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Amnesty International says at least 150 pro-Biafra protesters have been killed by security operatives in the south-eastern part of the country.

In a report released on Wednesday, the human rights body said many protesters were still being held incommunicado.

“In south-east Nigeria, security forces led by the military, embarked on a chilling campaign of arbitrary arrests, extra-judicial executions and enforced disappearances,” the report read.

“Many individuals are still being detained incommunicado while state security agents have killed at least 150 peaceful pro-Biafra protesters.”

Amnesty International also said there appears to be an attempt to suffocate freedom of expression, saying at least 10 journalists and bloggers have been arrested in recent times.

“The past year has also seen a disturbing rise in arrests and intimidation of media professionals and activists in Nigeria,” the report read.

“At least ten journalists and bloggers were arrested in 2016, some for alleged connections to Boko Haram.

“In January, members of the Nigerian army raided the editorial offices of Premium Times and arrested journalists Dapo Olorunyomi and Evelyn Okakwu. They were subsequently released but the move sent a clear message to intimidate journalists and the media.‎”

The report also said the conflict between Boko Haram and the Nigerian army has affected 14 million people in the region.

The human rights body added that two million people need urgent humanitarian assistance in the north-eastern part of the country.

“In Nigeria’s north-east, the ongoing conflict between the Boko Haram armed group and the country’s security forces has affected more than 14 million people, with two million in need of urgent humanitarian assistance,” the report read.

“The north-east of Nigeria descended into a major humanitarian emergency as a consequence of the conflict and the atrocities committed by all parties to the conflict. Once again, it is the poorest and most vulnerable people who pay the price.

“The armed conflict drove millions from their homes, leaving them living in squalid conditions in camps under heavy military guard and without adequate access to food, water and medical care. Throughout the year, hundreds died in these camps because of malnutrition.”

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Justice Adeniyi Ademola, High Court judge standing trial over allegations of corruption

The Presidency earlier today said there was no truth in the reports that a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Kola Awodein, gave Justice Niyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, currently standing trial for alleged corruption, N500,000.00 at the behest of President Muhammadu Buhari during the certificate issue affecting the then presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, recalled that Buhari challenged the elections of 2003, 2007, and 2011, up to the Supreme Court and was never named as trying to compromise any judge.

He said any attempt to sully that reputation was bound to fail.

The presidential spokesman said even Awodein himself had denied the allegation.

“Nigerians know that President Buhari challenged the elections of 2003, 2007, and 2011, up to the Supreme Court, and not once was he named as trying to compromise any Judge, though some of them were his schoolmates, or contemporary, at one time or the other.

“It is in keeping with the President’s time-tested reputation as a man of truth and integrity. Any attempt to sully that reputation is bound to fail, inexorably,” he said.

Adesina then reproduced Awodein’s statement on the matter as follows, “I am constrained to make in absolute good faith, in good conscience and in the interest of justice and fair play the following very short statement on account of the distorted news story currently being peddled as affecting the person of Mr President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and my good and very noble self.

“The very simple and plain facts are as follows:
“I have known as a friend and for well over 35 years Mr Justice Niyi Ademola, a notorious fact known to the majority of lawyers who have practised especially in Lagos for over that same period more or less and also to so many other professionals of other disciplines and other prominent and not so prominent Nigerians.

“It is a fact that the sum of money mentioned was personally paid by me as a friend to Mr. Justice Ademola as a personal gift, as our custom well recognises and demands, on the occasion of his daughter’s High Society wedding solemnized at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos, on the 9th of May 2015, which I attended in person.

“I was fully convinced then, as I remain today, that I could do no less as a friend of longstanding to fairly reasonably support him on that memorable occasion of his daughter’s wedding.
“Anyone and everyone who knows me would readily and unquestionably testify that I am and have always been a man of impeccable integrity on and off the Courts and that such a record speaks always loudly for itself.

“I would conclude by stating categorically and without any equivocation that ANY link whatsoever with Mr. President, or any court case or cases, of my personal gift from my personal resources delivered to Justice Niyi Ademola by myself on that occasion or any suggestion whatsoever that it was anything but such a gift or that it ever came from Mr President or at his instance or that I was acting, under any circumstances, on his behalf is most malicious, utterly ridiculous and in very very poor and revolting taste and most undeserving of any further comments.”

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Presidential Spokesman, Femi Adesina

Senior Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, says he does not need to speak with President Buhari directly to aunthenticate his health status.

In an interview with Channels TV this morning, Adesina maintained that he gets all the information about President Buhari from those around him including his personal physician, PA and domestic staff.

“All those I speak with, his personal physician, his PA, his domestic aide, I can tell them to take the phone to Mr President and knowing Mr President, he will speak with me but I have decided not to because I do not need that phone conversation to authenticate the health of Mr President. There is enough authentication. There is one from the aacting president, there is from the senate president, there is from the speaker of the House of Representatives and many others and the President himself in the communication yesterday said no cause for worry, no cause for alarm. So I do not need to authenticate the state of health of Mr President by asking to speak with him. If he says let me speak with Adesina, I will speak with him. But I don not need to go out of my way to say I must speak with him”he said
Adesina mainatined that all the information he has sent out to Nigerians about President Buhari are from third party sources
“That is correct. I never claimed that it was direct. Never at any time did I claim it was direct from him. The last time I came here, I told you that I speak with people around him everyday and that is the position. As at yesterday, I still spoke with those people”.
Asked if he is sure that the information given to him by the third party individuals is true, Adesina said “It depends on the kind of peson you are speaking for. If I know that I speaking for a shifty and sneaky fellow, then I will not trust what is communicated to me. But I know the person I am speaking for. I know he is straightforward. This is a President that does not want you to color anything on his behalf. We that are his personal aides, we are like family. We are not only friends. We are colleagues and all that. I believe what is transmitted to me 100%”.
On whether he can schedule a 5-minutes interview with president Buhari so that he can speak to Nigerians, Adesina said “Yes we can always raise it with Mr President but don’t forget that the ultimate decision will be that of Mr President. I can recommend, I can tell him that it is needful to do this at this point in time. He will either say yes or no”.
On why he didn’t go with President Buhari to the UK, he said “When Mr President left, it was considered a private trip. It was a vacation, it was a holiday. You don’t need your media man during a holiday. That was why I stayed back. If I was there, of course, the strategy may have been different”.

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Mr Garba Abari , Director-General, National Orientation Agency (NOA), has appealed to Nigerians to stop referring to Nigeria as `Najia’ to keep its originality.

Abari told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Tuesday that the new trend of making funky the original name of Nigeria was worrisome and not in the best interest of the country.

“We try in all our advocacy visits to insist that Nigeria must be referred to as Nigeria and not Naija.

“So, our schools have a role to play in this; the media itself has also got a very fundamental role to play because it is the media that helps in the propagation of this kind of misnomer.

“All of us, as individuals, as corporate organisations, as media, whether broadcast, print or online, must wake up to the reality.

“That the more we use these misnomers referring to our country, the fallout of it is that, a significant percentage of our younger ones will not even remember that Nigeria is the original name of our country.

“I want to appeal to all Nigerians, young and old to always refer to our country as Nigeria.”

Abari also urged parents to key into the efforts to preserve the country’s original name by discouraging their children and wards from referring to Nigeria as `Naija’.

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has released a damning report on the December 10, 2016 Rivers State rerun.
The police compromised the integrity of the election, an INEC administrative inquiry said.
The report cites obstructive involvement of security agencies as one of the factors that led to the failure of the electoral process in some local government areas.

Part of the 37-page report reads: “One of the low points of the Rivers’ rerun of the 10th December, 2016 was the flagrant intervention of security operatives in the process.

“This was widely identified by staff of the Commission and independent observers alike as one of the major factors that led to the failure of the process in some local government areas.

“There were too many security agencies involved in the process outside the framework of the Interagency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES). It was not clear whether many of them were acting as part of their various organisations, or as groups and individuals serving political interests.
“Most importantly, many of them showed profound political partisanship. Ironically then, security operatives, who were expected to protect the process, turned on it.”
The INEC committee report described as strange the conduct of senior police officers deployed in the state to ensure a peaceful conduct of the rerun.

It said: “But most mid-boggling were cases of hostage taking, hijack of materials and physical attacks on INEC officials by security operatives.”

The five-man committee, chaired by INEC’s National Comissioner Prof Okechukwu Ibeanu, named in its report a particular police officer, who it said tried to lure INEC officials away from their duty posts.

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Who owns an account in which N8.4billion has been found?

This is the puzzle that detectives are battling to resolve, following the discovery of the bank account which has no signatories.

The huge deposit has been traced to a bank which is believed to have assisted the money launderers to convert the cash to dollars.

There was suspicion last night that the cash may have been wired into some foreign accounts, but the government has filed an ex parte motion to place it under temporary assets forfeiture.

A telecommunications company has gone to court, claiming ownership of the money, The Nation learnt.
A whistle-blower alerted the government to strange deposits into the ECOBANK account by some suspected government officials.

Of the many deposits, about N8.4billion was singled out for investigation in the interim.

A source involved in the investigation said: “A whistle-blower alerted the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, leading to the involvement of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission( EFCC) in the investigation.

“The probe of the account by detectives showed that the funds were routed through the account of a telecoms giant but there was no disclosure of the signatories to the account.

“Also, the list of depositors into the account was unknown but the sequence of deposits was tracked by detectives.”

The source confirmed that an ex -parte application had been filed at the Federal High Court 11 in Lagos, presided over by Justice Abdulazeez Anka, to recover the cash under temporary forfeiture.

The matter is coming up on March 3 for hearing.

The Federal Government has hired two lawyers, Mr. John Samuel Opeyemi and Mr. Oluwafemi O. Aweda, to recover the funds.

Another source also privy to the investigation said the probe so far indicated that the cash paid into the account could be over N10billlion.

The source added: “Detectives stumbled on separate deposit of N5billion and N4billion. But investigation is at present concentrated on the recovery of N8.4billion, which was changed to dollars and probably wired into some accounts abroad.

“A telecommunications giant has approached the court to claim the ownership of the cash.
“We have been demanding for the list of signatories to this account but it is yet to be provided.

The Minister of Information, Alh. Lai Mohammed, on February 12 said the whistle-blower policy had started yielding fruits, with the recovery of US$151 million and N8billion.

The Minister said: “The looted funds, which do not include the $9.2 million in cash allegedly owned by a former Group Managing Director of the NNPC (which was also a dividend of the whistle-blower policy), were recovered from just three sources through whistle-blowers who gave actionable information to the office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation.

“The biggest amount of $136,676,600.51 was recovered from an account in a commercial bank, where the money was kept under an apparently fake account name, followed by N7billion  and $15million from another person and  N1billion  from yet another.
‘’When we told Nigerians that there was a primitive and mindless looting of the national treasury under the last administration, some people called us liars.
“Well, the whistle-blower policy is barely two months old and Nigerians have started feeling its impact, seeing how a few people squirrelled away public funds.
“It is doubtful if any economy in the world will not feel the impact of such mind-boggling looting of the treasury as was experienced in Nigeria.

‘’Yet whatever has been recovered so far, including the $9.8million by the EFCC, is just a tip of the iceberg.”

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Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai

Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai has stated that he is not part of those who decide the affairs of the nation in Nigeria’s power house- Aso Rock.

El-Rufai said despite his closeness to President Muhammamdu Buhari, he was not part of the cabals, who influenced things in the Villa.

Addressing some editors in Kaduna recently, the governor said he had so many things doing and did not have time to join the cabals.

He said, “It is not correct to say I am part of those that influence things in the Villa. Am I very close to Buhari? Yes. I worked very closely with him in the CPC (Congress for Progressive Change) when everyone had given up on him. I know him, I know how he thinks and he trusts me. He knows that I am driven by public interest. Do I participate in federal decision making? I don’t.

“I am too busy addressing Kaduna problems to be part of it. When I am called for an opinion or when I happen to be around, and I have an input or if I see something going seriously wrong; I drive and go and see Mr. President I have heard A, B, C, D.

“I don’t think it is not right, you should consider doing C, D, E. I do that and I drive back to Kaduna. My primary assignment is Kaduna. I am not involved in the Federal Government. People like to say and attribute so much to me, and sometimes it is good for me, it gives me a larger than life image. Is there a cabal?

“There is always a cabal. Even in your own newspaper houses, there is a cabal. Nobody can run an institution without a coterie of two, three, four trusted people. There is always a cabal; the issue is whether it is a positive or a disruptive cabal. Am I a member of the cabal? No, I am governor of Kaduna state; I work for Kaduna state 24/7.”

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Lagos Governor, Akinwumi Ambode

Lagos State government has expressed its willingness to renovate the National Stadium Surulere, Lagos. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode made the state’s intent known when he paid a condolence and courtesy visit to the Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, at his residence in Abuja at the weekend.

“I will like to bring the National Stadium to life. The last time a game was played there was in 2005. There is also the employment aspect of football and hosting of matches at the stadium. That includes the jerseys, branding, mama put, the sign writers, the supporters, merchandising, and so on. We want to bring back the football culture of Lagos State to the National Stadium after its renovation,” Ambode said.

Dalung thanked the governor for his visit and praised Lagos for its successful hosting of the second Lagos City Marathon. He called on the state government to add more entertainment and culture to the event in subsequent editions to get more youths involved and to ensure that Nigerians benefit more from the whooping prize money.

On the renovation of the National Stadium, the minister said he would go through their proposal and work on it. “It is only fair that we hand over the stadium to Lagos State for renovation since we’ve given to Enugu, Bauchi and Kaduna states. ‘’

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Acting President Yemi Osinbanjo

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo says there is no provision for a new official residence for the vice-president in the two budget proposals drafted by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

In a statement issued on his behalf by Laolu Akande, his spokesman, Osinbajo expressed satisfaction with the house he currently occupies.

The statement comes days after there were reports that N250 million had been earmarked for the construction of a gate at the residence of the vice-president.

Dismissing the reports, Osinbajo said the renovation project, which started under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan had reached 85% stage, and that at the appropriate time, the federal government would decide “what is the best use for the 14 buildings already on the project site”.

“For the umpteenth time, we like to clarify that the proposed plan of the immediate past administration to build a new official residence for the occupant of the office of the vice-president, including the controversial gatehouse, preceded this administration,” the statement read.

“The project which started in 2010, was initiated and funded by the immediate past administration, but had never featured in the two budget proposals of the Buhari administration: neither in the 2016 nor the 2017 spending plans.

“Any suggestion therefore that this project benefits our administration or that it reflects our spending style or preferences is not only misleading but blatantly false.

“Besides, the incumbent Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has said publicly that he considers Aguda House, which he currently occupies, a befitting official residence for the vice-president and sufficient for his needs.”

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Governor Ayo Fayose

The Federal Ministry of Finance has released the N1.1 billion Budget Support Fund of Ekiti State it seized about two weeks ago.

Governor Ayodele Fayose disclosed this, yesterday, in Ado Ekiti. His Chief Press Secretary, Mr Idowu Adelusi, quoted the governor as saying that the Federal Ministry of Finance had communicated with state officials on the release of the money.

“I don’t want to join issues with anybody on the allocation, it is a statutory allocation for all the states, I can confirm to you here that by Tuesday next week, I will get the bank alert for the money, an official communication on the release was passed to me on Thursday,” the governor said.

The state government and officials of the Federal Ministry of Finance had been at logger heads over the non-release of the money. The money had been paid into the account of the state, penultimate Thursday, but withdrawn a day later for reasons not disclosed.

The development led to Fayose going to the headquarters of the ministry in Abuja to officially protest the action. A statement by the ministry said the money was withheld because the state did not fulfill some obligations, a claim promptly denied by the state government. In a swift reaction, the governor , who spoke through one of his aides, Mr Lere Olayinka, said the explanation was an afterthought meant to mislead the public.