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Onyejeocha Lays Claim to House Speakership, Says Gbajabiamila Should Step Down

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A female aspirant to the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nkiru Onyejeocha, has called on Femi Gbajabiamila to step down for her.

Ms Onyejeocha, a third term member from Abia State, made the appeal at the National Assembly on Tuesday while briefing journalists.

The two are of the All Progressives Congress (APC) which is expected to produce the next crop of national assembly leaders having emerged the majority party in the two chambers.

The ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) recently adopted Mr Gbajabiamila as its choice for the office at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday last week.

But the Abia lawmaker has appealed to Mr Gbajabiamila from Lagos State to ‘make due sacrifice’ by giving up his ambition to become speaker “for Nigeria to move forward.”

She urged the party to have a rethink and zone the speakership to the South-east.

She said while she respects the party’s decision, Mr Gbajabiamila should “as a leader pay the sacrifice” for Nigeria to get to the next level.

“I respect my party chairman and what the party has said it intends to do. But I am appealing to them, it is not yet late to withdraw their decision and include a woman from the two geopolitical zones left out in 2015.

“I know that the leader of the house, Femi Gbajabiamila, is a good gentleman and good leader, but there is a time when any man who is a leader indeed to make the needed sacrifice and that time is now for the leader of my party in the House of Representatives.

“This opportunity comes only once when a leader will look at himself and say, ‘It’s not about me, it’s about Nigeria. I also believe that Nigeria needs healing and somebody has to pay the sacrifice for us to move to the next level, even if it means deciding that speakership should go to another zone.”

She said zoning the speakership to the South-east will address the “demand for equity” from the zone.

“As a woman who has distinguished herself and contributed immensely to the development of Nigeria, the APC should use the opportunity of my expression of interest in the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives to fulfil its promise to Nigerians, that it would increase women participation in the governance of the country.”

Mr Gbajabiamila, representing Surulere 1 federal constituency, was re-elected for the fifth term. He currently serves as the House Leader.

The APC leadership recently declared support for Yobe senator, Ahmed Lawan, to become the next Senate President. The party is also in support of Mr Gbajabiamila’s candidacy for Speaker.

The adoption of Mr Lawan was condemned by some APC lawmakers including Borno senator, Ali Ndume, who also seeks to be the Senate president.

Mr Ndume, from Borno State, has vowed to continue with his ambition, saying he enjoys the support of many elected APC senators.

The APC enjoys a clear majority in the incoming House of Representatives, winning over 200 of the 360 seats

The APC is expected to produce the Speaker, but as it happened in 2015, a different candidate other than that endorsed by the party leadership may contest the election.

While both Messrs Lawan and Gbajabiamila were endorsed by the party for the positions in 2015, Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara emerged as the Senate President and Speaker of the House respectively.

The two winners later defected from the APC to the PDP.

So far, there are at least seven members that have indicated interest in the position of Speaker.

Mr Gbajabiamila is however considered the leading candidate.

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Call for Sack of Service Chiefs is ‘Out of Place’ – Presidency

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Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari says the clamour for the sacking of service chiefs is ‘out of place’.

According to Shehu, the president has the prerogative to appoint or sack any of the country’s service chiefs, adding that the president keeps the service chiefs as long as he is satisfied with their performance.

The horrific killing of at least 43 rice farmers at Zabarmari in the Jere Local Government Area of Borno State last Saturday sparked fresh call for the sacking of the country’s service chiefs.

Reacting to the call by several Nigerians who also want the president to rejig the country’s security architecture, Shehu said the decision to sack or retain any of the service chiefs is entirely the president’s.

He spoke on Monday night in an interview with Arise TV monitored by The PUNCH.

The presidential spokesman said, “I am not aware that the tenure of service chiefs is subjected to any law of regulation that is clearly stated. They serve at the pleasure of the president and (if) the president is satisfied with their performance, he keeps them. The buck stops at his table —with due respect to the feelings of Nigerians.

“The clamour for the sack is out of place considering that the president is not subject to the opinion of opposition political party which has clamoured for this all the time. It is entirely his own determination; he decides who he keeps as his service chiefs and for how long.”

Boko Haram were reported to have first tied up the farmers, who were working in rice fields, before slitting their throats.

Shehu had said the farmers had no military clearance to be on the rice farms when the attack happened.

His reaction was greeted by outrage on social media as many Nigerians lambasted him for blaming the dead.

Explaining further last night, Shehu said, “My suggestion in the earlier news report is that the military had not certified those areas as being free of landmines and terrorists’ intrusions. Whether there are processes for getting licences or commissions, it is not for me, the military is in a better position to describe those processes.”

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F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton Contracts COVID-19

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World champion Lewis Hamilton has tested positive for coronavirus and will miss this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain, Formula One’s governing body FIA announced Tuesday.

“In accordance with COVID-19 protocols and public health authority guidelines in Bahrain he (Hamilton) is now isolating,” said an FIA statement.

“The procedures set out by the FIA and Formula 1 will ensure no wider impact on this weekend’s event.”

Hamilton who on Sunday won the Bahrain Grand Prix, the first of back-to-back races in the Gulf state, has already secured a record-equalling seventh world championship this season.

“He woke up on Monday morning with mild symptoms and was informed at the same time that a contact prior to arrival in Bahrain had subsequently tested positive,” a statement from Hamilton’s Mercedes team said.

“Lewis therefore took a further test and returned a positive result. This has since been confirmed by a retest.

“Lewis is now isolating in accordance with COVID-19 protocols and public health authority guidelines in Bahrain.

“Apart from mild symptoms, he is otherwise fit and well, and the entire team sends him its very best wishes for a swift recovery.”

The team added that Hamilton had been tested three times last week and returned a negative result each time as part of the sport’s strict anti-virus protocols, the last of which was on Sunday afternoon at the Bahrain circuit.

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Beware of Festivities, Christmas Carol, FG Warns

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The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has urged Nigerians to be weary of festivities such as Christmas carols as the year winds down.

It also warned against non-essential travels just as it asked Nigerians abroad to remain wherever they are or stand the risk of being stranded in the country in the event that the government takes a decision on international travels.

The call formed the theme of the speeches of the Chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha; the national coordinator, Sani Aliyu; the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire; and the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu, at the weekly briefing of the task force in Abuja on Monday.

Mustapaha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said the PTF was escalating its surveillance and testing drive to ensure that the spread of the virus was effectively contained as the nation approaches the festive season.

“We shall continue to remind Nigerians that all non-essential trips should be put off this December. This is for your safety and good health,” he said.

Speaking on vaccines, the PTF chairman said while it was a significant achievement, it was however, important for the citizens to continue to comply with the non-pharmaceutical interventions before the vaccines would become available.

“The PTF is already working on the strategy for gaining access to the vaccine as soon as they are available,” he added.

The SGF also said over the past weeks, discussions have been held about the safety issues pertaining to the National Sports Festival scheduled to hold in Benin, Edo State.

He said new dates have been agreed upon early in 2021, before which, measures would be put in place to minimize infections.

‘Don’t come home for Christmas’

Aliyu advised Nigerians in the Diaspora not to consider coming home, urging them to celebrate Christmas and New Year wherever they are.

He said, “Nigerians outside the country, hopefully they will stay where they are. And for Nigerians in-country, we will also stay where we are.

The national coordinator disclosed that for every 1,000 passengers coming into the country, the nation records 10 positive cases of COVID-19.

He added, “Please, for this period, if your travel is not essential, stay where you are. We are actively discouraging Nigerians abroad from coming home this Christmas because of COVID-19 and the number of infections we have outside the country.

“So, the message is; if you do not want to get stranded, if you do not want to bring COVID-19 to your elderly relatives in Nigeria, please stay where you are. There will be other holidays.”

Christmas carols, travels ‘supper spreaders’ of virus

At the press briefing, Ihekweazu said Christmas carols, travels and other gatherings during festivities were capable of turning out to be “super spreaders” of the virus, hence the need for Nigerians to avoid them as much as possible.

He said, “This is really to re-emphasise the call by the PTF that many of the traditional meetings that we engage in at this time of the year, whether they are Christmas carols or festivals, trips, family gatherings, each of those could end up being a super spreader event. So, we must take this into consideration as we make our choices.”

Ihekweazu said a travel advisory has been issued detailing why both local and international travels must be avoided unless they are absolutely necessary.

Meanwhile, the SGF said the national response to COVID-19 pandemic and security must be prioritised as security could not be relaxed even while tackling the virus in the country.

Mustapha also noted that the global number of COVID-19 infections crossed 63 million on Sunday, 29th November, 2020.

According to him, in Africa, Nigeria ranked 5th for both the highest cumulative cases and deaths.

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