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Iran Set to Announce Cause of Plane Crash, Denies Missile Attack



Iran’s civil aviation chief denied Friday that a missile downed a Ukrainian airliner which crashed killing all 176 people on board, rejecting Western claims of a catastrophic mistake by Tehran’s air defences.

The cause of the crash is to be announced Saturday after an investigating committee meeting in the presence of foreign and local parties involved, Iran’s Fars news agency said, quoting an “informed source”.

The report came as Ukraine said its experts had been granted access to the black box flight recorders and as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeated it was “likely” an Iranian missile had downed the plane.

Tehran has been facing mounting international pressure to allow a “credible” investigation into the crash, which several Western governments have blamed on an accidental missile strike.

“One thing is for certain, this airplane was not hit by a missile,” Iran’s civil aviation chief Ali Abedzadeh said, after Tehran invited the US, Ukraine, Canada and others to join the investigation.

The Boeing 737 crashed on Wednesday shortly after Iran launched missiles at US forces in Iraq in response to the killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad.

It was Iran’s worst civil aviation disaster since 1988 when the US military said it shot down an Iran Air plane over the Gulf by mistake, killing all 290 people on board.

The majority of passengers on Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) Flight PS752 were dual national Iranian-Canadians but also included Ukrainians, Afghans, Britons and Swedes.

Vadym Prystaiko, the foreign minister of Ukraine which has sent around 50 experts to Tehran to take part in the Iran-led inquiry, said Friday: “Our team has now access to the black boxes”.

The experts, he said, also had access to the radio exchanges between the UIA pilots and Tehran air traffic control and were receiving “full cooperation” from Iran.

The Ukraine team, granted access to plane fragments and the crash site, will start analysing the contents of the black boxes, he added.

Pompeo, echoing several world leaders, said “we do believe it’s likely the plane was shot down by an Iranian missile”, adding a final determination would be made after a probe is conducted.

Canada demands answers

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said intelligence sources indicated an Iranian surface-to-air missile downed the aircraft after it took off from Tehran.

“We know this may have been unintentional. Canadians have questions, and they deserve answers,” he said.

Abedzadeh rejected the claim. “Any remarks made before the data is extracted (from the plane’s black box flight recorders) … is not an expert opinion,” he said.”

Video footage, which The New York Times said it had verified, emerged and appeared to show the moment the airliner was hit.

A fast-moving object is seen rising at an angle into the sky before a bright flash appears, which dims and then continues moving forward. Several seconds later, an explosion is heard and the sky lit up.

Iran said a 10-member Canadian delegation was on its way to help with the probe, although the two countries cut diplomatic relations in 2012.

The Islamic republic also invited US plane maker Boeing to “participate” in the investigation.

Canada and the US National Transportation Safety Board said they received the invitations and would join the probe.

Abedzadeh said Tehran had invited “Americans, Canadians, the French, Ukrainians and the Swedish” to be present during the investigation.

European Union foreign ministers on Friday urged Iran to be transparent.

“The important thing now is that everything is completely investigated. Nothing must be swept under the table,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

US President Donald Trump has indicated that Washington officials believed the Kiev-bound Boeing 737 was struck by an Iranian missile.


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FirstBank Wins Best Mobile Banking App, Fastest Growing Retail Bank Awards



FirstBank of Nigeria Limited has been named 2019 “Best Mobile Banking App” and “Fastest Growing Retail Bank” winner  by Global Business Outlook. The Global Business Outlook Award recognises and rewards excellence in business in companies across the world, both in the public and private sectors. The award rewards innovation, creativity and the drive to create value.

FirstBank earned the Fastest Growing Retail Bank recognition because of its leading role in promoting financial inclusion in the country, a drive which has resulted in its 44,000 Agent Banking network designed to complement the provision of bespoke financial services at its over 750 branches nationwide.

It also won the Best Mobile Banking App award thanks to its Firstmobile banking app’s capability at performing a wide range of financial transactions in a safe, adaptable, futuristic and efficient manner. The user friendly app is widely renowned for its ease of navigation and state of the art security features to mitigate risk against fraud.

In the course of 2019, FirstBank bagged numerous awards across various areas of its business operations. The awards comprise Women Empowerment Category – Sustainable Banking Awards by CBN Bankers Committee, Best Private Bank in Nigeria 2019 by Global Finance Magazine and World Finance Magazine respectively; Best Process Automation Initiative, Application or Programme by Asian Banker International Excellence in Retail Financial Services; Best Banking Brand Nigeria 2019 by Global Brands Magazine; Best Retail Bank in Nigeria by Global Banking and Finance Review and Asian Banker International Excellence in Retail Financial Services Awards respectively; Cashless Driver: Highest Volume in Bill Payments and Highest Transaction Volume in Real-Time Payments by CBN Electronic Payments Incentive Scheme (EPIS) – Efficiency Awards; Long Service Corporate Award by Nigerian Economic Summit Group; Best Financial Inclusion Program – Nigeria 2019 and Bank of The Year – Nigeria 2019  by International Investor, amongst many others.

Speaking on the awards, Folake Ani-Mumuney, the Bank’s Group Head, Marketing & Corporate Communications said, ”We appreciate these awards and the recognition by the respective awarding bodies. The awards are dedicated to all our customers across the globe as their continued patronage of our services is appreciated. We remain steadfast and would not rest on our laurels at rendering bespoke financial services tailored to meet the financial needs of our valued customers, irrespective of where they may be.”

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UK-Based Techpreneur, Popoola, Makes Case for Siting of Proposed Federal College of Education in Gbongan



By Eric Elezuo
A native of Gbongan, Osun State, and prolific techpreneur, Mr. Joel Oyeyinka Popoola, has lent his voice to the call for the Federal Government to site one the six proposed Federal Colleges of Education in Gbongan community, Osun State.
Mr. Popoola, who is the Founder of Rate Your Leader app, a digital democracy project, said that considering the mouth watering incentives that Gbongan has to offer among other communities in Osun state, it would only be fair if the government considers it first among any other.

Popoola spoke in the light of the Federal Government’s decision to establish six new federal colleges of education in each of the six geo-political areas in the country to compliment the 22 already existing ones. This the government said is intended to increase the number of quality teachers in the country.

According to the public relations officer of National Commission for Colleges of Education, Mr Ameh Isaac, the newly approved institutions would be situated in Bauchi, Benue, Ebonyi, Osun, Sokoto, and Edo states, where there were no presence of Federal Colleges of Education.

The Rate Your Leader Founder, who lives in London, from where he has concluded to launch the wave making app in Nigeria later in February, echoed his traditional ruler’s stand on the need to site the institution in Gbongan.

During a press conference in Gbongan City Hall on January 15, 2020, the paramount ruler of Gbongan kingdom,

HRM Oba Dr. Adetoyese Oyeniyi (Ph.D), the Odugbemi I and Olufi of Gbonganland, craved the indulgence of both the federal government and Osun State government to consider the very peaceful, progressive, dynamic and cohesive attributes of the town as well as its population of politically-conscious, well organised, hospitable, accommodating, socially responsible, peace-loving, highly enlightened and educationally advanced citizens to grant the town the privilege to be a host community.
In his words, Oba Oyeniyi described Gbongan Community as blessed and the most strategically suitable location for the Federal Institution based on merit and due consideration for even development.
The paramount ruler itemised the literacy of its population, available land mass of 950-acres with perimeter survey, security and orderliness as well as tolerance among its people.
“Gbongan is a very peaceful, progressive, dynamic and cohesive town which is inhabited by politically-conscious, well organised, hospitable, accommodating, socially responsible, peace-loving, highly enlightened and educationally advanced citizens.
The citizens believe in honesty of purpose, selflessness, forthrightness, diligence, visionary leadership and progressive ideologies which are treasurable values and legacies inherited from our fore-fathers,” Oba Oyeniyi said.
He further noted that most communities clamouring to host the new institution already have more than enough in their localities, saying it could only be equity if Gbongan is given the mandate to host the institution.
Hear Him: “It is the belief of the community that education should be taken as one major industry that can liberate the community from the shackles of poverty, hence every family strives to invest in the education of its children and leaves no stone unturned towards achieving this laudable goal.
Education is considered as a major legacy that is worthy of being bequeathed to incoming generations.  It remains the best asset of Gbongan community, as there is no family in Gbongan that cannot boast of being blessed with graduates and post graduate offsprings.
It is not a coincidence therefore that the incumbent Olufi of Gbonganland is an academic (an Agronomist), who is also married to an educationist- a Ph.D holder in Education, succeeding an Associate Professor in the Department of History of the University of Ibadan, the Late Oba Dr. Solomon Oyewole Babayemi.
The community prides itself with the hundreds of academics (Professors and Doctorate Degree holders) that God has been gracious to bless it with.  These academic giants of repute currently serve in various Federal, State and Private Universities within and outside Nigeria.
The community is also blessed with consummate professionals like Pharmacists, Pharmacologists, Lawyers, Legal luminaries and Jurists, like the Hon. Justice Bolarinwa Babalakin JSC (Retd) MON, CON, Renowned Accountants, Reputable Estate Surveyors, Architects, Quantity Surveyors, Builders, Bankers, Financial Analysts, Astute Investors, Information Technologists,  Computer gurus, Engineers, Medical Doctors and Para-medics, Teachers, Pilots, Military and Para-military subjects, Security experts, Seasoned Administrators, Educationists, Journalists, Actors, Business magnates, Career Civil Servants, School Proprietors, Clerics, Hoteliers, Saw-millers, Produce Merchants. The list is inexhaustive.
All these in their hundreds are creating waves across the globe, as they also contribute meaningfully to national development, while carving a niche for themselves in the temple of fame.
It is the fervent belief of Gbongan citizens that with the support and in collaboration with the resourceful politicians in our midst, national development can be propelled and government policies influenced positively towards a paradigm shift that focuses on the building of synergies and networking for the achievement of corporate goals, through the constructive engagement/prudent application of resources.
Apart from the vast land space available for developmental objectives, the town is blessed with a number of existing educational facilities (Secondary and Technical Schools) that are readily convertible on temporary basis, while the permanent site for a Federal College of Education is being developed subject to availability of resources.”
Oba Oyeniyi highlighted that Gbongan has suffered serious deprivations as a largely marginalized community despite its contributions to electoral victories in Osun State, adding that in the interest of fairness, equity and even development in Osun State those concerned should kindly consider the “current exigencies that best place Gbongan in Ayedaade Local Government in a vantage position for the location of the approved FEDERAL COLLEGE OF EDUCATION in GBONGAN.”
Popoola’s Rate Your Leader app is a democracy incentive, which allows the elected and the elector to have a stress-free direct communication devoid of abusive languages.

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Nigeria Needs 300,000 Medical Doctors to Meet WHO Recommendation, Says NUC



The National Universities Commission says Nigeria needs about 300,000 medical doctors to meet the doctor-patient ratio of 1:600 recommended by the World Health Organisation.

The Executive Secretary, NUC, Prof. Abubakar  Rasheed, said this during the maiden matriculation of the Bayelsa Medical University held on the university campus, Amarata, Yenagoa, on Wednesday.

About 208 pioneer students took the matriculation oath on the occasion.

The BMU, which started on January 31, 2018, received the NUC accreditation five months’ after.

Rasheed said the current “doctor-patient ratio in the country stands at 1: 3,500,”  stressing that this was among the several challenges bedeviling the nation’s health sector.

According to him, the nation’s medical schools produce about 3,000 doctors yearly and this is not enough to achieve the WHO standards to deliver on health care services.

The NUC boss, who was represented by the Director, Protocol and Special Duties, Mr Chris Maiyaki, said, “With less than 40,000 registered medical doctors practising in Nigeria, the doctor-patient ratio in the country is about 1:3,500.

“What this means is that we need about 300,000 doctors to meet the World Health Organisation’s recommended doctor-patient ratio of 1:600.

“It is also common knowledge that the Nigerian health care sector continues to face myriad of challenges, chief among which is the brain-drain syndrome occasioned by an absence of the enabling environment for medical practitioners to thrive.”

Rasheed further noted that medical tourism embarked upon by patients seeking “robust health care systems of other countries” had also significantly affected the Nigeria’s health care system.

He said there was an urgent need for huge investment in health education and health care services by all stakeholders to mitigate the acute shortage of manpower and services in the sector.

In his address, the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of BMU, Prof. Ebitimitula Etebu, said the institution was equipped with state-of-the-art facilities to aid teaching, learning and research.

Also speaking, the Pro-Chancellor, BMU and a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt, Emeritus Professor Nimi Briggs, described the medical university as “a dream come true in our section of the country.”

He commended Governor Seriake Dickson for conceiving the idea of a specialised medical school and charged the students to focus on their studies as the institution had given them hope of an assured future.

Dickson, in his remarks, said the establishment of the BMU was “a strategic decision to maximize the state’s investment in education and development.”

The outgoing governor called on the incoming government to support the university to achieve the objectives for which it was established.

The Punch

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