Peru’s President Manuel Merino resigned Sunday, just five days after taking office, sparking celebrations in the capital Lima following street protests against him and the ousting of his popular predecessor.
Merino, 59, stepped down shortly after a crisis session of Congress called on him to quit power before 6:00 pm (2300 GMT) or face censure.
“I want to let the whole country know that I’m resigning,” Merino said in a televised address, a day after a police crackdown on protesters left at least two people dead.
Congress was expected to appoint a new president — the South American country’s third in a week — in a new session on Sunday evening.
Thousands have taken to the streets in days of protests against Merino following the ouster of his predecessor Martin Vizcarra, who was impeached on corruption allegations on Monday.
Elections are scheduled for April 2021 and Merino was scheduled to leave power in July, when Vizcarra’s mandate was to end.
Congress’ ultimatum came after the health ministry said two protesters were killed on Saturday during a massive and peaceful march in Lima, which was repressed by police firing shotgun pellets and tear gas.
Merino said that to avoid a “power vacuum” the 18 ministers he swore in on Thursday would temporarily remain in their posts, though almost all had resigned in the wake of Saturday’s crackdown on protests.
His resignation was greeted by noisy celebrations in Lima, with demonstrators taking to the streets sounding horns and banging pots.
Some lawmakers questioned the wisdom of removing Vizcarra in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and a crippling recession.
The pandemic has hit Peru hard, with the politically-fragile country having the world’s highest per capita death rate with nearly 35,000 fatalities, and GDP plunging over 30 percent in the second quarter.
– Police criticised –
Vizcarra, 57, welcomed his rival’s resignation, having questioned the legality of his dismissal last week.
“A dictatorship has left the palace,” he told reporters outside his home in Lima, adding that Merino “was breaking out democracy.”
The popular former president did not rule out a return to his mandate and urged an early ruling on a constitutional challenge to his November 9 dismissal.
“It is essential that the Constitutional Court make a statement urgently and say whether what the congressmen did on the 9th is legal,” said Vizcarra.
Earlier, Lima Archbishop Carlos Castillo deplored the police crackdown in a statement to state television, adding that he had received news of the death of a third protester.
However, police reported two deaths, while the National Human Rights Coordinator indicated it was investigating whether there were four.
The Ombudsman’s Office said the first fatality, a 25-year-old man, was killed by pellet shots to the head and face. At least 112 protesters were injured, the health ministry said.
The police tactics have been criticized by the UN and rights organizations such as Amnesty International since the protests began on Tuesday.
Thousands took to the streets on Saturday in opposition to Merino, the former Congress speaker who assumed office on Tuesday.
The mostly young protesters gathered in various cities to oppose what they call a parliamentary coup against ousted Vizcarra.
In Lima, police again used tear gas fired from helicopters to disperse protesters who were threatening to march towards the Congress building.
They carried signs reading “Merino, you are not my president” and “Merino impostor.”
Vizcarra had broad support since succeeding Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the former Wall Street banker who was forced to resign under threat of impeachment over corruption allegations in 2018.
Congress impeached and dismissed Vizcarra on Monday over allegations he took kickbacks from developers when he was governor of the Moquegua region in 2014, charges he denies.
Court Slams Life Imprisonment on ACP for Buying Stolen Car
An Ekiti State High Court has sentenced an assistant commissioner of police, Okubo Aboye, to life imprisonment for buying a stolen car from kidnappers.
Mr Aboye was sentenced on Monday alongside his mechanic, Niyi Afolabi.
According to the charge sheet, Mr Aboye was found with a Toyota Hilux van he claimed to have purchased from his mechanic who got it from kidnappers.
The charge sheet said the offence was committed “on or about the 9th -19th day of May 2005 at GRA, Ado Ekiti. The kidnappers then armed themselves with guns and kidnapped one Moses Ajogri 40 and robbed him of his Toyota Hilux van with Reg. No. APP 509 BK.”
The prosecuting counsel, Felix Awoniyi, told the court the offence contravened sections 346(2), 1(2)a, and section 5 of the Criminal Code Cap C16 Laws of Ekiti state, 2012 and Robbery and firearms special provisions Act, Cap R11, laws of the federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Delivering judgement, John Adeyeye, the judge, said ”it would be a slap on the face of the court if the police boss is not properly dealt with according to the provisions of the law.”
He said evidence before the court showed that ”Messrs Aboye and Afolabi were aware that the car was stolen before buying it.”
“I find you guilty of receiving a stolen vehicle. All evidence pointed to the fact that you were aware that the car was stolen. You are hereby sentenced to life imprisonment for the offence.”
COVID-19: Nigeria Releases N10bn for Vaccine Production
The Ministry of Finance has released N10 billion to support COVID-19 vaccine production in the country, an official has said.
The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, made the disclosure at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) COVID-19 briefing on Monday in Abuja.
Mr Ehanire said: “The Ministry of Finance has released N10 billion to support domestic vaccine production.
“While we are working to develop our own vaccines, Nigeria is exploring options for licensed production, in collaboration with recognised institutions. We are also exploring the option of local production of the vaccines in the country.”
He urged Nigerians to ignore claims by some people that they had COVID-19 vaccines for sale in the country.
“I advise all citizens to disregard these claims, as they are criminal. There are procedures for vaccine acquisition and use, which include appropriate regulations and certification by National Agency for Food and Drug and Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
“I advise against fake vaccines, as there is no one approved for use in the country. The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) is the only authorised vaccine administrator in Nigeria,” he said.
Mr Ehanire stated that the number of new COVID-19 cases has continued to rise in the country, such that 10,300 confirmed cases were reported from just 50,750 samples tested in one week, translating into 20 percent positivity rate.
“It means one out of every five persons tested in the last one week turned out positive, compared with the previous week which recorded a positivity rate of 14 percent.
“Nigeria’s total number of confirmed cases is 110,387 out of a total of 1,172,234 samples tested, with a cumulative positivity rate of 9.4 percent. 1,444 cases were recorded in the past 24 hours, with sadly 77 deaths in the past week and total fatality of 1,435.
“It is instructive of the second wave that all cases recorded so far this January is more than 20 percent of all confirmed cases in Nigeria, more than the whole of December, barely halfway through the month.
“There is no doubting the fact that we are deeply into the second wave of the pandemic which requires that PTF and FMoH review our strategies to respond to the challenge.
“The federal ministry of health has outlined three approaches to confront the pandemic. These are: infection mitigation, therapeutics and vaccines,” he said.
Mr Ehanire reiterated that reducing infection rate for COVID-19 remained the easiest and cheapest objective of the government.
According to him, government’s main effort is to ensure social mobilisation for testing, strengthening surveillance activities for early detection, active contact tracing, isolation and treatment.
He, however, added that implementation of critical non-pharmaceutical measures required the cooperation of the public.
“This includes much more adherence to wearing masks, social distancing, use of sanitiser, etc. than we are seeing today. Of special concern are the so-called “super spreader activities” that involve congregational settings, which must be reduced, restricted or prohibited in the interest of the common good.
“With regards to therapeutics, we must strive to reduce mortality from this disease by ensuring adequate stock of supplies and strengthening our case management capacity.
“In this regard, the ministry of health is working to expand oxygen availability across the country to address shortages, which have been a challenge globally, and also to review the value of various pharmaceuticals and protocols proposed for COVID-19 treatment.
“Clinicians are also urged to work out guidelines for participating in clinical studies,” the minister said.
Nigeria has witnessed a surge in COVID-19 infections in recent weeks and increased mortality, a situation mostly blamed on non-compliance with safety protocols to curtail the spread of the virus.
COVID-19: Nigeria Records 200 Deaths in Four Weeks with 1,617 New Cases
As Nigeria continues to record more coronavirus infections, the direct adverse impact has been more fatalities.
A total of 112,004 infections have now been reported across the nation with 1,617 new cases, the second highest daily tally, found in 18 states on Monday.
Also on Monday, 14 people died from the disease raising the total fatality toll to 1,449, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
In the previous 24 hours, Nigeria reported one of it’s deadliest day of the pandemic with 15 people dying from the disease on Sunday.
This is coming a few days after the global coronavirus death toll surpassed two million.
As countries begin to roll out the COVID-19, experts anticipate there will be a reduction in mortality but there have been more deaths especially in countries where the second wave of the virus is spreading unrestrained.
In the past four weeks, there have been over 200 fatalities as a result of COVID-19 complications in Nigeria.
The rise in mortality shows that the second wave of the pandemic is deadlier than the first as more patients are symptomatic and require breathing support.
“The reason for rise in fatalities is not far-fetched. When there are is a sharp rise in new cases, there will definitely be more deaths”, said Chikwe Ihekweazu, head of the NCDC.
Active cases in the country rose sharply from about 3,000 about two months ago to over 20,000 due to a rise in new infections.
Of the over 112,000 cases so far, 89,939 patients have been discharged from hospitals after treatment.
The 1, 617 new cases were reported from the following 18 states: Lagos-776
Lagos, again, led with 776 new cases on Monday, nearly half of the daily total. The commercial city is Nigeria’s coronavirus epicentre with a total of over 40,000 confirmed cases and over 270 deaths.
The Minister of State for Health, Mr Mamora, warned Nigerians against complacency in containing the COVID-19 pandemic as the much-awaited vaccines may not arrive the country as soon as expected.
The government said it is expecting to start receiving vaccines for the disease by the end of the month but many global experts and bodies told PREMIUM TIMES that that is “almost likely impossible”.
So far, Nigeria has conducted over 1.1 million COVID-19 tests.