The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.- General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, yesterday debunked some media reports making the rounds that he said his troops were not committed to the war against insurgency in the North-East part of the country. Buratai, who made the denial while fielding questions at a joint press briefing by the Army and the Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, at the Government House, Maiduguri, said: “I was quoted out of context.
“Most of these reports that you see from other journals, including the Boko Haram, are exaggerated and are mere propaganda. There’s no way when you’re in conflict, you won’t have casualty; we have casualties. When necessary we give out these figures, the problem is that, most of our journalists are not contented with what the military gives.
They believe that the figure is far more than that,” he added. The COAS further said: “Up till today, people are still quoting the Metele attack of last year to be 300, some 400 and some 500 killed. “But we have given out the correct figure, but some are still quoting the wrong figure, because they don’t want to believe us. So, why should we give out figures and you don’t believe us and you want us to give something that you think is the correct figure, which you got from others.
“So we have to be very careful, national security, defence and security are not issues you just talk about and if you go along that way, you will be the victim and first victim for that matter because national security is not a matter of joke and it’s not a matter of blame game. You shouldn’t blame the military for whatever set back or problem; it’s a collective responsibility.”
Taliban swap Western hostages for top militants
The Taliban have freed two hostages in exchange for three imprisoned senior militants, Taliban sources say.
American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks, lecturers at the American University of Afghanistan, were released on Tuesday, three years after they were kidnapped in Kabul, reports the BBC.
The three militants arrived in Qatar from Afghanistan as part of the swap.
Last week Afghan authorities revealed a deal had been reached in an effort to restart peace talks with the Taliban.
President Ashraf Ghani said at the time that the decision to conditionally release the prisoners was “a tough, but important” one and a “humanitarian gesture”.
24 soldiers, 17 militants killed in Mali attack
Twenty-four Malian soldiers were killed and 29 wounded in an attack on an army patrol in northern Mali on Monday in which 17 militants were also killed, a spokesman for the army said.
The West African country is still reeling from an attack on an army post that killed 54 in early November – one of the deadliest strikes against its military in recent memory, which underscored the increasing reach and sophistication of armed jihadist groups active in the wider region, reports Reuters.
The Malian patrol attacked on Monday was in Tabankort, Gao region, while on a joint operation with Niger against militants operating near the border.
“During this attack, Malian forces suffered 24 deaths, 29 wounded as well as equipment damage. On the enemy’s side, 17 were killed and a certain number captured,” army spokesman Diarran Kone said.
The authorities have not named the assailants or identified which group they belonged to. From strongholds in Mali, groups with al Qaeda and Islamic State links have been able to fan out across the Sahel, destabilising parts of Niger and Burkina Faso.
Violence has surged this autumn with heavy military and civilian losses in Mali and Burkina Faso.
In addition to November’s bloodshed in Mali, 38 Malian soldiers were killed on Sept. 30 in coordinated attacks on two army bases in the centre of the country, which has slipped from government control despite the presence of the French army and other international forces.
Meanwhile 39 people were killed in Burkina Faso on November 6 when militants attacked a convoy carrying workers of Canadian gold mining company Semafo.
Hong Kong leader urges peaceful resolution of campus standoff
Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday she hoped a standoff between police and a hold-out group of anti-government protesters at a university could be resolved and she had told police to handle it in a humane way.
A last group of about 100 defiant protesters remain in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University after more than two days of clashes with police surrounding it in which more than 200 people have been injured.
Lam spoke at a news conference shortly after the city’s new police chief urged the support of all citizens to end five months of unrest, triggered by fears that the Beijing government is stifling the city’s special autonomy and freedoms, reports Reuters.
Lam said her government was very much on the “reactive side” but did not rule out further violence even as she urged peace.
“If the protesters are coming out in a peaceful manner … then there is no situation when that sort of violence would happen,” she said.
But if the situation changed, police would have to take “necessary action”, she said, adding she had been shocked that campuses had been turned into “weapons factories”.
Lam said 600 protesters had left the campus, including 200 below the age of 18.
The university is the last of five that protesters occupied to use as bases from which to disrupt the city, blocking the city’s central cross harbor tunnel and main roads, and forcing the closure of businesses including shopping centers, in order, they said, to put the government under economic pressure.
Hundreds of protesters fled from the university or surrendered overnight amid running battles on surrounding streets as police fired tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets and protesters lobbed petrol bombs and bricks.
At one stage, dozens of mask-wearing protesters staged a dramatic escape from the campus by shimmying down plastic hosing from a bridge and fleeing on waiting motorbikes as police fired projectiles.
Police allowed two prominent figures onto the campus late on Monday to mediate but many protesters refused to leave even though food was running out.
“There have been so many people who have sacrificed for this,” said a 21-year-old university student, who identified himself as T, after escaping from the university on Tuesday.
QUESTION OVER COURT
Many protesters say they fear even more bloodshed with no resolution in sight to a standoff that has seen some of the most intense violence in what has become the worst crisis since Hong Kong’s return from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
Protesters were initially angered by a now-shelved bill that could have sent people to mainland China for trial but has since broadened into calls for full democracy and an end to what many see meddling by Beijing in China’s freest city.
China says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula introduced in 1997 granting Hong Kong autonomy and has accused foreign countries, including Britain and the United States, of inciting trouble.
The city’s police deny accusations of brutality and say they have shown restraint.
But the city’s autonomy has been thrown into question after China’s top legislature questioned the power of the city’s High Court to overturn a government emergency ban on face masks worn by protesters.
A spokesman for the legislative affairs commission of the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress, said Hong Kong courts had no power to rule on the constitutionality of the city’s legislation, the state Xinhua news agency reported.
‘MASSIVE’ BREAKING OF LAW
Newly appointed Police Commissioner Chris Tang, meanwhile, warned of an “institutional mismatch” that his 30,000-strong force was having to contend with.
“There is a massive scale of breaking of law in Hong Kong and there is a certain sector of the community that also condones that illegal activity,” Tang said in a brief public appearance.
He also said “fake news” was undermining the reputation of the force that had long been known as one of Asia’s finest.
The number of people demonstrating has fallen in recent weeks but clashes have worsened since last week, when police shot a protester, a man was set on fire and the city’s financial district was filled with tear gas in the middle of the workday.
Police spokesmen said they fired three live rounds early on Monday but no one was hurt.
Protesters have torched buildings, infrastructure and shops.
The city’s Cross Harbour Tunnel linking Hong Kong island to the Kowloon peninsula remained shut on Tuesday due to extensive damage, authorities said.
Some train services and many roads across Kowloon remained closed. All schools were shut again on Tuesday, extending a string of closures since last week due to safety concerns.
The city’s hospital authority reported 221 injuries over the past day with 12 people in serious condition.
The unrest poses the gravest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters the United States was “gravely concerned” and said the Hong Kong government bore primary responsibility for ensuring a return to calm.
Democrats dubious as Trump dangles impeachment testimony offer
Democrats responded skeptically on Monday to President Donald Trump’s declaration that he might be willing to testify in his impeachment inquiry and also said they were examining the truthfulness of his testimony in the Russia 2016 election interference probe.
Trump said on Twitter that he would “strongly consider” House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s suggestion that he testify in the House impeachment inquiry into whether he pressured Ukraine to investigate domestic political opponent Joe Biden.
House Democrats saw his participation in the inquiry as unlikely, reports Reuters.
“President Trump should testify,” Representative Don Beyer said in a tweet. “He should allow top White House aides to testify. … He should turn over the documents Congress subpoenaed. He should end his illegal coverup. I’m not holding my breath.”
Trump has come under increasing pressure as public hearings have started in the impeachment probe, and the Democratic-led committees conducting the investigation have released transcripts of interviews conducted in closed sessions that contain potentially damaging allegations against him.
Late on Monday, they released a transcript of an interview with David Holmes, a top aide from the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, who will testify at a public hearing on Thursday.
Holmes testified that he had overheard on July 26 a call, held on the outdoor terrace of a Kiev restaurant, between Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Trump.
In the call, he testified, Trump asked Sondland whether Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy had agreed to announce an investigation into the son of former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, a rival in Trump’s race for re-election next year.
Holmes, an aide to acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, said he could hear the conversation and believes two others at the table could as well.
“So he’s gonna do the investigation?” Holmes said he heard Trump ask.
“He’s gonna do it,” Sondland said, adding that Zelenskiy would do “anything you ask him to.”
Holmes described the call as extraordinary.
“I’ve never seen anything like this, someone calling the President from a mobile phone at a restaurant, and then having a conversation of this level of candor, colorful language,” he said.
Holmes said he was concerned Trump’s call with Sondland could pose a security risk. “We generally assume that mobile communications in Ukraine are being monitored,” he testified.
Asked whether Ukrainian officials felt pressure to announce investigations into the Bidens, Holmes said, “I think the Ukrainians gradually came to understand that they were being asked to do something in exchange for the meeting and the security assistance hold being lifted.”
Holmes said the call – which came to light in Taylor’s testimony last week – took place one day after Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Zelenskiy, which prompted the whistleblower complaint that led to the impeachment probe of Trump.
On that call, Trump asked Zelenskiy to open a corruption investigation into Biden and his son Hunter, and into a discredited theory that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 U.S. election. Trump has defended his call with Zelenskiy as “perfect.”
Joe Biden is a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to take on Trump in 2020.
Separately, House general counsel Douglas Letter told a federal appeals court in Washington that lawmakers were examining the truthfulness of the written answers the president provided in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump initially offered to testify in that investigation but only provided written answers after months of negotiations.
Those answers drew renewed scrutiny after they appeared to conflict with the testimony of a former Trump campaign official last week in the trial of Trump ally Roger Stone.
Lawmakers are examining whether Trump abused his power by withholding $391 million in aid to Ukraine as leverage to get Kiev to investigate Biden. The money, approved by the U.S. Congress to help U.S. ally Ukraine combat Russia-backed separatists, was later provided.
The Republican president has said he did nothing wrong and has railed against the impeachment inquiry and attacked witnesses, much as he did in the two-year Mueller investigation.
Holmes is one of nine witnesses set to testify in the second week of public impeachment hearings. He will testify on Thursday.
The committees also released a transcript of testimony behind closed doors by David Hale, a senior State Department official. In his interview, Hale confirmed that he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo knew ware of the campaign against Yovanovitch, but were not going to act on it without evidence.
Pompeo declined to discuss the impeachment inquiry – or defend Yovanovitch – at a news briefing on Monday.
Hale is set to testify at a public hearing on Wednesday.
Others due to testify this week include Sondland, whose direct contacts with Trump are likely to be a main focus in the investigation of whether the president used U.S. aid as leverage to get Zelenskiy to dig up dirt on Biden.
Trump told reporters last week that he knew “nothing” about the call with Sondland.
Several witnesses testified last week that they were alarmed at the pressure tactics used against Ukraine, as well as the role of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
The hearings could clear the way for the House to approve articles of impeachment – formal charges – against Trump. That would lead to a trial in the Senate on whether to convict Trump and remove him from office. Republicans control the Senate and have shown little support for Trump’s removal.
Kogi, Bayelsa polls: PDP cries foul, says God’ll judge INEC, IGP
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidates in the November 16 elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states yesterday cried foul over their losses at the polls.
The PDP governorship candidate in Kogi State, Engr. Musa Wada, condemned the outcome of Saturday’s election in the state, describing it as declaration and execution of war against Kogi people.
Wada also declared that the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, will account to God and the people for the roles they played in the election.
Speaking in the same vein, the PDP governorship candidate in Bayelsa State, Senator Douye Diri, said he won Saturday’s election in the state and asked INEC to declare him winner.
In Kogi State, Governor Yahaya Bello of the APC polled 406,222 votes to defeat Wada who garnered 189,704 votes.
The APC repeated the same feat in Bayelsa where its candidate, David Lyon, won with 352,552 votes. APC’s closest rival, Duoye Diri of the PDP polled 143,172 votes.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja yesterday, Wada, alongside his running mate, Bamidele Aroh, said he would challenge the results of the election at the tribunal.
Wada argued that what happened in Kogi on Saturday was “an organised war against democracy, coup against the people and seizure of power through brigandage and the barrel of the gun with members of the police and other security agencies coordinating the stealing of the people’s votes.”
He accused the police of aiding suspected armed thugs of APC to invade polling units with impunity, shoot and kill voters.
According to him, the hoodlums carted away ballot boxes to government facilities where results were written in favour of APC and handed over to INEC to announce against the will of the people.
Wada said: “Police helicopters were used to attack polling units, fire tear gas on voters and provide cover to APC hoodlums and policemen who brutalized the people of Kogi State and stole their mandate.
“The APC turned our state into a theatre of war. No fewer than nine innocent Nigerians were killed. Many more were maimed and injured by the APC in their desperation to seize power at all cost.
“It is, therefore, distressing that INEC went ahead with a shameful collation and declaration of fabricated results despite the glaring disruptions that characterized the shambolic exercise.
“In order to achieve this ignoble goal, INEC cancelled our votes in areas of our strongholds, subtracted from our votes in many other areas and padded the votes of APC to give a semblance of victory for APC.”
He said people of Kogi were horrified, brutalized and dehumanized, adding that there have been weeping across the state since the announcement of another four years of Yahaya Bello was made.
He added: “We, therefore, stand with the people of Kogi to state without equivocation that this brigandage and stealing of our mandate cannot stand.
“We will never despair, but remain strong in our determination to retrieve the mandate freely given to us by the people in their desire for a change.
“We will pursue this course to its logical conclusion within the confines of the law of this country.
“We commend the people of Kogi State for their resilience in the face of all intimidation. They showed, once again, that nobody can suppress their will at any time.
“Our campaign mourns our compatriots that were killed by the APC; their blood demand for justice and we will ensure that they did not die in vain.”
The PDP candidate insisted that the INEC chairman and IGP would account to God and the people for their roles “if not in this world, then certainly in the hereafter.”
He called on all Nigerians to stand with the people of Kogi State at this trying time as they quest for the restoration of their mandate in the election.
Meanwhile, Diri, who briefed reporters in Yenagoa, said that the results monitored by his party’s Situation Room in the eight local government areas of the state, showed in clear terms that he won the Bayelsa poll and should be declared the governor-elect.
The governorship candidate, who announced 98,582 as the total figure scored by the PDP, said the APC got a total of 55,903 in the election.
Giving a breakdown of the figures, he said the PDP scored 4,096 in Brass Local Government Area while the APC got 2,525.
According to him, the PDP polled 9,903 votes and the APC had 7,976 votes in Ogbia while the PDP scored 12,225 in Southern Ijaw LGA and APC got 9,542 votes in same council.
Diri claimed that the PDP polled 21,165 votes in Yenagoa and the APC scored 15,560 votes while in Sagbama, the PDP got 60,339 and APC had 7,831 votes.
He further explained that the PDP polled a total of 21,381 votes in Ekeremor while the APC scored 8,780 votes.
Also in Kolokuma/Opokuma, he noted that the PDP had 12,110 votes and APC polled 6,659 votes while in Nembe, PDP polled 24 and APC had 908 votes.
Diri contended that it was illegal for the APC to have contested the governorship election because of a subsisting court judgement, urging the electoral commission to disqualify the APC.
He stressed that he did not contest the election against the APC candidate, who was returned winner by INEC, saying the party had already been disqualified by the court before the election.
Also speaking, the PDP’s agent, Chief O.O. Osusu, said there were two subsisting court judgements before the conduct of the November 16 governorship election, stressing that it was wrong for the APC to be on the ballot.
In separate remarks, some governorship candidates, including Eniye Zidougha (Green Party), Fayeofori Bob-Manuel (All Progressive Grand Alliance), Okiah Jones (Masses Movement of Nigeria), lampooned INEC for declaring Lyon as winner.
They lamented that despite obvious irregularities, including the use of the Nigerian Army to intimidate voters and subvert the will of the people, the electoral body still went ahead to announce the results.
They also berated the Army for allegedly interfering in the polls to favour the APC and called on the electoral umpire to declare Senator Diri of the PDP as winner of the governorship election.
The Chairman of Ogbia Local Government Area, Hon. Ebinyon Turner, recalled his ordeal in the hands of soldiers of the Division 6 of the Nigerian Army who arrested him and other party members during the election.
Total: Nigeria’s untapped oil assets hit 1trn barrels
The untapped oil assets in Nigeria have hit the all-time high of one trillion barrels.
A major oil acreage concessionaire, Total, which yesterday declared this at pre-conference workshop of the Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorarionists (NAPE) in Lagos, tasked the government to create enabling policies as well as deploy more technological innovation in order to bring to bear the untapped oil assets on the country’s economy.
Deputy Managing director, Deepwater District, Total Exploration and Production, Ahmadu-Kida Musa, who said this, emphasized the need for Nigeria not to rest on its oars in the search for more oil in its frontiers.
He also emphasized the need for the nation’s oil industry to encourage digital application in the deep offshore assets, saying that the development would cut capital expenditure by 20 per cent.
He said his company is committed to sustainable strategy to create enduring environment in the nation’s oil and gas sector.
He also said Total would continually deploy technology and innovation in its deep offshore operations with a view to deepen its presence in the oil and gas sector.
Speaking, Nigeria Country Manager, Google, Juliet Ehimyan-Chiazor, said that the use of digital application could increase the country’s oil production by more than eight per cent annually.
In his remarks, President of NAPE, Ajibola Oyebamiji, said that the oil and gas industry has witnessed rapid technology advancement in recent years, while new technologies are providing different and undefined opportunities for producing unconventional oil and gas in different regions of the world.
He said: “With the era of cheap-to-discover oil and gas gradually coming to an end, new digital technologies are coming on board aiding the imaging and discovery of new oil and gas fields that were hitherto undiscoverable while reservoirs at deeper depths concealed under thick layers of shakes that were previously undrillable due to high temperatures and pressures have become accessible through improved drilling technologies in complex structural and stratigraphic traps.
“Technological change, in turn, is the main driver of the global trend in oil and gas industry and is of particular importance for government, policymakers and all stakeholders to have the necessary knowledge of how such technological changes can be deployed and sustained in developing countries (Nigeria inclusive).”
According to him, the development of relevant technologies suited to the Nigerian market should be a key driver in guaranteeing energy security and diversification, thereby boosting Nigeria’s industrial development.
Meanwhile, the expectations that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would extend production cuts supported oil prices yesterday, helping them hold on to last week’s gains.
Brent crude futures LCOc1, which rose 1.3 per cent last week, were little changed, trading at above $63 per barrel at 1100 GMT.
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 was also flat at $57.7 a barrel, having gained 0.8 per cent last week.
This was also buoyed by the hopes for a trade deal between the United States and China.
NBS: Rise in food prices push inflation to 11.61%
…highest in 17 months
Increase in prices was recorded across all divisions of foods in month of October, Consumer Price Index (CPI) released yesterday by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed.
The CPI rose to 11.61 per cent (year-on-year) in October 2019, higher than September figure of 11.24 per cent, representing 0.36 percentage points higher than previous figure.
This was the exact inflation rate recorded in May 2018 when the country was recovering from the recession and high inflation rate.
On month-on-month basis, the headline index increased by 1.07 per cent in October 2019, or 0.03 percentage points higher than the rate recorded in September 2019 (1.04 per cent).
The percentage change in the average composite CPI for the 12-month period ending October 2019 over the average of the CPI for the previous 12-month period was 11.30 per cent, showing 0.03 percentage point increase from 11.27 per cent recorded in September 2019.
The urban inflation rate stood at 12.20 per cent (year-on-year) in October 2019 from 11.78 per cent recorded in September, while the rural inflation rate was recorded at 11.07 per cent in October from 10.77 per cent in September.
“On a month-on-month basis, the urban index rose by 1.15 per cent in October 2019, up by 0.02 percentage points from 1.13 per cent recorded in September 2019, while the rural index rose by 0.99 per cent in October 2019, up by 0.03 percentage points from the rate recorded in September 2019 (0.96 per cent),” NBS stated.
The corresponding 12-month year-on-year average percentage change for the urban index was 11.68 per cent in October 2019. This is higher than 11.63 per cent reported in September 2019, while the corresponding rural inflation rate in October was 10.95 percent compared to 10.94 per cent recorded in September 2019.
Banking industry earnings to hit N4.9trn –Afrinvest
…Profit’ll rise to N1.178trn
- Experts seek structural reforms
Afrinvest West Africa Limited has projected that the banking industry gross earnings will hit N4.9 trillion at the end of 2019.
The Group Managing Director, Afrinvest (W.A), Mr. Ike Chioke, who stated this yesterday at the 14th edition of the Afrinvest Banking Sector Report Launch titled, ‘Beyond the precipice: Pulling back from the brink’, said the industry, which is expected to recover strongly during 2019, will grow by 19.5 per cent from N4.1 trillion in 2018 to N4.9 trillion in 2019.
He also predicted that the industry profit will hit N1.178 trillion from N497.9 billion in 2015.
To achieve the desired level of strong economic growth and prosperity as well as improve on the performance in key sectors of the Nigerian economy, financial experts at the launch stressed the need for adjustments in structural reforms.
Chioke explained that the current administration is facing challenges in key sectors of the nation’s economy while adding that the Federal Government needs to reduce the level of borrowing, subsidise petrol consumption, reduce the cost of governance and prioritize more infrastructures.
He said: “Over the last 10 years, we have budgeted over N7 trillion and spent about 55 per cent of that in a disorganised manner. For example, if we plan to spend $110 billion, then we need to organise the infrastructural spend year-on-year. A road, which will cost N50 billion and will be done in 18 months, the money will be there instead of the allocation of N1 billion every three years to that particular road.
“We need to start using our intelligence efficiently as this would mean that the government will not have to keep borrowing just to spend money on infrastructures.”
Corroborating him, Partner and Chief Economist, PwC Nigeria, Andrew Nevin, noted that structural changes are needed to fix some of the challenges facing the economy.
He said: “The entire states spending in all three levels of government in Nigeria is about N14 trillion, the economy is about N143 trillion. Take out the interest payment, you have N12 trillion and by my calculations, that is about N60,000 for every Nigerian. It is impossible to cover education, healthcare infrastructure, power, security with that N60,000 per Nigerian.
“So, the result of that is that Nigerians are very intelligent; they supply their own power, their own education, their own healthcare, their own security and their own infrastructure. So the fact that most people are not aware is that 85 per cent of school children in Lagos are educated in private schools. I would say the number one challenge for the Federal Government is to be relevant to the people because right now they are not relevant. They are relevant for the wrong reasons.”
Chairman, Afrinvest Securities Limited, Fatumata Coker, called on the government to focus more on education and technology while adding that broadband penetration ought to be pursued vigorously so as to compete with its peers in the African market.
“We keep adopting the same concept and we need to look at this in our own context. Singapore, for example, took a step back to understand what they had mapped out for their economy. Our banks are doing well, but are they
Senate: Hate Speech Bill unrelated to Third Term
The upper chamber of the National Assembly has debunked speculations that the Hate Speech Prohibition Bill currently before it was designed to silence Nigerians and pave way for the launch of the rumoured Third Term Agenda for President Muhammadu Buhari and Islamisation of Nigeria. The clarification came at a media chat yesterday; same day promoters of the bill rose in defence of it and described the controversies trailing it as unnecessary. Acting Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Godiya Akwashiki (APC – Nasarawa) said that contrary to the speculations in some quarters, the bill was a private member bill and not a joint effort between the Presidency and National Assembly to advance some ulterior motives. “I want to clarify our position because of what the spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said recently that the bill is a collaboration between the Senate and President Buhari for the purpose of achieving third term agenda.
“I am happy the sponsor of the bill is here and he has cleared the air. It is the right of a Senator to sponsor a bill as private bill. The executive arm of government has no hand in this bill. “Even though the Senate can also entertain executive bills, the Hate Speech Bill before the Senate today is a private bill. Mr. President has nothing to do with this issue and this bill has nothing to do with third term agenda or the Islamisation of this country.
“As leaders of political parties, we should be mindful of the way we speak and what we say at all times. We should be peace lovers,” he said. Akwashiki said it was wrong to read ulterior motives to the bill at this stage because it had just passed the first reading and its details were yet to be unveiled. According to him, when the bill gets to the second reading stage, all the Senators will have the opportunity to debate the general principles of the bill, look at it section by section, clause by clause to ascertain if it is suitable for passage into law. Sponsor of the bill, Senator Abdullahi Sabi (APC – Niger) said he embarked upon the promotion of the bill for altruistic reasons rather than any sinister motives. He said that the challenge of hate speech was growing by the day as politicians and other Nigerians continued to exploit the fault lines of religion and ethnicity to incite violence against perceived enemies.
The uproar over the bill, he said, was the handiwork of armchair critics who have neither sighted nor read the bill to understand its provisions and what it seeks to achieve. Sabi, who admitted that he sponsored the same bill during the 8th Senate, said he could not pursue it to a logical conclusion because the political environment was not suitable for such a bill at that time.
This explanation even triggered an altercation between him and some journalists who sought to know further how the bill ended during its first journey through the legislative mill. While some journalists said the bill was thrown out, shut down, expired or died a natural death, the lawmaker who was visibly angry could not accept any of these terms. He explained that the bill was only read for the first time and he did not present it for second reading and debate. According to him, the bill he introduced in the 8th Senate was neither shut down nor killed by anybody, but elapsed with the life of that session.
“I was the sponsor of the bill in the 8th Assembly and I can tell you that the bill was neither shut down nor withdrawn. I told you that I read the mood of the time and did not go for a second reading because politics had crept in and the atmosphere was charged. But by the grace of God, I am back and I can tell you that the basic reasons which motivated me to sponsor the bill at that time are still present with us. Nothing has changed. “In fact, if anything, hate speech is increasing by the day and that is why I felt I still believe in the cause and that is why I have introduced the bill again.
This time around, I started early so that whatever it is, we will have ample time, devoid of politics, to look at these issues dispassionately, believing that this issue of life is not something you toy with or talk about casually. It is a serious matter because I know that there are people who are victims of this hate speech,” he said. On the arguments that the issue of hate speech had been addressed in existing legislations, Sabi said it was not true, adding that hate speech had assumed a life of its own and cannot be lumped together with offences such as libel, slander and incitement to violence.
He also defended the provisions for death by hanging as one of the penalties for hate speech, arguing that the bill before the lawmakers was purely a proposal and subject to passage if the rest 108 lawmakers in the red chamber approve of such provisions. “The death penalty is not definite like some Nigerians are making it seem. In the National Assembly, bills go through legislative processes. The concerns on the death penalty are genuine and will be amended accordingly. “During these processes, amendments are made to fine-tune the bill in meeting with existing realities. Therefore, the hate speech bill will go through these processes to ensure Nigerians get the best out of the proposed bill,” Abdullahi said.
High-fat diet by mothers could cause brain damage in unborn children
Researchers in Austria have found that high-fat maternal diets could cause life-long changes in the brains of the unborn child.
According to the findings of a new study published in the journal ‘Molecular Psychiatry,’ when a pregnant woman consumed a diet high in polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids, her body would produce an excess of endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids), which overload the foetal system and impair the development of healthy brain networks.
In animals that give live birth, the foetal circulation is the circulatory system of a foetus. The term usually encompasses the entire foetoplacental circulation, which includes the umbilical cord and the blood vessels within the placenta that carry foetal blood.
The ‘Medical Express’ reported that an excess of endogenous cannabinoids could overload the corresponding cannabinoid receptors in the foetal brain and limit their ability to signal.
Consequently, nerve cells would no longer be able to correctly integrate into the brain to fulfil their prospective functions.
Endocannabinoids serve as a fundamental communication system in the brain as well as other organs are substances produced by the body. In the adult brain, endocannabinoids limit communication (‘chemical neurotransmission’) between neurons by binding to cannabinoid receptors. “This means that any substance that influences either endocannabinoid levels or directly affects cannabinoid receptor function will inevitably impinge upon brain development,” the ‘Medical Express’ reported.
Similarly, the study also showed that these impairments persist throughout life of the affected offspring and could serve as critical triggers to developing psychiatric disorders later in the life of the child.
Psychiatric disorders that could result from this impairment include the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia and anxiety disorders.
It is however, unlikely that such damage could simply be reversed by a subsequent change of diet.
A person with ADHD has differences in brain development and brain activity that affect attention, the ability to sit still, and self-control. ADHD can affect a child at school, at home, and in friendships.
The study examined in cell and mouse models, how intake of high-fat diets throughout pregnancy (rich in polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids) impacts foetal brain development.
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