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Obi kicks over tribunal’s rejection of Atiku’s request

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Obi kicks over tribunal’s rejection of Atiku’s request

The Vice Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23 election, Peter Obi, yesterday likened the tribunal’s rejection of the application to inspect the server of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and smart card readers to that a referee rejecting Video Assisted Referee (VAR) in a football match. Obi, who was reacting to the ruling of the tribunal, which refused to grant the application seeking access to the INEC server and smart card readers used for the said election filed by Atiku Abubakar and the PDP, described INEC’s behaviour as “outrageous and worrisome”.

Obi, who was present in court, said: “I have always respected the ruling of courts, even where it’s not favourable, but find I find it shocking and worrisome in this day and age that INEC, who is supposed to be an independent umpire of an election, will argue against subjecting itself to scrutiny when ordinary referees in a football match subject themselves to VAR and even go further to visit it to enable them make more informed decisions. “With this development, it would be difficult for INEC to convince any discerning mind that it set out to conduct a free and fair poll when it takes strange positions that clearly show otherwise to critical members of the public.”

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Trump lifts sanctions on Turkey over Syria

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Trump lifts sanctions on Turkey over Syria

The US is lifting sanctions on Turkey after its recent offensive against Kurdish fighters in north-eastern Syria, President Donald Trump says.

His decision came after Russia agreed with Turkey to use troops to extend a ceasefire along the Syrian border.

Turkey’s offensive began after Trump’s unexpected decision to withdraw US troops from northern Syria earlier this month, reports the BBC.

“Let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand,” the president said.

“The sanctions will be lifted unless something happens that we’re not happy with,” he announced in a statement at the White House on Wednesday.

He said Turkey had assured him that it would cease fighting in the region and would make the recently agreed ceasefire permanent.

The US sanctions were imposed on October 14 in response to Turkey’s offensive.

Turkey sees Kurdish fighters as terrorists and wants to create a 30km (20-mile) deep “safe zone” along the Syrian side of the border.

Trump came under heavy criticism over the US military pullout, as the Kurds had been key US allies in the fight against the Islamic State group (IS) in the region.

He said on Wednesday he would keep a “small number” of troops in parts of the country to protect oil installations.

He also urged Turkey to commit to securing IS militants, and make sure the jihadist group does not regain any Syrian territory.

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2020 budget: We are sticking to deadline of defence— Gbajabiamila

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2020 budget: We are sticking to deadline of defence— Gbajabiamila

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila has said the house would stick to the deadline of October 29 given to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to conclude their budget defences for 2020.

Gbajabiamila said this while addressing newsmen on Wednesday.

The house, on October 10, suspended its plenary sessions to focus on the timetable it set up for the 2020 Appropriation Bill aimed at ensuring Nigeria’s budget cycle was returned to the January-December calendar year.

According to the timetable, the house gave a deadline of October 30 till November 5 for submission of budget reports by MDAs.

“We have had a great outing and are trying to meet the deadline without sacrificing the thoroughness of the budget defence.

“We can do both at the same time. We can get back to the January-December cycle and at the same time have a fact thorough, comprehensive budget defence process.

“We are trying to see if we can beat before the deadline; we are sticking to that deadline.”

Responding to questions on former house members who are now ministers asked to just “take a bow” and some of the meetings holding behind closed doors, the Speaker expressed confidence in the competence of the committee chairmen and the process of the budget defence.

“I have absolute confidence in the committee chairmen; they were carefully selected based on their background, experience, knowledge and passion.

“If you see things like you have expressed, there will be reasons and genuine verifiable reason as well.

“Budget process is an open thing; there is transparency, accountability but if there are one or two occasions there were closed door or private meetings, there might be implications.

“It could be security implications or things that are necessary for the cohesion of the process itself and for the country.

“I might not be able to pre-empt because I have not spoken with the chairmen but it is information I will take and talk to the chairmen and find out why the meeting was behind closed doors,” Gbajabiamila said.

Earlier, at a public hearing on the 2020 budget, Gbajabiamila said the National Assembly’s commitment was to return the country’s budget to the January to December cycle for proper implementation.

He spoke at a two-day joint public hearing on the 2020 organised by the joint Senate and House Committee on Appropriation.

“Many people have asked me what’s the big deal about January to December budget cycle? Why are we so pressed on returning the financial year to January to December?

“It’s simple, the constitution says so. A lot of people are not aware of it. It’s stipulated in the constitution that the financial year shall be January to December or any other time as prescribed by the National Assembly.

“This allows for proper timing, proper implementation as opposed to what has obtained for some time when budget is passed going to the second quarter of the year.

“This has its own psychological impact. It has a way of depressing even the economy itself,” he said.

He added that the National Assembly sought to address such anomalies with the implementation of the budget and “carry Nigerians along”.

The Speaker said the public hearing was organised to get input from Nigerians and the relevant stakeholders and reflect federal character in projects allocation.

“What we’re here to do is to basically present to the stakeholders the N10.3 trillion budget as presented by the President.

“So, what we seek to do here is to get the buy-in of all stakeholders from the Nigerian public, because I always believe that nobody is a fountain of knowledge.

“Even though we’re given the full authority by the constitution to appropriate, we cannot do it alone.

“In the House, we believe in what we call joint task: Nation Building is a Joint Task,” he said.

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Army partner Airbus on aviation unit development

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Army partner Airbus on aviation unit development

The Nigerian Army is to partner Airbus on the acquisition of platforms for its newly established aviation unit; Nigerian Army Aviation.

The Chief of Policy and Plans, Nigerian Army, Lt.-Gen. Lamidi Adeosun, gave the indication when he received the delegation from Airbus on Wednesday in Abuja.

The delegation of the airbus was led by its President for Africa and Middle East, Mr Mikail Houari.

While appreciating Airbus’s interest in the army aviation, Adeosun said that Nigerian army would explore ways to partners the company to develop its new aviation unit.

“We appreciate your interest in partnering the armed forces of Nigeria and the Nigerian Army.

“Nigerian Army is developing it aviation unit and whatever assistant you can offer in the area of training of crew and pilot is very much welcomed.

“This is the beginning of more things to come because you are not new in Africa.

“Our interest is in the military specs and not civil aviation or general specs,” he said.

Adeosun, who raised the issue of possible legal bottleneck, said that if the army would enter into partnership with airbus, the issue of American limitations must be addressed.

“We will discuss further on this partnership and where ever we can collaborate, it will be exploited,” he added.

Earlier, Houari said the visit was to seek for long-term partnership with the Nigerian army, adding that Nigeria was important to Airbus.

He disclosed that the company was into manufacturing of different specifications of aircraft such as military helicopters and other platforms.

Houari, however, called for further engagements and discussions to see the areas of collaboration with the army in terms of aircraft supplies for its aviation unit.

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President Court of Appeal: Plateau Group raises alarm over Justice Monica

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President Court of Appeal: Plateau Group raises alarm over Justice Monica

The Gamai Unity and Development Organisation (GUDO) in Plateau State has raise an alarm on the attempt to short change Justice Monica Mensem Dongban as the President of the Court of Appeal.

The group, in a press statement signed the Secretary General Mr Fidelis Damsuk Bitkop and issued to journalists in Jos on Wednesday, said the controversy trailing the recent invitation of their illustrious daughter Justice Monica Bolnaan Mensem-Dongban and Justice of the Court of Appeal by the National Judicial Council (NJC) for interview to the Supreme Court is suspicious.

According to the Gamai tribe, which is also the clan of Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, said they have received the news with mixed feelings and reservations in view of the glaring ulterior motives behind the exercise.

“We are also appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Assembly, all men and women of good conscience, those on the Bench and at the Bar, political leaders, Civil Society and other stakeholders to lend their voice against this dangerous precedence and act of impunity that is capable of derailing the most cherished sanctity of the judiciary in the dispensation of justice in the country.

“We are passionately appealing to the National Judicial Council to shelve the planned interview of Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem and if done, toe the path of honour and sanity, by adhering strictly to the established rule of succession at the Court of Appeal through confirming Justice Monica Dongbam as the next President of the Court of Appeal as Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa retires at the end of the year,” the group argued.

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Bishop to Buhari: Re-open Nigeria’s borders now

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Bishop to Buhari: Re-open Nigeria’s borders now

Anglican Bishop of Ngbo Diocese in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi state, Rev. Godwin Awoke, on Wednesday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to re-open Nigeria’s borders in the interest of the nation’s economy.

Awoke said the people of Nigeria were passing through pains, sufferings, economic loss and hardship as result of the border closure and appealed to the President to immediately re-open the borders.

He spoke during first session of the Fifth Synod of the Church of

Nigeria, Ngbo Diocese.

He, however, commended the Federal Government and organised labour for reaching agreement on the protracted impasse over consequential adjustment arising from the new N30,000 minimum wage and called on the federal and state governments to  ensure speedy implementation and payment of the new minimum wage to ameliorate workers’ sufferings.

He frowned at lopsided appointment of key political office holders in the country resulting in marginalization of some ethnic groups saying: “Such lopsided appointments also offends the principles of federal character and affects the unity of the country.”

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Poll: Support for impeaching Trump soars among independents

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Poll: Support for impeaching Trump soars among independents

Support for impeaching U.S. President Donald Trump surged among political independents and rose by three percentage points overall since last week, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday.

More Americans also said they disapproved of the president’s handling of foreign threats.

The October 18-22 poll showed public opinion continued to shift as Americans digested a flurry of news over the past several weeks stemming from the congressional impeachment inquiry and Trump’s decision to pull troops from northern Syria, reports Reuters.

Overall, 46% of Americans said they supported impeachment and 40% said they opposed it.

Support for impeachment was relatively steady among Republicans and Democrats over the past week but it surged among independents, a group that includes people who neither identify as Democrats nor Republicans and do not favor either party when they vote.

Among independents, 45% said in the latest poll they supported impeachment and 32% said they opposed it, the strongest level of support recorded in more than a year.

A little more than 1 in 3 independents had said they were in favor of impeachment in more than a dozen previous Reuters/Ipsos polls since June 2018.

Trump leveraged his advantage in support among independents to narrowly win the White House in 2016 and it is expected that he will need them again to be re-elected.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted after several administration officials backed up portions of a government whistleblower’s report that alleged Trump pressured Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate one of his main political rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden. The report said Trump linked the probe to the release of foreign aid.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing. He has tried to block administration officials from cooperating with the investigation and this week said he was the victim of a “lynching,” a racially charged description that was quickly condemned by many lawmakers.

The president also ordered U.S. troops to withdraw from northern Syria two weeks ago ahead of Turkey’s cross-border offensive against the Kurds. The Turkish offensive displaced hundreds of thousands of people and raised concerns that it would allow prisoners from the Islamic State group to escape.

Trump’s decision drew a sharp bipartisan rebuke in Congress and the poll shows it may have hurt his standing among rank-and-file Republicans.

Overall, the poll found that Americans were more critical of Trump’s handling of U.S. foreign policy and Islamic State than they were in a similar poll in April.

Among Republicans, 73% said they approved of the president’s handling of U.S. foreign policy and 75% said they approved of his handling of IS, down 6 points and 8 points respectively from April.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 4,083 adults, including 1,773 Democrats, 1,542 Republicans and 447 independents. It has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 5 percentage points.

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Gunmen abduct judge in Akure

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Gunmen abduct judge in Akure

A judge of the Federal High Court, Akure, Justice Abdul Dogo, has been kidnapped.

Justice Dogo was abducted on Tuesday by unknown gunmen while he was returning to Akure from Abuja.

It was learnt that the kidnappers have made contact and demanded N50 million to release their abductee.

It was also learnt that the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) has deployed the head of the IGP Intelligence Response Team, Abba Kiyari, to Akure over the incident.

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Pull back or face Turkish army, Russia warns Syrian Kurdish YPG

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Pull back or face Turkish army, Russia warns Syrian Kurdish YPG

Russia warned Syrian Kurdish YPG forces on Wednesday they face further armed conflict with Turkey if they fail to comply with a Russian-Turkish accord calling for their withdrawal from the entire length of Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey.

Moscow’s warning came shortly before Russian and Syrian security forces were due to start overseeing the removal of YPG fighters and weapons at least 30 km (19 miles) into Syria, under the deal struck by presidents Vladimir Putin and Tayyip Erdogan, reports Reuters.

A complete pullout of the YPG would mark a victory for Erdogan, who launched a cross-border offensive on Oct. 9 to drive the Kurdish militia from the border and create a “safe zone” for the return of Syrian refugees.

The accord, which expands on a U.S.-brokered deal last week, also underlines Putin’s dominant influence in Syria and seals the return of his ally President Bashar al-Assad’s forces to northeast Syria for the first time in years, by endorsing the deployment of Syrian border guards from noon (0900 GMT) on Wednesday.

Six days later, Russian and Turkish forces will jointly start to patrol a 10 km strip of land in northeast Syria where U.S. troops for years were deployed along with their former Kurdish allies.

Those changes reflect the dizzying pace of changes in Syria since President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. forces from northern Syria earlier this month, shaking up the military balance across a quarter of the country after eight years of conflict.

Kurdish militia commanders have yet to respond to the deal reached in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi, and it was not immediately clear how their withdrawal could be enforced.

RUSSIAN WARNING

A joint Turkish-Russian statement issued after six hours of talks between Putin and Erdogan said they would establish a “joint monitoring and verification mechanism” to oversee implementation of the agreement.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was more blunt. If Kurdish forces did not retreat, Syrian border guards and Russian military police would have to fall back. “And remaining Kurdish formations would then fall under the weight of the Turkish army,” he said.

In a swipe at Washington, which has called into question how the deal will be guaranteed, Peskov said the United States had been the closest ally of the Kurdish fighters but had now betrayed them.

“Now they (the Americans) prefer to leave the Kurds at the border and almost force them to fight the Turks,” he said in remarks to Russian news agencies.

The Kurdish-led SDF were Washington’s main allies in the fight to dismantle Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria. Trump’s decision to pull troops out was criticized by U.S. lawmakers, including fellow Republicans, as a betrayal.

In a further sign of growing ties between Ankara and Moscow, which have alarmed the U.S. administration, the head of Russia’s defense sales agency was quoted by the Interfax news agency on Wednesday as saying Moscow could deliver more S-400 missile defense systems to Turkey.

Turkey, a NATO member, has already been frozen out of a program to buy and help produce F-35 jets and faces possible U.S. sanctions for buying the S-400 systems, which Washington says are incompatible with NATO’s defenses and threaten the F-35 if operated near the stealth fighter.

Overnight, Turkey’s defense ministry said that the United States had told Ankara the YPG had completed its withdrawal from the area of Turkey’s military offensive.

There was no need to initiate another operation outside the current area of operation at this stage, the ministry said, effectively ending a military offensive that began two weeks ago and drew global criticism.

TURKEY REVIEWS MILITARY PLANS

While Tuesday’s deal in Sochi addresses Turkey’s call for the YPG to be pushed back from the border, it also means Ankara will have to deepen its security coordination with Damascus after years of hostility between Erdogan and Assad.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday that Turkey has no direct contact with Assad’s government, but “there could be contact at the intelligence level, this is natural”.

Three Turkish officials told Reuters this week Ankara was already holding covert contacts with Damascus to avert direct conflict in northeast Syria.

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Man arrested after 39 dead bodies found in lorry

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Man arrested after 39 dead bodies found in lorry

Thirty-nine people, including a teenager, have been found dead inside a lorry container at an industrial park in Essex.

Police and ambulance crews were called following the discovery at Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays at 1.40am.

All 39 people were pronounced dead at the scene and the lorry driver, a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland, has been arrested on suspicion of murder, reports Sky News.

The vehicle is believed to have come from Bulgaria and entered the UK at Holyhead in Wales on Saturday.

Essex Police Chief Superintendent Andrew Mariner said: “This is a tragic incident where a large number of people have lost their lives. Our enquiries are ongoing to establish what has happened.

“We are in the process of identifying the victims, however I anticipate that this could be a lengthy process.

“We believe the lorry is from Bulgaria and entered the country at Holyhead on Saturday 19 October and we are working closely with our partners to investigate. We have arrested the lorry driver in connection with the incident who remains in police custody as our enquiries continue.”

Police have put a cordon in place and access to and from the industrial park is closed.

Mariner added: “I appreciate this cordon is going to disrupt the activity of local businesses in the area and we will work to ensure that disruption is kept as short as possible.

“We are working with Thurrock Council to mitigate against any impact our investigation scene will have locally.”

The industrial park is a short drive away from the Dartford Crossing, linking Essex with Kent.

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Health

Study: Men more likely to die of breast cancer than women

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Study: Men more likely to die of breast cancer than women

Men who are diagnosed with breast cancer are more likely to die of the disease than their female counterparts across all stages, according to a study conducted by Vanderbilt University.

The study, published in JAMA Oncology last month, found that men had higher rates of death resulting from breast cancer even when clinical characteristics, such as the type of cancer, the manner of treatment and access to care were taken into account, reports Newsweek.com.

The disparity was derived from an analysis of 10 years’ worth of data from the National Cancer Database, according to a Vanderbilt University news report. The data was compiled from January 1, 2004 to December 31, 2014, and included 1.8 million female patients but only 16,025 male patients.

Across five years, the male patients were 19 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than the female patients.

The fact that slightly more (85 percent) cases of male breast cancer in men are ER-positive—meaning its cells grow in response to estrogen, according to the American Cancer Society—than in women (75 percent), should have actually given men better chances of surviving the cancer.

“[ER-positive breast cancer] is a cancer type where patients usually fare better because we have a hormonal treatment,” according to Xiao-Ou Shu, senior author of the study. “We have a lot of treatment options for that type of breast cancer. In theory, men should have better outcomes and have lower mortality as women do if the treatment is equally effective.”

More research needs to be conducted to determine the precise cause of this trend, Shu said. Prior studies indicated that men tend to be less compliant with hormonal treatments than women. Further, factors such as smoking, drinking and a sedentary lifestyle may also be what makes men more susceptible to death from breast cancer.

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