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Ministerial list: South-West APC leaders at crossroads

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Ministerial list: South-West APC leaders at crossroads

TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE writes on the battle for ministerial slots among chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the six states of the South-West

 

All seem not to be well within the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in South-West given the jostle for the ministerial slots due to the six states – Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti – that make up the zone.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who was sworn in for a second term in office on May 29, is expected to name members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) any moment from now, and in meeting up with the constitutional requirement, it is expected that all the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) should produce a minimum of one minister each.

In view of this, the contest for the ministerial slots is heating up at the state and zonal levels as political gladiators and heavyweights at the state, zonal and national levels are not losing sleep to ensure that their interest are protected.

The contests for ministerial slots if not properly handled may cause disaffection among South-West APC leaders as the issue has given birth to different views on whose names should be submitted at the state or zonal level to make the cabinet.

There are members of some schools of thought, who believe that some of the ministers who served with President Buhari during his first term should be returned to the federal cabinet, while some are drumming for fresh people be nominated to work with the president this time around.

The argument over whether the ministers should strictly be politicians or a mixture of politicians and technocrats has also prompted a debate as some leaders of the party in the zone are canvassing that members of the party who contributed to the APC success in the last general elections should be compensate with ministerial positions ahead of those who didn’t contribute to the success of the ruling party in the elections.

The state governors as number one citizens of their states are also insisting on making inputs in who become ministerial nominees from their states and some of them are looking toward the direction of their friends and close associates, as well as party chieftains.

Some APC party leaders who were not satisfied with the way they were treated four years ago by not given any opportunity to determine the choice of ministers from their states, are also not leaving any stone unturned to ensure that they have a say this time.

Against this backdrop, there is serious horse trading at the state and zonal levels to ensure that certain interests are protected in the jostle for ministerial appointments.

The constitution provides that each state should be represented in the Federal Executive Council, but the President can also use his discretion to extend the ministerial lists by picking people at the zonal level to take care of certain interests.

Some people are thinking in this direction, which has make the contest for the ministerial slots to be interesting as some people are strategically positioning themselves to ensure that they pick the ministerial slot at the zonal level if they failed to make the list at the state level.

In picking the ministerial nominees from the six states of the South-West, a lot of factors and issues will determine the direction to go. Some of the issues and factors are godfatherism, zoning, loyalty to the party, experience, political structure and influence, among others.

Ogun: Osinbajo to decide

The contest for who will represent Ogun State in the federal cabinet is a serious contention among political gladiators in the Gateway State. The gladiators who will determine who get the position are Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Governor Olusegun Osoba and incumbent Governor Dapo Abiodun. It is also believe that APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is also having interest in the choice of the ministerial nominee from the Gateway State.

Also the immediate past governor of the state, Ibikunle Amosun, who is now representing Ogun Central Senatorial District in the Senate, may also use his relationship with President Buhari to battle with the established authority in the APC just like he did four years ago to get Mrs. Kemi Adeosun appointed as Minister of Finance.

Investigation by New Telegraph revealed that several names are already popping up for the ministerial slot for the state, among which are former Lagos State Commissioner of Finance, Wale Edun, who is the preferred candidate of Tinubu and his loyalists in the state and Senator Lanre Tejuoso, who represented Ogun Central in the Eight Senate.

Those rooting for Senator Tejuoso are of the view that he should be compensated for his commitment to the party despite been denied the opportunity to return to the Senate.

Vice President Osinbajo is politically base in Lagos State, but he hails from Ogun State and considering the role he played in the last general elections, especially being the arrowhead of the APC campaign for the March 2 governorship election, which produced Governor Abiodun, many are of the view that he will play a leading role in determining who gets the ministerial slot for Ogun State among those in contention. 

New Telegraph gathered both leaders from Ijebu and Egba axis of the state are strategising and in top discussion to ensure that they produce the ministerial nominee from Ogun State.

A reliable source, who is an APC chieftain told the newspaper that there is ongoing discussion on the ministerial nomination from Ogun State, but noted that the party’s leaders are yet to conclude on who or which senatorial district in the state would be given the opportunity to get the position.

“We are yet to conclude on who will be chosen as a minister from Ogun State. There are lots of factors we are considering. Some of us believe that Egba should be given the ministerial slot since Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Governor Dapo Abiodun are both from Ijebu. The deputy governor is from Yewa. We believe that Egba, based on the block vote they gave to APC in the last election should be compensated with the ministerial position. We are still going to discuss the issue with the vice president and he will have a final say on the matter,” he said.

Lagos: Ambode, Fashola in top contention

Lagos State is regarded as Centre of Excellence because of its unique position in Nigeria and that is the reason why the state is always the focus during general elections. This is the reason why both the ruling and opposition parties usually battle for the soul of state every four years.

Though Tinubu is regarded as ‘Oracle of Lagos’ who decides political direction and appointments in the state, there are those who believe that he may not have much influence in who President Buhari will pick as ministerial nominee from Lagos State just like it happened four years ago, when his candidate was not considered.

According to multiple sources, the ministerial nominee from Lagos State has been narrowed down to the immediate past Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and his predecessor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who is the immediate past Minister of Works, Power and Housing. Both of them are in contention for the slot and they are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that they make the cabinet

Fashola was a member of the past immediate federal cabinet and based on his performance in the three ministries he presided over and his closeness to President Buhari, it is believe that he may be among the incoming ministers. This notion is also based on the fact that he is a party member and one of the trusted hands who worked and campaigned vigorously for APC in the last general elections.

Cordial relationship with Tinubu and closeness to political gladiators in APC within and outside South-West region is also an added advantage to the former governor in his quest to return to the federal cabinet.

Ambode on his part is been considered for the ministerial appointment because of the role he played in the last general elections, especially the February presidential election. Another school of thought also believe that Ambode should be given the ministerial slot as compensation for been denied the opportunity to return for a second term like some of his colleagues, who are presently serving second terms in their respective states.

Though President Buhari has not declared whether he is going to limit his ministerial nominees to one per state, some are of the view that the cabinet might be expanded to accommodate more people by giving slots to the six geo-political zones in the country to produce a minister like it was done in the past.       

Apart from Ambode and Fashola, the names of former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro and Chief Demola Seriki, who was also a former Minister of State for Defence, are also being mentioned as possible ministerial nominees from Lagos State.

It is also believed that Wale Edun’s name may also be presented for the Lagos slot if he fails to get the Ogun State slot. 

New Telegraph gathered that Obanikoro and Seriki are being positioned as possible nominees from Lagos State if Fashola and Ambode fail to make the list.

Oyo: Godfather, godson in the calculation

Oyo State is the only state in South-West that APC lost to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) both at the February 16 and March 2 elections.

The Pacesetter State is present governed by Engr. Seyi Makinde of the PDP, who defeated Adebayo Adelabu, who was APC candidate in the gubernatorial poll. With PDP in charge, it is expected that the ministerial slot for Oyo State will be decided by either President Buhari or the APC leaders in the state led by the immediate past governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi.

A reliable source, who is an APC chieftain, said the ministerial slot in the state has been narrowed down between Ajimobi and Adelabu. But apart from them, other APC chieftains, including the immediate past Minister of Communications, Barr Adebayo Shittu, are also positioning themselves to pick the ministerial slot for Oyo State.

Senator Ajimobi is undoubtedly the APC leader in the state and following his inability to join the league of former governors in the Senate as a result of his defeat in the last senatorial election by Senator Kola Balogun, who is presently representing Oyo South Senatorial District in the Red Chamber, the former governor is in top contention for the ministerial appointment as a sort of compensation.

Some party chieftains and members are also pushing Adelabu for the ministerial position. Those backing the former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the ministerial slot believe that he should be compensated after losing the gubernatorial poll to Governor Makinde.   

Shittu is also not losing sleep in his quest to return to the federal cabinet and some analysts believe that his closeness to the President might give him upper hand ahead of others, considering how President Buhari picked him as ministerial nominee four years ago despite the opposition from the state chapter of the party.

Osun: Adesina may contend with Aregbesola, others

The contest for the ministerial slot for Osun State is going to be determined by political gladiators in the state and they include the incumbent governor, Gboyega Oyetola and former Governors Bisi Akande and Rauf Aregbesola.

Three names are being projected in the state. They are the immediate past Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, Aregbesola and former deputy governor, Senator Iyiola Omisore.

It is believe that Akande, a former interim National Chairman of APC is pushing for Adewole to represent Osun State in the Federal Executive Council (FEC). The elder statesman is believed to have the ears of stakeholders in the state to ensure that Adewale returns to the federal cabinet. Adesina also enjoys the support of Governor Oyetola.

According to a reliable source in the hierarchy of the party, Aregbesola, who governed Osun State for eight years, is also not hiding his interest to pick the ministerial slot for his state and to achieve this, he is engaging political gladiators in the state to ensure that he is considered for the position. Having been out of public office since he handed over power, Aregbesola may be given priority for the ministerial slot. 

Senator Omisore who was persuaded at the eleventh hour to support Oyetola in the last governorship election in the state, is also being mentioned as possible ministerial nominee from Osun State. Those pushing for him are doing so on account that the former deputy governor should be compensated for rescuing APC during the gubernatorial poll.

Fayemi to decide in Ekiti

Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who also doubles as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) is expected to play a major role in the choice of who will represent his state in the Federal Executive Council.

Fayemi, who is the immediate past Minister of Solid Minerals Development, is undoubtedly the leader of APC in the state and like he did during the last general elections, during which he determined who got what, he will likely have the final say on the ministerial appointment.

Among those being speculated to get the Ekiti State ministerial slot are APC National Deputy Chairman, Otunba Niyi Adebayo; former Senior Special Adviser to President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu and former Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Dele Alake.

Adebayo, who was the first civilian governor of Ekiti State, was sent packing from Government House during the 2003 general elections when he lost his seat to Mr. Ayodele Fayose of PDP. So, having stayed outside of government for many years, some APC leaders within and outside Ekiti State, are pushing for his nomination as a minister for his loyalty and commitment to the party, even during the years it was in the opposition.

Those pushing for Ojudu, said he should get the slot for voluntarily stepped down from contesting the Ekiti APC governorship primary election last year. Alake, who once contested to run for Ekiti Central Senatorial District on the platform of the Action Congress (AC) in 2011, is also in the calculation.

Ondo: No clear direction 

Ondo State APC is presently in crisis, which is one of the reasons the ruling party performed woefully in the state last general elections; losing the presidential election and some national and state Assembly seat to PDP.

While many of the view that the forthcoming governorship election in the state might determine where the pendulum will swing in choosing the ministerial nominee from the state, the division in the Ondo State chapter of APC, is likely to President Buhari to single single-handedly pick the ministerial nominee from the state just like Prof. Claudius Daramola emerged against all odds as Minister of State for Niger Delta in 2015.

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu as the number one citizen in the state is naturally expected to have input but the possibility of such will be determined by a lot of factors. With his soured relationship with some of leaders of party in the state, the ministerial position may be used to pacify aggrieved members in the state.

Some of those who lost out in the National Assembly elections in the state like Senators Tayo Alasoadura and Yele Omogunwa, among others, may be compensated with the ministerial slot.

The recent reconciliation meeting spearheaded by former Alliance for Democracy (AD) governors – Tinubu (Lagos), Osoba (Ogun), Akande (Osun) and Adeniyi (Ondo) to reconcile all aggrieved members in Ondo APC, would be put to test with the ministerial nomination in the state as Governor Akeredolu may likely concede the slot to the aggrieved camp to woo them for support ahead of next year’s governorship election in the state.

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Greta Thunberg is TIME’s 2019 Person of the Year

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Greta Thunberg is TIME’s 2019 Person of the Year

Greta Thunberg, the soft-spoken Swedish teenager who became a global conscience for climate change and environmental activism, has been named Time’s Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2019.

The magazine announced 16-year old Thunberg as its choice Wednesday exclusively on “TODAY.”

“She became the biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet this year, coming from essentially nowhere to lead a worldwide movement,” Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal told “TODAY,” adding that Thunberg is the magazine’s youngest choice ever to be named Person of the Year, reports NBC News.

Thunberg quickly bloomed into one of the world’s most notable and youngest climate change activists, sparking a collective movement to fight climate change after protesting alone outside the Swedish parliament during school hours on Fridays when she was 15. The teen held up a now universally recognized hand-painted sign that read “skolstrejk för klimatet,” which translates to “School strike for the climate.”

Thunberg’s initiative to strike galvanized students to protest against climate change throughout Europe and that momentum quickly fanned across the globe, becoming the “Fridays For Future” movement.

Her solo protest, Fensenthal noted, eventually prompted millions of people in 150 countries “to act on behalf of the planet.”

He also said that Thunberg “represents a broader generational shift in the culture,” with youth standing up for what they believe in — from Hong Kong to Chile.

“Young people are demanding change, and urgently,” Felsenthal said. “She embodies youth activism.”

Thunberg’s signature no-nonsense blunt style of speaking made her a force that could not be ignored by world leaders and she was asked to speak in front of several high-profile entities, including the United Nations and the United States Congress.

Thunberg, who has Asperger’s syndrome, first learned about climate change at 8 years old and said she became instantly concerned to the point that she plunged into depression over it.

“I remember thinking that it was very strange that humans that are an animal species, among others, could be capable of changing the Earth’s climate,” she said during a 2018 Ted Talk.

She gave up eating meat and traveling via airplane, among other things, to reduce her carbon footprint.

In October, Thunberg was the recipient of another honor — an environmental award at a Stockholm ceremony held by the Nordic Council. But she declined it, explaining in an Instagram post, “The climate movement does not need any more awards.”

“What we need is for our politicians and the people in power start to listen to the current, best available science,” she wrote.

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Turkey says will retaliate against any sanctions ahead of US vote

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Turkey says will retaliate against any sanctions ahead of US vote

Turkey said on Wednesday it would retaliate against any U.S. sanctions over its purchase of Russian defense systems, adding that with Britain it had agreed to speed up a joint fighter jet program to meet Turkish defense needs.

U.S. lawmakers will vote – and likely pass – a defense bill later on Wednesday that calls for sanctions against Turkey over Ankara’s decision to procure the S-400 defenses.

Turkey and the United States, NATO allies, have been at odds over the purchase, reports Reuters.

Washington says the S-400s pose a threat to its F-35 fighter jets and cannot be integrated into NATO defenses. In response, it has suspended Turkey from the F-35 jet program, where it was a manufacturer and buyer, and threatened sanctions.

In an interview with Turkish broadcaster A Haber, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said any U.S. sanctions would harm U.S.-Turkish ties and repeated a threat of retaliation.

“U.S. lawmakers must understand they will get nowhere with impositions. If the United States approaches us positively, we will also react positively. But, if they take negative towards us, then we will retaliate these,” Cavusoglu said.

Ties between Ankara and Washington have been strained over a host of issues in recent years. Turkey has been enraged with the U.S. support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Cavusoglu called the “financing of terrorism” on Wednesday.

He added that Turkey was open to alternatives to buying the F-35 jets, including from Russia. He said President Tayyip Erdogan and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had discussed speeding up work on the TF-X joint fighter jet project to meet Turkey’s defense needs.

“We bought the S-400s because the most suitable offer on air defense systems came from Russia. Until we produce it ourselves, the alternative to the F-35 could be the Russian market, but we are open to other alternatives too,” Cavusoglu said.

Turkey and Britain agreed a 100 million pound ($133 million) deal in 2017 to develop Turkish fighter jets, and Turkey’s Kale Group said it was setting up a joint venture with Rolls-Royce to work on the project. In March Rolls-Royce said it had scaled back efforts to join the program.

A Turkish source said the disagreement with Rolls-Royce stemmed from licensing issues, which are “critical and indispensible” for Turkey. But the source said talks had been revived and added Turkey expected the project to advance after a solution was reached.

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Reps summon Power, Labour ministers over planned strike by electricity workers

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Reps summon Power, Labour ministers over planned strike by electricity workers

The House of Representatives has summoned the Minister of Labour and Employment and the Minister of Power as well as the Director-General of the National Pension Commission to appear before it on Thursday to brief the leadership on the planned strike by electricity workers in the country.

The House expressed displeasure that the 21-day ultimatum issued by the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) was allowed to elapse without any effort to nip the planned strike in the bud.

The summon arose as a result of a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by Hon. Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu) on the need for the House to intervene and ensure that the strike is not allowed to take place.

Okechukwu said that if the strike is allowed to take place, it is capable of creating untold economic hardship in the country as several business outfits, especially the small scale businesses will suffer.

He said it was not in the interest of the nation to allow the strike to go ahead, adding that as representatives of the people, the lawmakers must find solution by inviting the relevant stakeholders to dialogue with a view to finding lasting solution to the problem.

He said it is not economically wise to allow the unions go ahead with the planned strike, pointing out that the Union should be prevailed upon to back down on their threat while the leadership find a lasting solution.

He said if the strike is allowed to take place, the consequence will be more than what the workers are being owed, stressing the fact that the House has already resolved to come down hard in issues of casualisation.

In his contribution, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu said one of the critical issues on the legislative agenda of the House was the issue of power reform, adding that there is presently no guarantee that the nation can effectively distribute 100 megawatts of electricity daily.

House Deputy Leader, Hon. Peter Akpatason said if the Parliament is not decisive enough, the Union members will embark on strike, pointing out that this is worrisome enough to attract House intervention.

Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila directed the Clerk of the House to write and invite the two Ministers of Power and Labour, the DG PENCOM, the Union leadership and other stakeholders to a meeting with the House leadership by 2.00pm on Thursday, while efforts should be made to get the Union not to commence the planned strike action.

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Trump blasts impeachment at rally hours after Democrats unveil charges

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Trump blasts impeachment at rally hours after Democrats unveil charges

Hours after House Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, he blasted the charges at a packed campaign rally in the crucial swing state of Pennsylvania.

The president specifically lashed out at House Democrats for announcing articles of impeachment just before also announcing they had struck a deal with the White House on the modified trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, reports ABC News.

“(Democrats) announced impeachment, then an hour later she announced that she is going to do USMCA,” Trump said. “Because you know why, it’s a huge deal and it plays out impeachment because they are embarrassed by the impeachment.”

“These people are crooked,” Trump said, now just the fourth president in American history to face impeachment charges, adding that Democrats were trying to “overthrow our democracy.”

Trump blasted the two articles of impeachment “flimsy” and “pathetic,” adding Democrats were “are impeaching me and there are no crimes. This has to be a first in history.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler announced on Tuesday morning that Democrats were going forward with charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

“The president’s continuing abuse of power has left us no choice,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said. “To do nothing would make ourselves complicit in the president’s abuse of his high office, the public trust and our national security.”

And while Democrats have moved forward with impeachment at a breakneck pace, Senate Republicans on Tuesday signaled a potential impeachment trial would wait until after holiday recess. Also, they may not call up live witnesses to testify despite Trump’s public push.

“I think the prospect of calling witnesses, in my view, seems unlikely, as much as some people might like to complete the incomplete record,” Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., told reporters on Tuesday. “The premise of the whole impeachment process is so warped that completing a bad record just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.”

On the ground in Pennsylvania, a state that was crucial to Trump’s win in 2016, Trump’s supporters remained confident the Democratic push would end up helping his reelection efforts next year.

“I think it helps the president. I wouldn’t worry about it,” Mario Girardi, a supporter wearing an NRA hat told ABC News. “I think it’s all a crock.”

Chris Bishop, who said the economy is his top voting issue, echoed a key sentiment that the president and the campaign have used to push back against impeachment: Democrats are trying to impeach Trump because they can’t win in 2020.

“Well, this is their election,” he said. “They don’t have a candidate that can run against the president so they are trying to pull this stunt.”

The president won the Keystone state in 2016 by less than 1 percentage point in 2016 and Tuesday’s rally marks just the second time in 2019 Trump rallied in Pennsylvania.

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US Attorney General Barr says FBI may have acted in ‘bad faith’ on Russia probe

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US Attorney General Barr says FBI may have acted in ‘bad faith’ on Russia probe

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said on Tuesday he is still not fully convinced that the FBI acted without bias when it opened its 2016 investigation into possible links between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.

In his first interview since a report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz faulting the FBI for missteps in how it sought to put a former Trump campaign adviser under surveillance, Barr said he still has doubts about the FBI’s motives to pursue what he called a “baseless” investigation.

The internal watchdog’s report here on Monday also concluded that the FBI had opened a legal, authorized probe, and it found no evidence of political bias, reports Reuters.

Barr, in an interview with NBC News, however, cast doubt on the findings.

He said Horowitz used a standard that was “deferential” to the FBI when he investigated the claims of bias, and suggested that a final judgment cannot be made until federal prosecutor John Durham has completed his own separate investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation.

“I think our nation was turned on its head for three years based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by a completely irresponsible press,” Barr said.

“I think that leaves open the possibility that there was bad faith.”

Barr also said he was disturbed by the FBI’s reliance on a dossier penned by former British spy Christopher Steele in order to obtain a wiretap to monitor the campaign adviser Carter Page, saying the dossier was “complete rubbish” and a “complete sham.”

Barr has come under withering criticism from Democrats, who have accused him of acting more like Trump’s personal attorney and not like the Attorney General of the United States.

Earlier this year, Barr tapped Durham, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, to look into the origins of the investigation into Trump’s campaign.

Durham’s probe is broader than Horowitz’s mandate because it involves talking to multiple U.S. intelligence agencies, such as the CIA, and foreign powers.

Durham, unlike Horowitz, also has the power to subpoena non-government witnesses and talk to people who are not Justice Department employees.

Barr told NBC that while he is not sure when Durham will complete his investigation, he expects it to reach an important “watershed” in the late spring or early summer.

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US judge blocks $3.6bn transfer to Mexican border wall

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US judge blocks $3.6bn transfer to Mexican border wall

A federal judge on Tuesday issued a permanent injunction barring President Donald Trump’s attempt to transfer $3.6 billion in military construction funds to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Judge David Briones, of U.S. District Court in El Paso, Texas, issued the injunction in a 21-page ruling.

The ruling is a setback for Trump, whose administration has vowed to build at least 450 miles of wall along the border by November 2020, when the U.S. presidential election will take place. Trump has argued the wall will deter illegal border crossings, a major focus of his presidency, reports Reuters.

A Justice Department spokesman said the administration would appeal the ruling.

Trump declared a national emergency last February in order to transfer funds from the Pentagon to build the wall after Congress refused to provide the level of funding he sought.

Top Democrats in Congress have criticized the project as wasteful and ineffective.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs, El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights, an El Paso-based immigration reform group, argued that Trump exceeded his authority when he declared the emergency and sought to redirect the funds.

Kristy Parker, counsel for Protect Democracy, an organisation that represented plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement that the order “affirms that the president is not a king and that our courts are willing to check him when he oversteps his bounds.”

Briones ruled in October that the proclamation was unlawful and then asked the plaintiffs to file a proposed preliminary injunction. He said in that ruling that the transfer of the military funds was unlawful because it went against the intent outlined by Congress in the spending bill it passed in January 2019.

Trump had pressed Congress in December 2018 for $5.7 billion in funds to build a border wall, which led to 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government when Congress. When lawmakers provided only a quarter of that amount, Trump declared immigration a national emergency as part of a plan to use a similar amount from the Defense Department and Treasury Department for wall construction.

The Supreme Court ruled in July that the Trump administration could access a separate pot of $2.5 billion from a Pentagon counter-narcotics fund to pay for wall construction pending a related appeal – a major victory for Trump.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said at news conference in El Paso last month that 83 miles of border wall had been built under Trump and that another 153 miles of border wall was under construction.

“President Trump has been clear,” Wolf said. “We will build the wall, and he is following through on his promise.”

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Police officer, five others killed in New Jersey gunbattle

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Police officer, five others killed in New Jersey gunbattle

Six people, including a police officer and three bystanders, were killed in a furious gunbattle Tuesday that filled the streets of Jersey City with the sound of heavy gunfire for hours, authorities said.

The dead included two suspects, Jersey City Police Chief Michael Kelly said.

The shooting took place at two scenes, starting at a cemetery, where the officer was gunned down, and continuing at a kosher supermarket, where five more bodies were found, Kelly said.

“Our officers were under fire for hours,” the chief said.

He would not say exactly what set off the shooting but that he believes the officer who was killed was trying to stop some “bad guys.”

City Public Safety Director James Shea said that authorities believe the bloodshed was not an act of terrorism but that it was still under investigation, reports The Associated Press.

Two other officers were wounded but were later released from the hospital, authorities said.

The bullets started flying early in the afternoon in the city of about 270,000 people, situated across the Hudson River from the Statue of Liberty.

The shooting spread fear through the neighborhood, and the nearby Sacred Heart School was put on lockdown as a precaution.

SWAT teams, state police and federal agents converged on the scene, and police blocked off the area, which in addition to the school and supermarket included a hair salon and other shops. Dozens of bystanders pressed against the police barrier to capture the action on their cellphones, some whooping when bursts of fire could be heard.

Video shot by residents recorded loud volleys of gunfire reverberating along one of the city’s main streets and showed a long line of law enforcement officers pointing guns as they advanced, yelling to bystanders, “Clear the street! Get out of the way!”

“ It’s like firecrackers going off,” said Andy Patel, who works at a liquor store about three blocks away. “They were shooting like crazy. … The cops were clearing everyone off the streets.”

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Suicide bomber detonates explosives outside main US base in Afghanistan

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Suicide bomber detonates explosives outside main US base in Afghanistan

A suicide bomber in Afghanistan detonated explosives on Wednesday outside the United States’ main military base of Bagram in an attack that wounded five people, Afghan and NATO officials said.

There was no immediate claim of reponsibility for the blast, reports Reuters.

All five wounded in the attack at the southern entrance to the base were Afghans, said Wahida Shahkar, a spokeswoman for the governor of Parwan province, where the base is located.

“A 30-minute clash also happened between the attackers, who obviously wanted to enter the base, and foreign forces,” she told Reuters.

The attack was “quickly contained and repelled” and there were no U.S. or coalition casualties, but a medical base being built for locals was badly damaged, Resolute Support, the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

Wednesday’s attack comes as the United States looks to revive stalled peace talks with Taliban militants who control more territory than at any point since being ousted from power by coalition forces in 2001.

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Ebonyi demotes 3 Principals, withholds 10 teachers’ salaries

Ebonyi demotes 3 Principals, withholds 10 teachers’ salaries

Ebonyi State Government yesterday demoted three senior Secondary School Principals for alleged dereliction of duties. This is even as 10 teachers in the state would lose their December salaries for same offence. Chairman of the State Secondary Education Board (SEB), Dr. Uchechukwu Ezenyim disclosed this in Abakaliki. She said the punishment for the affected workers would serve as deterrent to others. The SEB Chairman listed affected Principals to include Mr. Nwotolo J. N of Community Secondary School (CSS) Nzashi in Ikwo Local Government Area; Mr. Nweke C.J of Community Secondary School (CSS) Nkomoro in Ezza North LGA and Mr. Anyigor E.N of Community Secondary School (CSS) Okpoto in Ishielu LGA of the state.

 

The trio had been reported to the zonal office of SEB located at Onueke, in Ezza South LGA of the state, according to her. She, however, did not give the names of the ten teachers who were to lose their December salaries.

 

 

Ezenyim said: “The said Principals, three of them in number, during the just concluded first term examination were involved in non-challant attitudes toward their duties. “During our monitoring, we found that some of them were not complying with the rules and regulations guiding the examination.

 

“When we tried to enquire why they were not doing what they were supposed to do, they were giving us flimsy excuses. “But the major reason we decided to sanction them to serve as a deterrent to other Principals is that the concerned Principals are hiding some of the teachers who are believed to be having two jobs. Maybe, a Federal and a State job at the same time. “And His Excellency, the governor has been demanding to know those ghost workers.

“I wonder why a teacher will not be in school for two good weeks to three weeks and no report is given about the whereabouts of the said teacher. And when you try to ascertain from the Principal who is in charge of activities in that school, he/she won’t even give you a proper excuse on the movement of their teachers. “Therefore, we de cided to take this drastic measure on them, so that those who are hiding will come out and we will know them

 

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The 10 teachers involved are to lose their December salaries. “While His Excellency is trying to rebuild our education system, they are there in the field drawing the state back. “Some of them are refusing the assistance that the Stakeholders in the communities wanted to give through their non challant attitudes.

 

Take for instance, the grant given to them for agric farm in their schools, because of His Excellency’s policy that every school would be producing what they would eat and they have been doing that, but some of the Principals are misusing that fund.”

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$41.9bn oil theft: Obaseki calls for special courts, judges

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$41.9bn oil theft: Obaseki calls for special courts, judges

W

orried over the increasing rate of oil theft in the country, the Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, yesterday called for the establishment of ‘Special Courts’ and training of judges to prosecute and convict perpetrators of crude oil theft in the country.

 

Obaseki, who chaired a committee set up by the National Economic Council Committee to find a lasting solution to the issues of oil theft and pipeline vandalisation, made the call during the inaugural Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) policy dialogue with the theme: “Stemming Oil Theft in Nigeria.”

 

While raising concerns that no one has been prosecuted or convicted for the $41.9 billion revenue reported to have been lost in the last 10 years and the huge environmental degradation in affected communities, the governor explained that within the first six months of this year alone, about 22 million barrels of crude oil valued at $1.35 billion were lost to thieves.

 

Obaseki, who revealed that most of the crude oil losses were recorded on trunk lines being operated by companies, which owned production fields and pipelines, however, noted that the situation was disturbing as those outsourced to third parties recorded the least breeches.

 

He called on the Federal Government to take over operations of the trunk lines operated by International Oil Companies (IOC’s) temporarily, pending when the issue would be critically looked into and addressed.

 

The govrnor said: “We lost 22.6 million barrels of crude oil at an estimated cost of about $1.3 billion, but these losses occurred specifically in the Nembe trunk line; we lost 9.2 million barrels in the Trans Niger pipeline; we lost 8.6 million barrels; and in the Trans Forcados pipeline 3.9 million barrels.

 

“What is interesting is that the largest losses came from lines that were owned and operated by the same companies which explored and produce oil. We also noticed that the lines that were outsourced to third parties recorded the least losses so there is a very interesting correlation between the ownership production into the lines and the level of losses on those lines.

 

“When breeches are reported, when products are lost, we just deal with the financial losses to the operators, but what happens to government? Nobody is ever held accountable; nobody is brought to order. Looking through the law, we could not find any concrete evidence of people who were caught, prosecuted and convicted on the crime of stealing crude product.”

 

Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, who said there was need for a collaborative effort to check oil theft in the country, lamented that amid operating difficulties, it had caused a high cost of production and assets divestment by some companies.

 

Sylva, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Niger Delta, Mr. Felix Bobnabena, disclosed that despite the sophistication of weapons committed to ending the incidences of oil theft in the region, hinted that the government would continue to review current efforts to end oil theft in the country.

 

On his part, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mallam Mele Kyari, described the high spate oil theft in the country as a threat to national economy, given the critical role revenues from the oil and gas sector play in the country.

 

Kyari, who was also represented by the Chief Operating Officer, Upstream, Mr. Roland Ewubare noted that between 2001 and 2017, NNPC recorded 45,374 breeches on its pipelines.

“NNPC as a player in the downstream sector has felt direct brunt of the attacks on our facilities and assets. Between 2001 and 2019, we recorded a total of 45,347 pipeline breaks and breeches on our downstream pipeline network. If you do the arithmetic, it comes to about an average of seven incidences on a daily basis,” he added.

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