… Melaye battles Adeyemi, others for Kogi West Senatorial slot
Today is the D-Day for the people of Kogi and Bayelsa states as over two and half million registered voters are expected to decide the fate of the more than 50 political parties and 69 governorship candidates in the two states. According to the statistics released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), while there are 1,646,350 registered voters for Kogi State, there are 923, 182 voters in Bayelsa State. However, 889, 308 Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) were collected in Bayelsa State, making 96.3 percent of the registered voters. The charged atmosphere in the two states has given rise to concerns over the safety of lives and property due to the violence that characterised the electioneering in the two states in the last few weeks.
The police have however moved to curb anything untoward with the deployment of 31, 041 policemen to Bayelsa State and 35, 800 policemen to Kogi state, totalling 66, 841 policemen deployed in the two states. Though there are many political parties jostling for the two governorship seats and one senatorial slot in Kogi state, the contests has been narrowed to a two-horse race between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The test of might will see 45 political parties competing in Bayelsa State and 24 partaking in the Kogi exercise, making it a total of 69 governorship candidates in the two states.
In Kogi State, the governor, Yahaya Bello, is seeking re-election into the Lugard House on the platform of the APC, and will be running against his PDP opponent, Engr. Musa Wada and 22 others, who will battle for 1,646,350 votes in the state.
The 24 candidates who have canvassed for votes across the states will be expecting the electorate from the three senatorial districts and 21 local government areas in the state to vote for them. Apart from the governorship poll, 432,515 voters will also march out to vote for their representative in the Red Chamber. For the Kogi West Senatorial rerun, the contest is majorly between Senator Dino Melaye of the PDP and Senator Smart Adeyemi of the APC in the seven local government area s of the state: Ijumu, Kabba-Bunu, Kogi, Lokoja, Mopamuro, Yagba East and Yagba West. The popularity of both candidates may also determine where the pendulum will swing in the governorship poll in the area.
This is coming as the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, stopped INEC from removing the name of the governorship candidate of the APC in Bayelsa State, David Lyon, from the ballot of today’s election. The court granted an exparte order restraining INEC from disqualifying the governorship candidate of the APC.
The three-member Appeal Court panel led by Justice Lokulo-Sodipi, also restrained the INEC from executing the orders of the Federal High Court, which ordered the removal of the name and logo of the APC and its governorship candidate from the race. Justice Lokulo-Sodipi, in a ruling, held that the panel abides by the decision made by Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, which compelled INEC to maintain status quo from the September 18, 2019, when the matter was instituted, pending the determination of motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.
The Appeal panel, thereafter, ordered that applicants should serve all the respondents notices and other processes before adjourning till November 21, for mention. The road to Creek Haven will see Lyon slugging it out against Senator Douye Diri of the PDP and 43 other candidates from other political parties.
Vote-buying amidst tension
Already, there is tension and apprehension in Kogi State as people are afraid of coming out to vote for fear of being attack during the election. A resident who spoke on the condition of anonymity in the Igala area of Kogi said the “people may not come out to vote because of fear of being attack by hoodlums” He also noted that negotiation for vote-buying had started already as canvassers have started reaching out to people. The voter told our correspondent that his coordinator told them that money would be shared in the morning.
Masked men attack Makinde, others
In a twist, there seemed to be a security lapse in Kogi State as some armed and masked security men yesterday stormed Suitorial Hotels, along Stadium Road in Lokoja, where the Governor of Oyo State, Engr. Seyi Makinde, Wada and some PDP leaders were meeting. Multiple sources told Saturday Telegraph that the security operatives stormed the hotel based on a tip off that some hoodlums were meeting in the hotel. But on getting there they discovered that Governor Makinde, who is the Chairman of the PDP Campaign Council for Kogi State governorship election was meeting with Wada and other party’s leaders.
Saturday Telegraph gathered from realible sources, including security officers at the Suitorial Hotels that the hooded security operatives arrived the hotel where Makinde, Wada and some members of the PDP Campaign Council were lodged about 12.50 p.m. According to the source, some of the hooded security operatives forced their way into the hotel. But a number of security operatives attached to the governor and some residents of nearby buildings, however, resisted the security operatives, thereby causing a pandemonium.
The source said: “They came fully armed and hooded. Some of them scaled the fence of the hotel and made to enter the hotel proper. But pandemonium ensued, as there was commotion between security operatives attached to the Governor and the invaders.
“However, some residents in the neighbourhood of the hotel soon mobilised and joined the governor’s security to resist the invaders.” But reacting to the event during a briefing with some journalists at the Kogi State Police Command, the state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Busari, said the security men went to the hotel base on a report that some hoodlums were meeting at the place. He said: “We heard that there were hoodlums at the hotel but on getting there the security men discovered that it was Governor Seyi Makinde and Wada that were at the hotel and they have to leave the place.” He also said that the security agencies were fully prepared for the election and to provide adequate security in the state. Confirming the invasion of the hotel by the masked security officials to Saturday Telegraph during a visit to the hotel, some personnels working at the hotel said the security agencies came to the hotel but were prevented from having access to the governor. “The masked security men numbering about 20, came to the hotel and they wanted to enter but the security staff attached to the governor prevented them from entering. And having been prevented they left the place.” Saturday Telegraph gathered that few minutes after the invasion, Governor Makinde, Wada and other PDP officials drove out of the hotel to an unknown location. “The governor is no longer here. They drove out in convoy and we don’t know where they went to,” a hotel employee told one of our correspondents.
EU urges security agencies to be neutral
European Union has urged the security agencies to be neutral in the discharge of their duty within the framework of the electoral law. Speaking during a press conference in Lokoja, the Head of Delegation, and European Union Delegation to Nigeria and to the Economic Community of West African States, Ambassador Ketil Karlsen, said they were in Kogi and Bayelsa states to support the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria and not there in support of any political party and candidate.
The European Union team which comprises many foreign officials from United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland and Austrian embassies, also implored the citizens of Kogi and Bayelsa to come out and vote for their preferred candidates, nothing that “the beauty of democracy was for people to come out and vote candidates they believe will help improve their socioeconomic conditions.” The EU while discouraging the electorate from vote-buying, noted that “In any democracy, elections should be about a competition of ideas and serving the people. Therefore, vote buying is illegal and should not be encouraged. We hope that tomorrow’s elections reflect this.”
His words: “The elections in Kogi and Bayelsa are important because these are the first set of elections being conduct post 2019 general elections and hence, we are Keen to see how the process unfolds with hope that all stakeholders have learned lessons from the previous elections and that these lessons have been taken on board in a bid to further strengthen the electoral process particularly in the area of the collation and transmission of results and timely-effective communication with the electorates.
“We hope that all these lessons will further promote electoral integrity that will enhance a credible and peaceful process. “We note with concerns the witnessed tensions and some security incidences that have been reported in the runup to these elections and take this opportunity to appeal to the security agencies as well as the electorates to keep the peace. “We believe that the electorate should be able to exercise their franchise in a secure, conducive and accessible environment devoid of any intimidation and harassment. “We will also like to encourage the security agencies to remain neutral in the discharge of their duty within the framework of the electoral law.”
Situation Room urges parties to restrain their supporters from violence
The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room has also called on the security services to demonstrate their commitment to non-partisanship support to electoral security. Speaking on behalf of Situation Room, Dudu Manuga and Celestine Odo, the civil society groups implored political parties to restrain their supporters from election violence They also implored the people of Kogi State to come out freely to exercise their civil responsibility during the governorship poll. “Owing to the high stakes in the governorship election and the increasingly tense political environment, the potential for serious local instability that may further exacerbate Nigeria’s security challenges as a whole, is real. Therefore, Situation Room calls on the security services to demonstrate their commitment to non-partisanship support to electoral security, and ensure that it provides adequate security for the elections, in a manner that does not allow or encourage violence to be used as a tool for vote suppression. “We further called on the Police Force to document evidence of violence as well as infractions and their perpetrators in order to speedily bring offenders to book. “Situation Room calls on political parties participating in the governorship election to take part in the elections devoid of perpetrating violence, vote buying or other electoral malpractices. Situation Room further calls on political parties to restrain their supporters from election violence. “Situation Room calls on all eligible voters to come out freely to exercise their civic responsibility on Saturday, November 16. Situation Room expects that INEC and indeed all stakeholders in the electoral process would have taken lessons from the challenges of the 2019 general elections and work towards delivering peaceful and credible governorship election in Kogi State.”
PDP accuses APC of attempt to disrupt its leaders’ meeting
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has accused suspected thugs of the All Progressives Congress (APC) of attempt to disrupt the meeting of its members in Lokoja, Kogi State. The party said in a statement yesterday by the National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, that several hooded thugs, armed with automatic rifles and other dangerous weapons, invaded the venue of the meeting which had in attendance, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, PDP governorship candidate, Engr. Musa Wada, his running mate, Hon. Samuel Aro, among other party chieftains. “It took the resistance of the security personnel attached to Governor Makinde to save the situation, which would have turned calamitous, as the people of Kogi who were around the venue were already poised for a stiff confrontation,” PDP said in the statement. It warned the APC that its “reliance on thugs and violence cannot thrive, as the people are ready to defend their state in this election.” The party urged the Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu, to caution the APC, and to put every measure in place to check the activities of thugs so as to ensure a hitch free, transparent and credible election on Saturday. It also called on the people of Kogi State to remain alert and resolute in their determination to assert their will despite the machinations designed to undermine their spirit at the election. PDP told Nigerians to hold the APC and Governor Yahaya Bello responsible should any harm whatsoever befall any of its members.
Court summons Dokubo, over alleged diversion of amnesty slots, stipends
A Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa on Tuesday summoned Prof Charles Dokubo, Cordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Office to appear before it on January 21, 2020.
The court, presided over by Justice Awogboro Abimbola, also dismissed an application by two ex-militants to join the suit alleging diversion of N65,000 monthly stipends for 75 amnesty beneficiaries from 2010 till date.
Ruling on application for joinder, Abimbola said that she found no merit in the application as the applicants were not a necessary part in the matter.
“I find no merit in the application for joinders as the rule for joinders require that only those whose inclusion will ensure the dispensation of justice, the application is hereby dismissed,” Abimbola said.
Two ex-militant leaders, Messrs Aso Tambo and Stephen Ebisintei had sought to be joined in a suit which alleged the diversion of stipends for 75 ex-militants who embraced the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
The ex-agitators had brought the application through their Counsel, Mr Stanley Damabide before the High Court
Army: Law-abiding Nigerians have nothing to fear about our operations
rehabilitates road in Ogun
General Officer Commanding (GOC) 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major-General Olu Irefin, on Tuesday, said law-abiding citizens in the country have nothing to fear about Exercise Crocodile Smile IV.
Irefin, who reassured Nigerians about the ongoing military operation, declared that only criminals, miscreants and “those on the other side of the law” should be ready for military onslaught.
He spoke at the flag-off of road maintenance from Alamala Barracks to Lafenwa Railway in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
New Telegraph reports that the rehabilitation of the deplorable road was carried out by the 35 Artillery Brigade, Alamala, Abeokuta in collaboration with the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).
The GOC, who was accompanied by the Commander, 35 Artillery Brigade, Alamala, Abeokuta, Brigadier-General E.J. Amadasun, said the Army authorities desire a hitch-free festive period for Nigerians.
He explained that the Exercise Crocodile Smile IV was designed in line with military’s constitutional role of conducting internal security operation in aid of civil authority.
APC, PDP, trade words at Osagie’s book launch
Echoes of the tension in the political leadership in Nigeria revibrated Tuesday at the presentation of a book by former Managing Director of the Sun Newspaper, Mr. Eric Osagie.
The occasion, which had in attendance, the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike as well as the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart, Prince Uche Secondus, became an opportunity by the leaders of the two leading political parties to throw jibes at each order.
Oshiomhole was first to throw the first salvo when he made a reference to an interview of an unnamed former Nigerian president whom he said, appeared on the popular BBC interview programme, HardTalk.
“I watched an interview with a former Nigerian president. I have enough trouble right now, so I won’t add to it, I won’t mention names. But Wike knows the person, he is associated with the person, he schooled under the person and still being overseen by the person,” Oshiomhole said.
According to him, when the former president was asked the problem of Africa he said attributed it to lack of population control to match the economic growth.
“But when he was asked that as president of Africa’s most populous nation, how much did he contributed to this population growth? How many children do you have? How many wives do you have whether now or before? That to me is courageous, that leaders should not preach what they are not doing.
“We have it on record that he has so many wives, both registered and unregistered; several children, some in dispute, and yet, you go to the Queen’s land and lecture about population.
“You are part of the people who helped to create problem instead of being role model to young ones,” the APC National Chairman added.
But Wike who responded almost immediately, drew the former Edo State governor’s attention to his statement when he won second term in office
“I remember during the Chairman’s second term as governor of Edo, he came to the villa and thanked the then president for one man, one vote. Today, do we have one man one vote? He should have carried it along to make sure that we have one man one vote.
“Two, I remember in their own time, they had what they called ‘Occupy Nigeria.’ Nobody was arrested, nobody was sent to jail. Are they practicing what they’re preaching?
“We cannot be deceived by rhetoric, we cannot be deceived by propaganda. All of know, we are not progressing, rather we are retrogressing. Nigeria is witnessing what we preach but not practising. So as a leader, call our leaders to order,” Wike demanded.
Don’t transport corpers as from 6pm, FRSC boss tells drivers
The Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Corps, Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi, has ordered that no transport union should transport any National Youth Service Corps member as from 6pm during the Yuletide.
Boboye said this during the FRSC end-of-the-year meeting with transport union stakeholders as one of their programmes in preparation for the end of the year activities on Tuesday in Abuja.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that NYSC orientation camp, Batch C, steam 2 resumed November 28 and would end December 19.
He said that the need for transport leaders to jointly fight against road crashes in ember months and beyond had called for concern.
“No transport Union should convey any corp member and those leaving the orientation camp on Thursday, December 19, 2019 from 6pm.
”Any vehicle that violates this order will be dealt with seriously as the FRSC is committed to the safety of lives and properties.
“I want to urge the State Coordinators of different NYSC orientation camps to send signals to the Corps members to be aware of the information.
”This has become necessary to address road accidents and crashes that occur during the festive period across the country. The safety of the youths, goods and Nigerian lives at large is our major concern,” he said.
The Corps Marshal, however, urged the NYSC members to use legal parks and avoid road side vehicles to ensure their safety while traveling for Christmas and New Year.
Brig.-Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim, the Director-General, NYSC, appealed to the transport union workers to give discount to corps members traveling for Christmas and New Year.
Ibrahim warned corps members against unauthorised journeys, boarding vehicles at the road side and late night travels.
Buhari asks Senate to confirm Nami as FIRS boss, 13 others as board members
President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the Senate to confirm the appointment of Muhammad Nami from the North Central geopolitical zone, as the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service.
Buhari, in a letter dated December 9, also sought the approval of the red chamber for the appointments of 13 others as members of the FIRS board.
They are: James Ayuba (North Central); Ado Danjuma (North West); Adam Mohammed (North East); Ikeme Osakwe (South East); Adewale Ogunyomade (South West); Ehile Aibangbee (South South);
Other members of the board appointed from the ministries agencies and departments of the Federal Government are: Ladidi Mohammed (Attorney General of the Federation Office) and Godwin Emefiele (Central Bank of Nigeria).
They also include: Fatima Hayatu (Ministry of Finance); Maagbe Adaa (Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission); and Umar Ajiya (Nigerian National Petroleum Commission).
The rest are: DCG T. M. Isah (Nigeria Customs Service) and the Registrar General of the Corporate Affairs Commission.
Buhari in the letter read at plenary on Tuesday by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, urged the senators to accord the communication an expeditious consideration.
Education will stop early marriage of the girl child, says Women Affairs Minister
From Musa Pam, Jos
Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen has said she is committed towards abolishing early marriage of the girl child by ensuring their education
Tallen said her mnistry is collaborating with the Ministry of Education towards addressing the issue of early marriage among Nigerian girls.
The minister stated this in Jos on Tuesday while addressing journalists after a town hall meeting with women from Plateau State.
She said educating the girl child is key to unlocking access to economic and social development of the country, saying her ministry along with the Ministry of Education is ensuring that their education from primary to junior secondary school is free.
“Investing in girls’ and women education is one of the most effective ways to reducing poverty and advancing national development,” she said.
2020 Budget: Gov. Bello presents N148.2bn to Niger Assembly
Daniel Atori, Minna
Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State on Tuesday presented a N148.2 billion budget for the 2020 fiscal year to the state House of Assembly.
The proposed the budget is N148,211,929,549.82 less than the 2019 budget which was N194,698,816,253.00 (including a Supplementary Budget of N30,247,947,518.42).
According to Governor Abubakar Sani Bello: “The proposal consists of Recurrent Expenditure of N69,968,379,598.50 or 47.21 percent and Capital Expenditure of N78,243,549,951.32 or 52.79 percent of the budget.”
The budget was christened: “Budget of Inclusion for Sustainable Development”.
Democrats expected to announce Trump impeachment articles Tuesday
Democrats in the U.S. House Judiciary Committee are expected to announce articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Tuesday, a lawmaker told multiple U.S. media outlets.
Elliot Engel, the House Foreign Affairs Chairman, told reporters that the articles of impeachment were likely be unveiled at a news conference on Tuesday morning.
It is unclear how many articles will be introduced and on what charges the articles will be based, reports dpa.
Democrats say that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine as part of a pressure campaign to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Trump’s domestic political rival Joe Biden and conspiracy theories related to the 2016 presidential election.
According to the Democrats, Trump abused power and committed bribery, accusations which Trump denies.
Once the Democrats’ articles of impeachment are formally introduced, they are likely to go through changes before leaving the House Judiciary Committee and are put up for a general vote.
If the Democrat-controlled House votes in favour of the impeachment articles, then the process moves to the Republican-controlled Senate, where Trump’s supporters have promised to defend the president.
On Monday Democrats held a public hearing summing up their case against the president.
House Judiciary Committee staff lawyers for majority Democrats laid out evidence for impeachment over Trump’s dealings with Ukraine earlier this year, while a committee lawyer for minority Republicans rebutted the claims in sometimes heated exchanges.
“We are here today because Donald J Trump, the 45th president of the United States, abused the power of his office, the American presidency, for his political and personal benefit,” Daniel Goldman, a lawyer for Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, said in his opening statement.
Democrats say a back-and-forth during a July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky showed a “quid pro quo” that put Trump’s own personal political interests over U.S. national security.
Trump has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, and on Monday he tweeted about the hearing, citing a comment from Zelensky that Trump did nothing wrong.
“If the Radical Left Democrats were sane, which they are not, it would be case over!” he tweeted.
Republicans on the committee said that the evidence presented since the inquiry was announced in September, based on a whistleblower’s report, was thin and the process used by the Democrats unfair.
But the Democrats’ lawyer for the Judiciary Committee told lawmakers that the evidence against Trump was “overwhelming” and revealed a “brazen” scheme.
Barry Berke said that impeaching him was an urgent matter because he could potentially repeat the behaviour.
“This is a big deal. President Trump did what a president of our nation is not allowed to do,” Berke said.
In addition to Goldman and Berke the committee heard testimony from Stephen Castor, a lawyer for Republicans on both committees.
He said that the process was “not warranted” based on the evidence and that a “compelling argument” to take a decision “out of the hands of the voters” was lacking.
The full House could vote on articles of impeachment as early as Friday.
The inquiry’s leaders have not yet named the specific impeachable offences they may vote on.
Once articles of impeachment are passed – as expected in the Democrats-dominated House – the articles would then move to the Republican-controlled Senate, where Democrats appear unlikely to rally enough Republicans to vote to remove Trump from office.
Democrats in the House appear undeterred by that reality.
Democrats have said that the matter is too important, citing it as an example of what the framers of the U.S. Constitution intended to stop when they gave Congress the ability to remove a president through impeachment.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said in his opening statement that Trump “put himself before country” as monarchs of the past had done.
Nadler was forced to pound his gavel several times and warn Republican members not to interrupt as they bickered over procedural matters.
He also was forced to order a number of roll call votes to satisfy Republican demands, even once over a question of whether the committee should take a break.
Republicans complained bitterly about the timing of the impeachment process just a year before the next presidential election and said that the evidence didn’t show that impeachable offences had been committed.
Representative Douglas Collins complained that the Democrats had put the House in danger by abusing its power, saying that the hearings had been “all military,” and adding, “It’s a show”.
Saudi Arabia lifts ban on segregating men, women in restaurants
Women will no longer have to be segregated from men in restaurants in Saudi Arabia, the country’s government has said.
Previously, it was mandatory to have one entrance for families and women, and another for men on their own.
The ruling is the latest measure announced by the Saudi government that upends conservative restrictions that have been in place for decades, reports standard.co.uk.
The decision was announced in a lengthy and technically worded statement by the Municipal and Rural Affairs Ministry.
While some restaurants and cafes in the coastal city of Jiddah and Riyadh’s upscale hotels had already been allowing unrelated men and women to sit freely, the move makes official what has been a sensitive issue in the past among traditional Saudis who view gender segregation as a religious requirement. Despite that, neighbouring Muslim countries do not have similar rules.
Across Saudi Arabia, the norm has been that unrelated men and women are not permitted to mix in public. Government-run schools and most public universities remain segregated, as are most Saudi weddings.
Restaurants and cafes in Saudi Arabia, including major Western chains like Starbucks, were segregated by “family” sections allocated for women who are out on their own or who are accompanied by male relatives, and “singles” sections for just men.
Many also have separate entrances for women and partitions or rooms for families where women are not visible to single men. In smaller restaurants or cafes with no space for segregation, women were not allowed in.
In recent years, however, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has pushed for sweeping social reforms, with women and men now able to attend concerts and movie theatres that were once banned. He also curtailed the powers of the country’s religious police, who had been enforcers of conservative social norms, like gender segregation in public.
Two years ago, women for the first time were allowed to attend sports events in stadiums in the so-called “family” sections. Young girls in recent years have also been allowed access to physical education and sports in school, a right that only boys had been afforded.
In August, the kingdom lifted a controversial ban on travel by allowing all citizens – women and men alike – to apply for a passport and travel freely, ending a long-standing guardianship policy that had controlled women’s freedom of movement.
Reflecting the sensitive nature of this most recent move, the decision to end enforcement of segregation in restaurants was announced in a statement published by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.
The statement listed a number of newly approved technical requirements for buildings, schools, stores and sports centres.
The statement noted that the long list of published decisions was aimed at attracting investments and creating greater business opportunities.
Among the regulations announced was “removing a requirement by restaurants to have an entrance for single men and (another) for families.”
N’Zealand police launch criminal investigation after 13 killed in volcanic eruption
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed “unfathomable grief” on Tuesday after a volcanic eruption at a popular tourist island, as the police announced that it is launching a criminal investigation into the circumstances of the deadly incident.
Ardern confirmed five fatalities and said eight people were still missing after Monday’s eruption at Whakaari, also known as White Island, reports al-Jazeera.
There was little hope of finding the missing alive, after overnight aerial reconnaissance flights found no signs of life. Police also said that the bodies left on the island are covered in ash.
“The focus this morning is on recovery and ensuring police can do that safely,” Ardern told a news conference.
Reuters and AFP news agencies confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that a criminal investigation is being launched by police to look into the incident, and why the tourists were allowed despite an earlier warning about volcanic activities.
Among those on the island during the cataclysm were tourists from Australia, the United States, the UK, China and Malaysia, as well as their New Zealand guides.
“To those who have lost or are missing family and friends, we share in your unfathomable grief and in your sorrow,” Ardern said.
“Your loved ones stood alongside Kiwis who were hosting you here and we grieve with you.”
Ardern singled out “our Australian family” for sympathy, while her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison said there were fears that three of the five dead were Australian.
“This is a very, very hard day for a lot of Australian families whose loved ones have been caught up in this terrible, terrible tragedy,” he told reporters in Sydney.
A total of 31 people – including 13 Australians – were in hospital with various injuries, some listed as critical with serious burns.
Of those those who were injured, police said on Tuesday that 27 of them suffered greater than 71 percent body surface burns.
White Island Tours, a trip operator, confirmed that two of its guides were unaccounted for, while the UK’s High Commissioner in Wellington said two female citizens were in hospital.
Concerns about further eruptions, poisonous gases and choking ash prevented efforts to recover bodies.
The eruption occurred just after 2pm on Monday (01:00 GMT), thrusting a thick plume of white ash 3.6km (12,000 feet) into the sky.
The island is about 50km (30 miles) off New Zealand’s North Island in the picturesque Bay of Plenty and attracts more than 17,000 visitors every year.
When the blast occurred, it was being visited by a group of more than 30 people from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Ovation of the Seas, which left Sydney on a 12-day voyage last week.
The threat level at the volcano had been raised in recent days, and questions are already being asked about whether it was safe for tour groups to visit.
Cruise operator Royal Caribbean had sold a day trip to White Island as an “unforgettable” adventure to New Zealand’s most active volcano, one that took visitors so close to the action they could require gas masks and hard hats.
White Island Tours said it “operates through the varying alert levels” but that “passengers should be aware that there is always a risk of eruptive activity regardless of the alert level”.
Scientists said there had been increased activity at the volcano over the past week – but nothing to indicate an eruption was imminent.
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