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Buhari Departs Nigeria for Chad Days after Returning from Dubai

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President Muhammadu Buhari will travel to N’Djamena, the capital of Chad Republic, on Saturday (today).

The President returned to the country just four days ago from Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, where he attended an investment meeting.

Days before, he was in Amman, Jordan, for the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa.

For today’s trip to Chad, he is to take part in the Extraordinary Session of the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States, CEN-SAD.

A Presidency statement on Friday said the community was created by the Treaty of Tripoli on February 4, 1998 with six founding members.

It added that Nigeria joined the group in 2001, which now had  29 members.

Its objectives include seeking to create a free trade area in Africa, “strengthening peace, security and stability, and achieving global economic and social development of its members.”

The statement, which was signed by the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, read partly, “Delegations from 22 member-nations are expected at the extraordinary meeting of CEN-SAD holding on Saturday at the Radisson Blu Hotel, N’Djamena.

“President Buhari and other regional leaders will join their host and current Chairperson of CEN-SAD Conference, President Idriss Deby-Itn,  to deliberate among others on political and security issues, state of peace and ways to address multi-faceted threats in CEN-SAD area especially Boko Haram and refugees; and make a declaration on the entry into force of CEN-SAD revised Treaty intended to fast track the realisation of the objectives of the body.

“During the opening session of the conference, special awards will be given to Heads of State and military contingents in Mali, Sudan, Somalia, Central African Republic and in the Lake Chad Basin.

“President Buhari will be accompanied to the CEN-SAD meeting by Governors Kashim Shettima, Akinwunmi Ambode and Adegboyega Oyetola of Borno, Lagos and Osun states respectively.

“Others include, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of Interior, Lt-Gen Adulrahman Danbazau (retd.); Minister of Defence, Brig-Gen Mansur Dan Ali (retd.); National Security Adviser, Maj-Gen. Mohammed Monguno (retd); Director-General, National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ahmed Rufai Abubakar; Comptroller-General of Immigration, Mohammed Babandede; and the Federal Commissioner for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, Sadiya Umar Farouq.

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Protesters Boo ‘Buhari’ in London

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Over a dozen people gathered at the Abuja House in London to boo a Nigerian official they believed to be President Muhammadu Buhari.

The protesters gathered in front of the building to boo the official who was driven in a black painted car with a Nigerian diplomatic plate number (FGN1).

The videos of the protest were published Thursday night by a Twitter user, Revolutionary Tunde, using the Twitter handle @IsaacOgunmoyele.

Many of the protesters carried placards calling for freedom for the detained publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore. Others condemned the treatment of the leader of the Shiite movement in Nigeria, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.

“Buhari, Stop Poisoning Sheikh Zakzaky,” one of the placards read.

“Omoyele Sowore is not a criminal,” another placard read.

Mr Buhari is currently in London for what the presidency described as a private visit.

He has spent over a week in the UK during which he has continued to perform the functions of the Nigerian president including signing a bill into law.

It is not clear if the president was in the vehicle or inside the building while the protest and the boos went on. The Nigerian embassy in the UK is yet to issue a statement on the matter.

The protesters shouted ‘ole, ole, ole…’ meaning ‘thief, thief, thief….’ while mentioning the name of the Nigerian president.

They also condemned the disrespect for the courts by the Nigerian government.

The two prominent names whose release the protesters called for are being detained by the State Security Service in Abuja.

Mr Sowore is being held despite meeting his bail conditions set by a judge. He was arrested for calling for a revolution against bad governance. The state charged him with treasonable felony and money laundering, charges he denied.

Mr El-Zakzaky has been detained since December 2015 when soldiers massacred over 300 Shiite members. The soldiers accused them of blocking a road being used by the chief of army staff, Tukur Buratai.

Mr El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenah, were first held for over a year without trial and despite a court order that they should be released and compensated.

He was later charged for the death of a soldier during the December 2015 incident.

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Just In: Bayelsa Guber Election: Court Annuls APC’s Participation

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The Federal High Court, Yenagoa, on Thursday declared that the All Progressives Congress (APC) does not have a governorship candidate in the forthcoming election in Bayelsa State.

This development is coming two days to the election.

The court was presided over by Justice Jane Inyang.

The court declaration, on Thursday, was part of its judgement in a case filed by Heineken Lokpobiri, one of the APC governorship aspirants.

Mr Lokpobiri, a former minister of state for agriculture, had approached the court, asking it to declare him, and not David Lyon, the authentic candidate of the APC.

“The court pronounced that the governorship primary conducted by the APC in Bayelsa state was not done in compliance with the guidelines and the constitution of the party, and, therefore, the party has no candidate,” Mr Lokpobiri’s lawyer, Fitzgerald Olorogun, told reporters immediately after the court ruling.

A shocked Mr Olorogun said the court declaration was not part of their prayers. “It’s strange,” he said.

Asked what was the next option for his client, Mr Olorogun said “We’ll do the needful. But for now, the pronouncement of the court is that APC has no candidate.”

There was heavy police presence within and outside the court premises. The main highway way leading to the court was barricaded by the police. Visitors, including journalists, were frisked before they were allowed to enter the court building.

Mr Lokpobiri, before now, has been urging the people of Bayelsa to vote for the APC in the November 16 election, despite his court case against Mr Lyon and the party.

“I’m a very strong member of APC and I came today to formally tell our chairman and to speak to Nigerians, in particular, the electorate in Bayelsa that all of them should vote for APC regardless of what happens in the court case in which judgment is slated for Nov. 14, 2019,” the former minister said in Abuja after a courtesy visit on the national chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole.

“I told my supporters even before I came here that no matter what happened, I will remain in APC having served as a minister under this administration.

“There is no way the outcome of the governorship primaries will make me leave APC. We are working and campaigning at different levels.

“I always advise that anybody that is grieved, the only place to go is the court.

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Senate’s Hate Speech Bill: Atiku Abubakar Speaks

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A former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, has cautioned Nigerian senators against moves to pass a bill criminalising purported hate speech.

The bill being sponsored by Sabi Abdullahi of the All Progressives Congress is targeted at punishing anyone found guilty of spreading “misinformation.”

The bill also prescribed death penalty for anyone found guilty of spreading a falsehood that led to the death of another person.

But civic groups have been critical about the bill because of its narrow and unclear definition of what constitutes hate speech.

The advocates argued that the Senate’s interpretation of ‘hate speech’ would be at odds with the Nigerian Constitution if the bill becomes law as designed. The Constitution protects the rights to unhindered speech, expression and association.

Mr Abubakar aligned with those who believe the constitutional safeguards for free speech should be strengthened rather than undermined by lawmakers and other politicians in power.

The former vice-president and main opposition candidate at the 2019 presidential election said the freedom of speech and other key elements of civil liberties which Nigerians enjoyed between 1999 and 2015 should not be taken away by the current administration.

“It is prudent to build upon the tolerance inherited from those years and not shrink the democratic space to satisfy personal and group interests,” Mr Abubakar said in an emailed statement signed by his spokesperson, Paul Ibe.

Efforts to regulate the media has been keenly considered and publicly pushed by politicians since Muhammadu Buhari assumed power in 2015.

Mr Buhari has a history of brutal repression from his military era in the 1980s, a label from which he remained unflinching.

The president has repeatedly told the country that his government will continue to ignore rights in favour of national security.

Some of his appointees, especially information minister Lai Mohammed, have insisted Nigerians’ free speech will be curbed.

Mr Mohammed said social media has become a tool of irresponsibility amongst elements determined to foment chaos in the country. He has equally overseen imposition of heavy fines on broadcast stations over alleged hate speech on their platforms.

There were efforts to push a variation of the current hate speech bill through the parliament in 2015, but it failed amidst nationwide uproar.

 

The reintroduced version contained essentially the same fundamentals and Nigerians have vowed to resist it as they did four years ago.

Read Mr Abubakar’s full statement below:

Atiku Abubakar wishes to sound a note of caution to those now toying with the idea of an Anti Hate Speech Bill, with punishment for supposed Hate Speech to be death by hanging. The contemplation of such laws is in itself not just hate speech, but an abuse of the legislative process that will violate Nigerians’ constitutionally guaranteed right to Freedom of Speech.

Atiku urges those behind this Bill to awake to the fact that Nigeria’s democracy has survived its longest incarnation, because those who governed this great nation between 1999 and 2015 never toyed with this most fundamental of freedoms. It is prudent to build upon the tolerance inherited from those years and not shrink the democratic space to satisfy personal and group interests.

Freedom of Speech was not just bestowed to Nigerians by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), it is also a divine right given to all men by their Creator. History is littered with the very negative unintended consequences that result when this God given right is obstructed by those who seek to intimidate the people rather than accommodate them.

We should be reminded that history does not repeat itself. Rather, men repeat history. And often, to disastrous consequences.

Nigeria presently has too many pressing concerns. We are now the world headquarters for extreme poverty as well as the global epicentre of out-of-school children. Our economy is smaller than it was in 2015, while our population is one of the world’s fastest growing. We have retrogressed in the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, from the position we held four years ago, and our Human Development Indexes are abysmally low.

It therefore begs the question: should we not rather make laws to tackle these pressing domestic challenges, instead of this Bill, which many citizens consider obnoxious?

Again, Atiku cautions that we must prioritise our challenges ahead of the whims and caprices of those who do not like to hear the inconvenient truth. Stop this folly and focus on issues that matter to Nigerians.

Paul Ibe

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