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Sri Lanka Suspends Defiant Police Chief over Easter Attacks

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Sri Lanka’s president suspended the chief of police on Monday and appointed a new defence secretary in a shake-up of the shell-shocked country’s security services following the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Intelligence warnings from abroad alerting to possible attacks by Islamist extremists were ignored ahead of the multiple bombings of churches and upscale hotels on April 21 that killed 253 people and injured nearly 500.

Chief of police Pujith Jayasundara had refused to quit to clear the way for a shake-up of the 85,000-strong force, prompting President Maithripala Sirisena to suspend him on Monday.

Senior Deputy Inspector-General Chandana Wickramaratne was appointed acting police chief in his place, Sirisena’s office said in a statement.

Separately Sirisena appointed on Monday a former head of the army, Shantha Kottegoda, as the country’s top defence official.

His predecessor at the ministry of defence and law and order, Hemasiri Fernando, stepped down on Thursday in the wake of the attacks, which were claimed by the Islamic State group.

General Kottegoda, 69, was forced to retire as head of the army in December 2005, by then-president Mahinda Rajapakse.

Sirisena said an intelligence agency from a neighbouring country had provided precise details of the impending attack 17 days in advance, but local authorities had failed to take countermeasures.

Official sources said the president was referring to information provided by India’s Research and Analysis Wing which apparently gleaned details of the Easter attacks from a jihadist suspect in Indian custody.

The government has since declared a state of emergency and deployed thousands of troops for search operations against Islamist extremists.

Security forces searched a Muslim burial ground in Colombo Monday following information that explosives had been hidden there, but the troops did not find any, officials said.

However, cordon and search searches were carried out across the country and 13 foreign nationals overstaying their visas were arrested, police said.

It was not clear if the foreigners — 10 Nigerians and one each from India, Iran and Thailand — were linked to religious extremists or the Easter attacks.

Over 150 people have been arrested since April 21 and more than 15 people killed in raids.

(AFP)

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FG Announces Resumption of International Flights

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The Federal Government on Thursday said the airports would be reopened to international flights in weeks and not in months.

When international flights eventually resume, passengers are expected to arrive the airport three hours before their flights.

The government said the prolonged ban on international travels was not punitive but mainly to keep Nigerians across the country safe from the spread of COVID-19.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, disclosed this in Abuja while answering questions at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

He said, “On the question about the reopening of the airports, I will like to use this medium to reiterate and to be consistent with what we’ve been saying. I want people to understand that this is not purely an aviation function.

“It also has to do with our health and is so huge that it made Mr President in his wisdom to set up the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19. This is in the interest of the nation.”

The minister said operators in the civil aviation sector had wanted to open the airports a long time ago in order to return to business and halt the loss of revenue.

Sirika said the ban on international flights had warranted the mass sacking of workers in the aviation sector and non-payment of salaries by airlines.

He said, “So we really want to open. But we can’t open alone, for within the space where we operate we’ve got all kinds of people there in the airports.

“We’ve got immigration, police, Customs, civil defense, port health, etc, and so the PTF has set up a technical committee to come up with a date when everybody will be happy to start.”

The minister added, “So we will open as soon as all of us are happy to open. And I want to adopt what the coordinator has said; it will be in weeks rather than in months.”

Sirika urged Nigerians not to blame any government official for the ban on international flights. Rather the blame should be on COVID-19, he said.

“We feel your pain. We know that this closure of airports has separated families and friends, denied people access to hospitals abroad, schools, businesses, etc. We feel this pain,” he said.

He insisted that the prolonged ban on international flights was not on purpose but was to ensure that Nigerians remained safe and healthy.

The PTF National Coordinator said the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, and other agencies, as well as airlines, should commence the process for the resumption of international flights.

According to Aliyu, passengers would arrive three hours before flights when the country’s airspace finally reopens for international operations.

“We have modified the protocol for passenger arrivals at the airports. Domestic passengers arriving at the airports are advised to arrive one hour before their flights and three hours before international flights – when this restarts.”

He said there may be additional infrastructure for some of the airports.

“Hopefully in weeks but not months,” he added.

The Punch

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Army, Police Arrest Protesters in Abuja

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Several #RevolutionNow protesters were arrested by the police and the Nigerian Army in the Abuja metropolis on Wednesday.

The protesters carrying placards and banners had set out as early as 8 am to demand good governance.

Some of the banners read, ‘Nigerians are sick and tired of poverty, corruption, injustice and untimely death’; ‘Say no to injustice’, ‘Yes to living wage for unemployed youths’.

The protesters, many of whom wore orange berets, converged on the Unity Fountain, Shehu Shagari Way, Maitama, and were about to begin their procession when policemen stormed the venue and dispersed them.

Soldiers and other security operatives also cordoned off adjoining streets including Aguiyi Ironsi Street to prevent the protesters from marching.

Human rights lawyer, Tope Akinyode, said he witnessed security agents beating protesters for no just cause.

Akinyode said, “They arrested about 29 of our people. Security officials made them to lie down and beat them. Even as a lawyer I was harassed. They pushed me around. This is very undemocratic.”

It was learnt that the protests are ongoing in other states, including Lagos.

The leader of the group, Omoyele Sowore, who is a former Presidential candidate, was detained last year for about three months while court orders for his release were ignored.

He was eventually released following pressure from the international community and human rights organisations.  Several protesters who were arraigned in court won their cases.

Photos and story: The Punch

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WAEC Sets Mathematics, English for Aug 17, 26 Respectively (See Full Timetable)

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The West African Examinations Council has released the examination date, time and duration for subjects to be taken in the 2020 West African Senior School Certificate Examination.

According to a copy of the timetable obtained by our correspondent from WAEC Nigeria, candidates would sit for Mathematics on August 17 and write English Language papers on August 26.

It said Mathematics (Essay) holds between 9:30 a.m and 12:00 noon while Mathematics (Objective) holds from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. both on August 17.

The examination body said English Language (Essay) holds August 26 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. while English Language  (Objective) holds between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Biology practicals hold on August 31 from 09:30 a.m. while Essay and Objective hold August 25 from 09:30 a.m.

Chemistry practicals hold August 7 and 18 from 09:30 a.m. while Essay and Objective hold September 2 from 02:00 p.m.

Physics practicals hold August 8 and 20 from 09:30 a.m. while Essay and Objective hold August 28 from 09:30 a.m.

Economics (Essay and Objective) hold August 19 from 09:30 a.m. while Agricultural Science (Essay and Objective) hold same day from 02:00 p.m.

History (Essay and Objective) hold August 20 from 02:00 p.m.

Literature-In-English (Prose, Objective, Drama and Poetry) hold August 21 from 09:30 a.m.

Principles of Cost Accounting 2 (Essay and Objective) hold August 26 from 02:00 p.m.

Geography 2 (Essay and Objective) hold August 27 from 09:30 a.m.

French (Essay and Objective) hold August 29 from 09:30 a.m.

Further Mathematics (Essay and Objective) hold September 1 from 09:30 a.m.

Christian Religious Studies (Essay and Objective) and Islamic Studies (Essay and Objective) hold September 2 from 09:30 a.m.

Government (Essay and Objective) hold September 3 from 09:30 a.m.

Foods and Nutrition 2 (Essay and Objective) hold September 4 from 09:30 a.m.

Yoruba/Hausa/Igbo/others (Essay and Objective) hold September 8 from 09:30 a.m.

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