate diplomacy as nations move forward to implement the Paris Climate Change Agreement , indeed 2018 is when governments are expected to reach some key milestones.

“These range from finalising the guidelines for fully operationalising the agreement to taking stock of how countries are doing collectively in terms of being on track to realise Paris’s aims and ambitions over the coming years and decades.”

‘Preparations For UN Climate Change Conference On Track’

Preparations for the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn this year are on course, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is hosting the conference has said.

The event, which is scheduled to take place from November 6 to 17, is aimed at advancing the aims and ambitions of the Paris Agreement.

In a statement issued by its spokesperson, Nick Nuttall, the UNFCCC said delegates will be able to work in state of the art conference facilities, and benefit from an array of services, exhibitions, concerts and other cultural events, which the citizens of Bonn can also enjoy.

The UNFCCC said it is working with the Government of Germany, the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, the City of Bonn and the incoming Fijian COP23 Presidency to ensure a dynamic and successful conference.

Speaking on the last day of the May UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said, “I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the incoming Fijian Presidency for its leadership, Germany for its excellent support, the State of North Rhine-Westphalia for its backing and the City of Bonn for its efforts to make the conference a success.

“We are extremely honored to be hosting COP23 and are determined to ensure strong and positive outcomes that will advance climate action across the globe. We are also determined to make the conference environmentally-friendly and a place where the atmosphere of positivity permeates throughout the negotiations and the many events planned.”

The Chief Negotiator for the COP23 Presidency, Ambassador Nazhat Shemeem Khan, expressed Fiji¹s gratitude for the support and encouragement it has received in the process so far,

“Following our consultations at the May UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, it is clear that the desire to keep up the momentum on the implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement is widespread. Working with our partners, we want to harness this collective enthusiasm to strive for ambitious goals at COP23 and beyond,” she said.

Jochen Flasbarth, State Secretary at the German Federal Environment Ministry, said his country is honored to be hosting or supporting three global conferences which focus on climate change – the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, the G20 Summit and COP23.

“As President of the G20, we are pushing to advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement and focus particularly on the vulnerability of small island developing States. It is our great pleasure to support Fiji, the first ever small island developing state to hold the COP presidency, in its efforts by serving as technical host of COP23.

“We are pleased to have this opportunity to present the new and innovative concept for a global conference – one conference, two zones. With this concept we are highlighting the importance of climate action by having multiple non-state actors complement the formal negotiations.”

Iraq Begins Battle To Wrestle Southern Mosul

Iraq Begins Battle To Wrestle Southern MosulReports say Iraqi government forces have launched an offensive to liberate the western part of the city of Mosul from the Islamic state militants.

Hundreds of military vehicles, backed by air power, rolled across the desert towards (IS) positions early on Sunday.

Iraqi forces retook several villages south of the city in the first hours of the operation, taking them within striking distance of the Mosul Airport.

Fears have been voiced about the safety of many thousands of trapped civilians.

Meanwhile, leaflets warning residents of an imminent offensive were earlier dropped over the west of the city.

The UN has therefore voiced concerns about civilians trapped in Mosul amid reports that they could number up to 650,000.

Nigerian Government Plans Mass Evacuation From Libya 

Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Nigerian Government Plans Mass Evacuation From Libya The Senior Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa says the Nigerian government is executing mass evacuation abroad, particularly in Libya where many Nigerians still languish in deplorable conditions.

This is to check the worrisome consequence of illegal migration which is the subsequent mistreatment and abuse of Nigerians in various countries abroad once identified as undocumented.

Hardship and struggle is the experience of many in the cavity of Nigeria’s economic recession, but for some, it started a journey of unraveling.

Desperate for survival, many head for unknown destinations through unknown routes only to find conditions worse at the destination than conditions burdening at the origin, if the destination is ever seen at all.

The presidential adviser acknowledged this challenge but urged Nigerians to weather the storm at home where they are welcome.

She said that the current cash crunch does not shake the commitment of the federal government to prioritize the welfare of its people both home and abroad.

Officials from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) say 669 Nigerians were evacuated from Libya on chartered aircraft in 2016 alone by the federal government in rescue missions.

The Head Of Search and Rescue at NEMA, Bandele Onimode, made this disclosure, adding also that more operations are expected in the coming weeks.

The increasing rate of illegal outflows of migrants from Nigeria into various countries in northern Africa and Europe has become an issue of concern to all countries involved as the global community aims to check illegal migration around the world.

Nigeria Warns Citizens Against Illegal Migration To Libya

Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Libya, NigeriaThe Nigerian Government has warned its citizens and the people of Africa against the dangers of living in Libya.

The warning was contained in a statement issued on Monday by the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa.

It follows reports of purported killing of black immigrants in the West African state of Libya.

Mrs Dabiri-Erewa said that the Federal Government’s attention has been drawn to a trending video and some pictures depicting the crime.

She noted that while the authenticity of the pictures and video cannot be verified, it was a known fact that Libya has been purportedly executing alleged black illegal immigrants for years.

“I hereby appeal again to Nigerian migrants to avoid Libya as penalty for illegal migration to Libya, when caught, is usually a death sentence.

“While the authenticity of the pictures and tapes in question cannot be verified, it is a known fact that Libya has been executing alleged black illegal immigrants for years.

“As the Chairman Committee on Diaspora in the House of Representatives in the Seventh Assembly, we intervened in the case of 24 Nigerians about to be killed in Libya.

“The committee, in collaboration with SERAP, an NGO, petitioned the UN, AU, ECOWAS, and Ghadaffi yielded to pressure and released them,” the President’s aide said.

U.N. Warns Of Water Crisis In Nigeria’s Megacity Lagos  

U.N. Warns Of Water Crisis In Nigeria's Megacity Lagos  The United Nations (UN), has warned that Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos state, faces a water crisis that is creating unacceptable conditions for millions of people.

According to the U.N, the 21 million residents of Lagos, which is built on a lagoon, struggle to find water suitable for drinking and sanitation.

Estimates suggest only one in 10 people have access to water supplied by the state utility provider.

Reacting to the comments, the Lagos state Information Commissioner, Steve Ayorinde, said the 2017 budget increased spending with the aim of addressing the two key issues of potable water and cleaner environment.

He however said the migration of people from other parts of Nigeria and neighbouring countries had put pressure on the city’s infrastructure.

Buhari Orders Probe Of Top Government Officials

Buhari Orders Probe Of Top Government OfficialsThe Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the probe of some of his top appointees following allegations of corruption.

The President’s Spokesperson, Mr Garba Shehu announced this in a statement on Sunday.

“The attention of the Presidency has been drawn to a number of reports in the media, in which various accusations of corruption have been levelled against some top officials in the administration.

“In that regard, President Buhari has instructed the Attorney General of the Federation to investigate the involvement of any top government officials accused of any wrong-doing.

“If any of them are liable they will not escape prosecution,” the statement reads.

Although the statement does not specify the identities of those marked for probe, the move might not be unconnected to allegations of corruption against the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Babachir Lawal.

cabal, presidency, SGF, Babachir LawalThe Senate on Wednesday, December 14, demanded the resignation of the SGF
over his alleged involvement in a 223-million-naira contract meant for the humanitarian crisis management in the north east.

The Senate also refused to grant confirmation to the nomination of Ibrahim Magu as Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) saying ‘security report’ available to it showed that Mr Magu is not fit to be chairman of the body.

In this regard, the lawmakers sent back his nomination letter to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Although the SGF has denied the allegations against him, his comments have not gone down well with the Senate, who have expressed displeasure at his choice of words.

Mr Magu is yet to react to his non-confirmation by the Senate but a number of civil society organisations have condemned the decision.

Apparently Manufactured

The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, described the Senate’s non-confirmation of Mr. Ibrahim Magu based on what was described as a ‘security report’ from the Department of State Services (DSS) as appalling and ridiculous.

In a statement by its Executive Chairman, Debo Adeniran, the group believes that the Senate knows Magu’s salts and the fact that he is worth it and are only trying to stop him from leading the anti-corruption fight.

Magu's Confirmation: Conspiracy Between DSS And Senate Is Appalling - CACOLCACOL stated: “The truth is, if mischief was not involved, why would the DSS submit the so-called damning report to the Senate, rather than begin where they should have begun?

“For crying out loud, the head of the DSS sits on the Board of the Commission of EFCC as constitutionally required by the Act that established the agency i.e. EFCC Establishment Act 2004.

“Again, why would such a sensitive report on someone who has occupied such a sensitive position for about one year be delayed till this time? What sort of security apparatus will so wickedly wait till now while our country was at such ‘grievous’ risk before releasing these apparently manufactured allegations against Magu?”

Politically Motivated

The Socio-Economic Rights And Accountability (SERAP), has also dragged the Nigerian Senate before the United Nations over its rejection of Ibrahim Magu as substantive chairman of the EFCC.

SERAP petitioned the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, over alleged intimidation, harassment and unfair treatment of Mr Magu by the Senate in collaboration with other agencies of government.

According to the group, the upper house used what it describes as “a purported security report it knew, or ought to know is baseless and politically motivated” to reject Mr Magu’s confirmation as substantive EFCC Chairman.