Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been freed after more than 18 months in prison.
The left-wing former leader, known as Lula, was greeted with rapturous applause from crowds of supporters as he walked out of the jail on Friday.
He was held in a prison in the city of Curitiba on corruption charges, reports the BBC.
A judge ordered his release after a Supreme Court ruling that defendants should only be imprisoned if they have exhausted their appeal options.
Lula is one of several thousand convicts who could benefit from the ruling.
The 74-year-old ex-president, who led Brazil between 2003 and 2010, is seen as a leftist icon in the country. As he left the prison, he pumped his fist in the air as a victory sign.
“I didn’t think that today I could be here talking to men and women that during 580 days shouted good morning, good afternoon or goodnight, no matter if it was raining or 40 degrees [Celsius],” he told the crowds.
He also promised to prove his innocence, before hitting out at the “rotten side of the judicial system”, which he accused of “working to criminalise the left”.
Lula was favourite to win last year’s presidential election but was imprisoned after being implicated in a major corruption scandal. The race was won instead by far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro.
Criticising Bolsonaro’s economic policies, Lula vowed to keep fighting for impoverished Brazilians.
“People are hungrier, they have no jobs, people work for Uber or delivering pizzas on a bike,” he added, specifically criticising insecure work and the gig economy.
Lula will be barred from standing for office because of his criminal record.
He has consistently denied all the accusations against him and claims they are politically motivated.
Justices voted to reinterpret the country’s penal code in a decision issued on Thursday.
It overturns a three-year-old rule which mandated immediate prison time for convicted criminals after they lost their first appeal.
Brazil’s corruption scandal, known as Operation Car Wash, initially centred on the state-run oil company Petrobras, but subsequently billions of dollars of bribes were uncovered – and dozens of high-profile business leaders and politicians were jailed.
The mandatory imprisonment rule was seen as helping prosecutors secure convictions and unravel the scandal by encouraging suspects to negotiate plea deals.
But critics claimed it violated Brazil’s constitution, which states that no one can be deprived of their liberty without due process of law.
Lula was jailed in 2018 after being sentenced to more than 12 years in prison, later reduced to eight years and 10 months, for receiving a beachside apartment from an engineering company implicated in the Car Wash investigation.
Earlier this year, he was sentenced to another 12 years after being found guilty of accepting bribes in the form of renovation work at a country house from construction companies.
Man dies in Hong Kong protests as Chinese President calls for end to unrest
Another person in Hong Kong has died in protests that have convulsed the financial hub since June, a tragedy that comes just after China’s leader issued his most direct rebuke of the unrest yet.
A 70-year-old cleaner who was believed to have been hit in the head during a skirmish between protesters and residents died Thursday evening, the Hospital Authority confirmed.
According to a government statement, the man was on his lunch break Wednesday when he was struck by “hard objects hurled by masked rioters.”
His death follows less than a week after a student protester sustained a fatal injury after falling from a parking garage during demonstrations, reports time.com.
While the circumstances leading to the student’s fall remain unclear, many supporters of the protest movement see him as a martyr, and his death galvanized a fresh round of strikes and protests that have roiled the city for five consecutive days.
Traffic continued to be snarled and train services disrupted Friday as protesters occupy major thoroughfares and parts of the railway tracks. Schools and universities remain shuttered, and many businesses encouraged employees to stay home.
Speaking from a summit in Brazil, Chinese President Xi Jinping said “continuous radical violent activities in Hong Kong seriously trample [on] rule of law and the social order, [and] seriously disturb Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.”
Beijing firmly supports Hong Kong’s leader, the police and the courts “in severely punishing the violent criminals,” he said in rare comments on the situation.
According to Chinese state media, Xi called ending the turmoil Hong Kong’s most pressing task.
But with no end to the protests in sight, Asia’s financial capital is struggling. The territory of 7.5 million has fallen into a recession as tourists stay away and high-end shopping malls are transformed into battlegrounds between riot police and protesters.
After clashes with police moved from the streets to the outskirts of academic institutions earlier this week, unleashing some of the fiercest battles in six months of unrest, student demonstrators barricaded themselves inside their university campuses.
Behind the walls of the fortress-like campuses, students have stockpiled Molotov cocktails, swords and arrows as they seek to safeguard their academic sanctuaries.
Several universities have suspended classes for the duration of the semester, and allowed an exodus of international students.
In the city’s Central business district, lunchtime flash mobs have brought white collar workers out to the streets to erect roadblocks and face off with police, even as the clashes have become increasingly violent.
In the face of a deepening crisis, Hong Kong’s embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam has doubled down on her insistence that there will be no capitulating to the protesters’ demands. Earlier this week, she called it “wishful thinking” that the government would yield to the “escalating violence.”
US Speaker says impeachment testimony shows ‘bribery’ case against Trump
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that testimony from two U.S. diplomats in the Democrats’ first public impeachment hearing on Wednesday uncovered “evidence of bribery” against President Donald Trump.
“The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections. That’s bribery,” Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters at her weekly news conference in the Capitol.
Pelosi said that the testimony shows Trump made a “clear attempt” to give himself an advantage in the 2020 election, jeopardizing national security and the U.S. election in violation of his oath of office, reports abcnews.
“We haven’t even made a decision to impeach,” Pelosi said when asked whether an article of impeachment would be crafted around the charge of bribery. “That’s what the inquiry is about. When the committees decide that, they will decide what the articles are. But I am saying that what the president has admitted to and said it’s perfect, I say it’s perfectly wrong. It’s bribery.”
The Democrats’ shifting focus to the allegation of bribery in recent days appears to be no accident. Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution states: “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Asked whether Wednesday’s hearing moved the needle for Democrats as they mull impeachment, Pelosi insisted the inquiry is “not about politics.”
“It’s not about anything political. It’s about patriotism. It’s about honoring our oaths of office and to uphold the constitution, and the constitution spells out what our responsibilities and what our penalties are,” Pelosi said.
“I do believe the truth will set us free and so the truth coming from the president’s own appointee, the president’s own appointee, describing bribery and threatening, in the course of it, threatening the identity of the whistle-blower, is just shameful behaviour.”
Kogi, Bayelsa guber polls: APC begs for votes
Ahead of Saturday’s governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has begged the electorate to vote for its candidates in the polls.
In particular, the chairman, Kogi State APC Campaign Council, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna, yesterday knelt down in Lokoja, the state capital, begging the electorate to forgive Governor Yahaya Bello and re-elect him in the Saturday election.
El-Rufai, who mounted the podium during the grand finale campaign for the APC at the Confluence Stadium in Lokoja, pleaded with the people to forgive Governor Bello on account of his young age, for his real and perceived past wrongs and return him for a second term on the platform of the APC on November 16.
According to him, young persons are susceptible to mistakes.
His words: “Many people say Yahaya Bello is young; that he has fought many people. For every one that the governor has offended, I’m asking all of you to forgive him. He is young; he is supposed to make mistakes.
“When you are young, you make mistakes. Please, I am kneeling down on my knees to beg you. Please, forgive whatever wrong he has done to you. He cares about the people of Kogi State. He has brought progress to this state; he has brought young people and women into government.
“He has cleared salary arrears that he inherited from previous governments. You must all come out to support him. I beg you all. Let us make history. Let us not dishonour the memory of Prince Abubakar Audu by allowing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to return to Lugard House – the Government House. We must work for the unity and progress of Kogi,” he said.
El-Rufai said the campaign train had come not only to re-elect Yahaya Bello, but to bury PDP once and for all. He stated that the four years’ achievement of Bello has surpassed the 13 years of the PDP in Kogi state.
“That is why we must all come to together and finally burry the PDP in Kogi State. We are going to do them “murus” (in Hausa dialect, meaning, total finishing of the opposition party in the state),” he added.
He appealed to the electorate to also vote for Senator Smart Adeyemi and not to repeat the mistakes of the past by voting Senator Dino Melaye.
“You all have the choice to choose between foolishness and goodness,” he said.
On his part, National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole urged the people of the Kogi West to join in kicking the “Rascal” out of the Senate.
Another drama took place when the wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, invited the governor to come back to the podium and clear the air over the issue of non-payment of salary.
Bello, in response, said: “Your excellency, I can assure you that my administration has cleared all salary arrears owed workers in the state.”
The governor, who stated that he was already smelling victory, vowed that any thug deployed to the state to foment trouble in the Saturday election, will not go back to their home safe.
Addressing the gathering, Bello appealed to the people to uphold the unity so far achieved in the state, and speak with one voice by returning him as governor on November 16.
“We have been able to unite Kogi State. What we have now is Kogi Agenda, not ethnic agenda. Ethnicity has brought Nigeria to its knees. But today in Kogi, the Igalas, the Okuns and Ebiras are brothers.
“I want Mr. President to return to meet a new dawn in Kogi State that his son has been re-elected the governor of Kogi State,” he said.
But the PDP said the public apology by El-Rufai, was an acknowledgement that Bello does not deserve a second term in office.
The party in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, also observed that Edo State deputy governor, Philip Shuaibu, agreed that Governor Bello misused the opportunity given to him to lead the state.
“Unfortunately, the apology is coming too late in the day and cannot be accepted by the people of Kogi State, whose lives, Yahaya Bello had turned into a living hell in the last four year.
“Moreover, Yahaya Bello openly confirmed that he is irredeemable as he stood without any sign of remorse while El-Rufai and the Edo State deputy governor begged the unimpressed scanty crowd.
“Governor El-Rufai and the APC ought to have counselled Bello at the time he was busy suppressing, insulting, abusing and making life unbearable for the people of Kogi State as if there will not be a day of reckoning.
“The irreversible fact is that the day of reckoning has come. The people of Kogi State have moved beyond Yahaya Bello and the APC,” PDP said.
NNPC secures $1.16m U.S. grant for 1,350MW power plant
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) have concluded arrangement to sign a $1.16 million grant as part funding for the NNPC-Abuja Independent Power Project (IPP).
The corporation disclosed this in a statement by Mr. Samson Makoji, Acting spokesman for NNPC, in Abuja yesterday.
He said that the arrangement was the outcome of a business meeting between the Management of NNPC and the USTDA at the NNPC Towers.
Makoji noted that both parties agreed to close out the deal on December 1, adding that the IPP was modeled to generate 1,350 megawatts of electricity to alleviate the power challenge in the country.
The Group Managing Director of NNPC, Malam Mele Kyari, said that the plan by the corporation to build the 1,350MW power plant in Abuja was part of the national strategy to monetize the abundant natural gas resources in the country.
He added that the USDTA grant was to complement the ongoing feed project in order to make the Abuja IPP initiative more bankable for strategic investors’ participation.
“As a state-owned oil company and enabler organisation, we know that our investment in the Abuja 1,350mw IPP will increase energy supply level with great impact on the nation’s economy.
“Therefore, the USTDA grant is timely to make it a bankable project that would attract foreign direct investment into the country,” he said.
Minister, telcos bicker over voicemails on mobile lines
- Pantami: Stop defrauding subscribers
- Operators: Service is not a fraud
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, has, again, ordered telecoms operators to stop automatic activation of voicemails on mobile lines.
The minister said the order became imperative as his attention was “drawn to the latest trend of financial exploitation by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in the country, through the automatic activation of the Voicemail Service on their platforms.”
However, the telcos said the allegation of fraud could not have arisen with voicemail service as it is optional for subscribers and not automatic as being insinuated.
Nonetheless, the minister said he has issued a “broad policy” directive to the sector regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to immediately ensure that issues regarding automatic voicemails are addressed on all existing phone lines, and the subscribers given the option of accessing the service via an activation code.
“The voicemail service should be accessed at the discretion of the subscriber and not by default. The minister finds it worrisome and totally unacceptable that telecoms subscribers incur financial charges, for a service they are compelled to use by default. Voicemail is not a popular service among mobile phone users in Nigeria, coupled with the language challenge among rural dwellers, who mostly do not understand the language deployed by these networks,” Pantami said in a statement released yesterday.
Reacting to the minister’s latest directive, second in two weeks, the telecoms operators under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, (ALTON), said voicemail (VM) is a value-added service enjoyed by only those who opt-in for it.
Chairman of the Association, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, said: “The current practice on some networks is that once you call and the recipient doesn’t pick, you get a voice prompt saying that the subscriber is not available and asking you to record a voice message ‘after the tone’.
“VM is a value added service and it is provisioned for those who expressly request for it. It may be recalled that MNOs reintroduced the VM facility to discourage people who “flash” continuously because flashing wastes network resources and also degrades quality of service (QoS) reporting.
“For the avoidance of doubt, you as a consumer are not billed anything, but if you delay, you may be charged for a few seconds, or for the time it takes you to record the message. The recipient of the voicemail does not get charged for listening, it is free.”
ALTON also noted that the issue of voicemail is not in any way a policy issue to warrant intervention of the minister.
“This is not a major ‘policy issue’ within the meaning of Section 23 and 24 of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) which empowers the minister to formulate ‘general policy for the communications sector, after consultations organised by the NCC’. It is a mere operational/consumer protection issue which the ministry can simply call NCC’s attention to.
“This is purely consumer related issues that the minister refers to as a major policy issue and it also amounts to unnecessary interference by the minister contrary to Section 25 subsections 1 & 2 of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003,” Adebayo said.
Don’t harass voters, Buhari warns Army, Police
President Muhammadu Buhari has warned security agencies, including the Army and Police involved in this Saturday’s Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections, against harassment of voters.
The President said law enforcement officials must ensure that citizens are allowed to vote without harassment and intimidation.
Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Garba Shehu, in a statement yesterday, said “any attempt to steal or hijack ballots must be stopped using all legal means.
“In all democratic elections, there are bound to be winners and losers and the elections in Bayelsa and Kogi will not be different. All candidates should be ready to accept the outcomes and wherever they are dissatisfied, they should follow the due process of the law in seeking redress. There must not be a resort to self-help.”
The President further said: “I call on voters in Bayelsa and Kogi states to exercise their franchise in a peaceful and orderly manner and in line with the law in all situations.”
“The President wished the two states and their people a safe and credible exercise as they vote in these historic and suspenseful elections.”
Shehu said: “Since the ban on campaigns was lifted a few weeks ago, their citizens have been called to attend political rallies… that sadly, have so far recorded not a few uninspiring incidents of violence and of intemperate use of language.
“President Buhari has made a strong demand for exemplary conduct of non-partisanship on the part of election and law enforcement officials in the two states. All must carry out their functions with fairness and transparency; without let or hindrance and without fear or favour.”
Gridlock: Over 3,000 trucks back on Apapa roads
Less than two months after the Presidential Task Force on Clearance of Apapa Gridlock impacted positively on Apapa port access roads, decorum has again departed the corridor as over 3,000 empty container-laden trucks are back on the roads, leading to gridlock.
Findings by New Telegraph reveal that delay by shipping lines to take delivery of the containers is mostly responsible for the current vehicular disorder that is gradually stretching to cover large part of the roads in and out of the nation’s gateway.
Our correspondent gathered that majority of the shipping lines still lacked holding bay for containers despite several warnings by government that they should provide the facility to store their empty containers.
The trucks came back as the presidential task force, headed by Kayode Opeifa, failed in its assignment to completely free the ports road from heavy traffic.
It was also revealed that as at yesterday, the Lilypond Container Terminal, converted to truck holding bay by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), has been abandoned by the truckers.
Commenting on the development, the President of Nigerian Shipowners Association of Nigeria (NISA), Mallam Aminu Umar, said that several companies had vacated the port environment because of the gridlock.
He explained that port users had been staying on the road for more than four hours in the last two weeks to connect the port from Ijora.
Umar said: “Movement in and out of Apapa is getting unpredictable. All what has been achieved in the last few months by the Presidential Committee on Apapa Gridlock has vanished suddenly in the last two weeks.”
Also, the Vice President of National Association of Roads Transport Owners (NARTO), Dry Cargo section, Mr. Abdullahi Mohammed, told our correspondent that the delay in receiving empty containers by the terminal operators and the influx of the tankers had impeded smooth trade facilitation at the seaports.
According to him, oil tank farm depots around the ports have also contributed to the problem.
Mohammed said: “I can say there are three factors that are responsible for the sudden resurfacing of gridlock along the corridor, which have affected many link roads. So it makes the movement of trucks accessing the truck park/port difficult.”
He stressed that no serious palliative measures had been taken by the road contractor from Coconut to Mile 2 axis as promised by the government.
The vice president said there were pot holes, which make it difficult for trucks to access the port smoothly, adding that his association had been supporting government to fill the pot holes, assisting the task force in clearing the road of rickety trucks.
Meanwhile, the NPA has decided to shut out port users without its port pass from accessing the port to carry out legitimate businesses.
It was gathered that the authority had informed terminal operators, government agencies and labour of its intention to commence implementation on strict access control.
A former Chairman of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) at Lagos Airport, Dr. Segun Musa, who frowned at the decision, explained that the authority had no reason to lock critical stakeholders out of the port.
Musa noted that some members of various associations in the industry were busy playing sycophantic roles at the detriment of their members and businesses.
He said: “Most of the leaders are not ready for selfless service again, but what they want to eat immediately.”
The NAGAFF chieftain described the development as another litmus test to check the relevance of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) as the umbrella body of the freight forwarders, and to determine if the leaders know what their roles are in protecting the interests of stakeholders.
It was alleged that the authority did not inform the licensed customs agents and freight forwarders before the implementation of the port pass.
Also reacting to the gridlock, a truck driver stranded on Wharf Road, Mr. Akanni Oladele, said that the sudden reappearance of queue at Ijora to port started when a driver was killed at the Lilypond holding bay.
He explained that everybody was forced to abandon the bay for the bridge because of incessant extortion by miscreants and security operatives.
Oladele alleged that both the presidential taskforce and other security operatives not assigned to monitor the road were using hoodlums as front.
“They always come in the night to extort money forcefully,” he said.
Oladele said that hoodlums had vandalised vehicles of those who resisted the illegal fee.
Besides, he added that before they deserted the Ijora holding bay, some truckers stayed as much as three weeks without the call up numbers introduced by NPA.
According to him, “We discovered that only those lining up illegally on the bridge get access to the port. This is after paying illegal fees of between N50,000 and N70,000 to security operatives to facilitate their access to the terminals.
“Like before, we have started sleeping on the bridge. Here, you will eat and bath before dawn. We send our motor boys to fetch water and buy food at Ajegunle and Ijora,” the driver said.
Another trucker, Mr. Mike Ikechukwu, who explained that the gridlock was created by security personnel just to extort money, lamented that everybody was helpless in savaging the situation.
Ikechukwu added that there were rot in the system because of the free money they enjoy with impunity.
The truckers also said that they paid demurrage on empty containers because of the congestion.
He added that shipping companies, which should provide holding bay, were not doing so.
On his part, a manager at Sceptre, Judah Jayeola, explained that lack of holding bay for trucks was the major factor affecting the road.
He said: “If the two access roads to the ports are fully rehabilitated today without holding bays, gridlock will still continue around Apapa.”
No card reader, no voting, says INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared that no voter will be allowed to vote without voter card recognised by the Smart Card Reader in tomorrow’s elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states.
Prof. James Apam, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Kogi State, told NAN on the sideline of a one-day Training on Election Duties, organised by Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) for its staff at Kogi Sector Command Headquarters in Lokoja.
Speaking on behalf of Apam, Mr. Olugbenga Ajayi, an official of the commission, warned that no person would be allowed to vote without being accredited using the card reader.
“We keep learning every day; and we want to obey what we have said as electoral umpire; if card reader cannot identify you, you cannot vote.
“It is either card reader or no voting in Kogi and Bayelsa elections; anything apart from the use of card reader for accreditation and voting will be disqualified.
“No manual accreditation would be allowed; it is either card reader or no voting,” he reiterated.
He enjoined all the personnel participating in the elections to conduct themselves very well and not to compromise, but respect their dignity and protect the sanctity of the elections.
He further urged other security personnel to adequately secure electoral staff and election materials, saying all eyes are on Kogi and Bayelsa elections.
He also called for timely arrival of security personnel at INEC Local Government Secretariat, who would be escorting their staff and election materials to INEC Registration Area Centre (RAC) for timely dispatch.
“We urge the security personnel to live by the oath they swore to and not chasing after politicians for money,” he said.
Vitamin D could boost muscle strength in older adults
Researchers from the United Kingdom (UK) said vitamin D was linked with poor muscle health in older adult.
These are the findings of a new study published recently in the journal ‘Clinical Interventions in Ageing’.
To address the problem, study co-author, Eamon Laird, has called for the implementation of policies that could eliminate vitamin D deficiencies in the population by fortifying food with vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a loss of bone density, which can contribute to osteoporosis and fractures (broken bones). Severe vitamin D deficiency can also lead to other diseases. In children, it can cause rickets, a rare disease that causes the bones to become soft and bend.
Adults older than 65, are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiencies.
People get vitamin D through food and by exposure to sunlight. In severe cases, deficiency can lead to thin, brittle or misshapen bones and Vitamin D supplementation is the main treatment.
In this study, the team examined more than 4,100 people, aged 60 and older, in England. About four in 10 with vitamin D deficiency had muscle weakness — twice the level found among those who had adequate vitamin D levels.
According to the findings, impaired muscle performance was three times more common among those with vitamin D deficiency (25.2 per cent) than those with adequate vitamin D (7.9 per cent).
Further analysis showed that vitamin D deficiency significantly increased the odds of impaired muscle strength and performance.’
In addition, participants who got regular moderate physical activity were much less likely to have poor muscle strength and physical performance, the study showed.
Alternatively, maintaining muscle health helps seniors maintain their independence, mobility and quality of life. It also lowers their risk of falls and frailty.
First author, Niamh Aspell, who did her doctoral studies at Trinity, said the findings support the need for public health strategies to eliminate vitamin D deficiency in older people.
Atiku calls for free, fair polls
Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23, 2019 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has enjoined the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure free and fair polls on Saturday in Kogi and Bayelsa states.
Atiku, in a statement by his media office, advised electorate in the two states to vote wisely by electing capable hands to steer the affairs of their states.
He told voters to take serious interest in the choices they make as they cast their votes, and urged PDP members to use the power of their overwhelming strength in those two states in ensuring that its flag remains standing in the Bayelsa State Government House.
According to him, the people of Kogi State should “begin to have a feel of better life under a PDP administration.”
He reminded the voters that the senatorial election in Kogi West is equally crucial, and said they should turn out in their numbers to defend the seat.
The former vice president told the people that the leadership of the PDP has abiding confidence in the voters in Kogi West senatorial election, adding that “the choices before them are between a continuation of quality representation at the Senate and a promise of meaningless change.”
Atiku also called on all political actors to exhibit necessary decorum and sportsmanship.
“Election is about the people and not a war against the people,” he further advised, and urged security agencies on election duty to do their jobs with utmost professionalism.
He asked all parties in the elections to bear in mind that democracy can flourish only when everyone plays according to its rules.
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