Below are the headlines found on The Guardian Online Newspaper for today, Thursday, 15 February, 2018.

Thu, 15 Feb 2018
Intrigues ahead of next year’s general election took a fresh twist, yesterday, with the Senate’s approval of a new sequence for the polls.

The schedule released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had fixed presidential and National Assembly elections for Saturday, February 16, 2019, while governorship and state Assembly elections come up Saturday, March 2, 2019.

The Senate, however, reversed the order, demanding the National Assembly election come first while the presidential hold last.

The move, which caused a split between proponents and opponents of Section 25 of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, sparked an uproar and a walkout by dissenting legislators.

The National Assembly Conference, which harmonised differences between the versions passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives, had barely presented its report for ratification when the antagonism began.

Many senators initially faulted the presentation by the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Suleiman Nazif (APC, Bauchi), on the ground that copies had not been distributed.

Senate President Bukola Saraki solved the problem by asking Nazif to pass the copies around, as the presentation went on. But it returned as a bigger storm a few minutes later when the question to adopt the report or not was tabled.

Although Saraki ruled in favour of adoption, some senators kicked.

Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta), Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano) and a few others called for a division to enable physical counting of lawmakers for or against the new sequence.

Saraki ruled them out of order and called for maturity in the handling of sensitive national issues. “We will come and go, but the institution will stay. We need to come up with laws that will build strong institutions. Let us not be personal about this. Let us behave like statesmen. We have procedures on some of these things,” he appealed.

He added: “There are many bills we have passed. If there are issues, there are mechanisms we can use to resolve them. I have allowed everybody to contribute. But I think we need to move to the next item in the Order Paper.”

But his overture was rejected. Some members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) stormed out of the chamber almost immediately and moved into the Senate Press Centre to voice their grievances at a media briefing.

Abdullahi Adamu (APC, Nasarawa), a former Nasarawa State governor and Chairman of the Northern Senators’ Forum, led the nine protesting senators.

Faulting the adoption of the election sequence clause, they claimed the inclusion of Section 25 (1) was targeted at President Muhammadu Buhari.

They contended that the action of the National Assembly breached the constitution, which they claimed empowered only INEC to fix dates for elections. They also alleged that the process was rushed to achieve predetermined motives.

“Considering the strategic importance of the bill, it does not need to be rushed. So many members of the committee did not sign. We need to know why they did not. I believe that the content of the bill is not fair. We need to be fair. Why the rush? I will not be part of it,” said Adamu.

Andrew Uchendu (APC, Rivers), who accompanied Abdullahi, said the amendment would not stand. Omo-Agege, who also briefed the press, claimed 59 out of 109 senators were opposed to Section 25 (1) of the amendment, insisting that the leadership of the Senate did not follow due process before adopting the report.

He said: “When this bill was passed in the House of Representatives, only 36 members were present. This cannot stand in a House of 360 members. This amendment needs to be debated before it is passed. We are supposed to determine if the decision of the House is in tandem with what the Senate passed. That was not done. We cannot stand and allow a law passed against Mr. President to stand.”

But in a separate briefing, Nazif alongside Senate spokesman, Aliu Sabi Abdullahi, countered the dissenters. He displayed a copy of the report bearing his signature. He also dismissed the insinuation that the report targeted Buhari.

Nazif said: “The sequence of election came from the House of Representatives. The Senate only adopted what the House passed. I signed on the report. I am not aware if the sequence of the election is targeted at somebody. I did my job as the chairman of the committee on INEC.

“For the avoidance of doubt, this bill with the inclusion of section 25 (1), which makes provision for a sequence of election different from the one earlier rolled out by INEC, has not in any way violated any provisions of the laws governing the operations of the electoral body.”

Abdullahi noted: “This sequence in which the presidential election was held last had been adopted in past elections, particularly in 1979 when election to the Senate was conducted on July 7, followed by the House of Representatives election on August 14.

Thu, 15 Feb 2018
Governor Samuel Ortom yesterday accused the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, of taking sides in the handling of the clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Benue State.

Ortom, who spoke at a meeting with the Senate Committee on Police Affairs, presented copies of letters he wrote notifying Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and security agencies of imminent attacks by armed herdsmen in the state.

He told the committee which was investigating the Benue killings that the IGP had no business in determining whether the anti-open grazing law the state enacted was good or bad.

A source said: “Ortom also presented copies of the letters he wrote to security agencies alerting them to the pending attacks.” The attacks, which were eventually launched on January 1, 2018 claimed over 73 lives in two communities of Logo and Guma.

The IGP had, at a meeting with the committee on his level of compliance with the resolution to apprehend the perpetrators of the attacks, blamed the implementation of the anti-open grazing law for the attacks by herdsmen.

The police boss also accused Ortom of making inflammatory statements that further incited violence. Idris said that by publicly displaying the bodies of the victims of the attacks, the governor provoked mayhem and reprisal attacks. The IGP accused Ortom of arming Tiv militia and encouraging proliferation of prohibited small arms and ammunition.

Ortom, who appeared before the committee yesterday, declared a vote of no confidence in Idris, whom he accused of taking sides in the crisis.

The source said: “The governor presented copies of the letter to the vice president, and to security agencies. He also told the committee that he personally met with the president after he returned to brief him on the impending threat.”

The governor’s position is that there is complicity against Benue State in high places, particularly when considering the fact that no action was taken to avert the attacks, and comments credited to the IGP and the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali.

“In the first place, the IG has no business pronouncing a law as good or bad, his job is to implement the law. He said it was a communal crisis. But policemen are also being killed by the herders, did the policemen and civil defence personnel who were murdered have communal issues with the herders? He has taken sides, his men are being killed and he is not saying anything,” the source quoted Ortom as telling the lawmakers.

The governor said he had no confidence in the IG’s ability to provide security. “He stayed in Benue for just one day contrary to the orders given to him by the President to relocate to the state.”

Ortom chronicled the developments that led to the enactment of the law, particularly the Agatu killings which claimed hundreds of lives.

“The latest crises have left the state with about 160,000 refugees in nine camps, and several communities are still occupied by armed herdsmen. These are the things he made clear to the committee,” the source said.

The Senate had rejected the report submitted by the committee and insisted that it must get the perspective of Governor Ortom.

The Chairman of the panel, Abu Ibrahim noted, in his opening address, that the invitation of Ortom to address the committee became necessary in order to get his perspective on the submission of the IGP to the lawmakers. 

Thu, 15 Feb 2018
The Enugu House of Assembly has urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and other financial regulatory authorities to look into the activities of commercial banks operating in Nigeria, especially in Enugu State, with regards to charges on customers’ transactions, and stop the multiplicity of charges which they impose on customers’ accounts.

This was sequel to a motion moved at plenary by the sponsor, Hon. Chinedu Nwamba, representing Nsukka East Constituency, which was seconded by Hon. Iloabuchi Aniagu, representing Nkanu West Constituency.

Nwamba said the need for the motion arose out of the myriads of complaints he received from residents over the activities of banks operating in the State.

He said: “There is no gainsaying the obvious fact that a high percentage of Nigeria citizens are living below poverty line. The indices are there and points to the above fact.

“Therefore, it will be absurd to allow commercial banks operating in Nigeria, especially Enugu State to continue to add to the pains of the people by way of imposing unwarranted charges on every transaction carried out by their customers.”

The lawmaker said the unwarranted charges ranged from “transaction alert, interbank withdrawal charge, card maintenance charge, charge for withdrawals above certain limits, on-line transfer charges, among others.”

“It is even more annoying that the banks do not inform or solicit the customer’s consent. All they do is to charge you what they care, deduct same, and at the end of the month, charge you again for what they call monthly charges,” he decried.

According to him, banks arbitrarily slam charges on customers based on independent bank policy, and not on uniform basis as it used to be.

“For instance, it is not what bank A charges for online transfer that bank B charges for same volume or transaction, yet the same commercial banks are expected to operate under the same rules and regulations,” he noted.

Aniagu, had, while seconding the motion, noted that banks were also neck-deep in hidden charges, especially in the area of loan facilities, a situation deserving the attention of the CBN.

After commending the members for a robust debate and passage of the motion, the Speaker Hon. Edward Ubosi, described it as “a serious matter.”
He announced that the House would set up a committee, which would hold public hearings and come up with more measures.

“The committee will have one month to conduct public hearings; even if it entails going to the National Assembly, they should do so, in order to put this to an end,” the Speaker stated.

Meanwhile, the House yesterday passed the State’s 2018 Appropriation Bill, totalling over N103.563 billion into law.
The budget is an additional increase of N5billion over the N98billion earlier proposed by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.

Thu, 15 Feb 2018
A former student armed with an AR-15 rifle opened fire at a Florida high school on Wednesday, killing at least 17 people, officials said, in a harrowing shooting spree that saw terrified students hiding in closets and under desks as they texted for help.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel identified the gunman as Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland who had been expelled for “disciplinary reasons.”

Cruz was arrested without incident in the nearby town of Coral Springs after the Valentine’s Day rampage and taken to hospital with minor injuries, the sheriff said.

“We have already begun to dissect his websites and things on social media that he was on and some of the things… are very, very disturbing,” Israel said.

“He had countless magazines, multiple magazines, and at this point, we believe he had one AR-15 rifle,” the sheriff added.

Israel said both students and adults had been killed. He was uncertain about the exact number of people injured, but at least 14 were taken to hospital and two had died there of their wounds.

The shooting, one of nearly 20 since the start of the year, will once again throw the spotlight on the epidemic of gun violence in the United States and the ready accessibility of weapons in a country with 33,000 gun-related deaths annually.

“This is a terrible day for Parkland,” Israel said, speaking of the city of about 30,000 people, located 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Miami.

“My very own triplets went to that school.”

A teacher at the school told The Miami Herald that Cruz had been identified previously as a potential threat to his classmates.

“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” math teacher Jim Gard said. “There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”

Cruz was also said to have been in the Junior ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) program while at school.

A law enforcement source told CBS News that the gunman pulled a fire alarm before opening fire, but Israel said he could not confirm that report.

Thu, 15 Feb 2018
After three days of hard training, the Nigerian skeleton athlete at the on-going 2018 Winter Olympics, Simidele Adeagbo, is set to face stiff challenges from other countries at the Sliding Centre in Pyeongchang, South Korea, tomorrow.

The 36-year old Adeagbo, who is Africa’s first-ever female Olympics skeleton athlete, touched a sled for the first time in September 2017, and by January 2018, she had qualified for the Winter Olympics.

According to a board member of the Nigerian Bobsled and Skeleton team, Chisom Mbonu-Ezeoke, who spoke with The Guardian yesterday from South Korea, the athlete will observe today as rest day in preparation for her competition tomorrow and Saturday.

Adeagbo and other female competitors will have two runs per days. The four times will be added together, and the fastest total time will determine the winner. Going by rules of the skeleton event, runs are electronically timed to the hundredth of a second. If two teams are tied after all runs, they are awarded the same place.

Bobsled and skeleton athletes compete on a course that is the same length for both male and female. The weight of the sled alone may not exceed 43kg (95 pounds) for men, and 35kg (77 pounds) for women. Athletes are required to pass the finish line on the sled for the run to count.

Adeagbo will face competitors from Germany (three athletes), Canada (three athletes), Great Britain (two athletes), USA (two athletes) and Australia (one athlete) at the event.

“There are 20 athletes and Australia has only one like Nigeria, but she is apparently very good,” Mbonu-Ezeoke told The Guardian yesterday.

On the weather condition in Pyeongchang, she said: “The weather today was better because it was about four degrees celcius. Hopefully, it will be better on competition day.”

Nigeria’s two-woman bobsled team, Seun Adigun (Driver), and Akuoma Omeoga (Brake-man) will have their first official training on February 17, with a repeat on 18 and 19. The bobsled team will go for battle on February 20 and 21.

Thu, 15 Feb 2018
Troops of Operation Lafiya Dole have rescued 3,475 civilians and arrested 34 Boko Haram terrorists in Borno and Yobe states.

The Theatre Commander of the troops, Maj-Gen Rogers Nicholas, disclosed this in Maiduguri.

Briefing journalists at the Theatre’s Command Centre, he said the operations were carried out in coordinated military attacks.

The commander said the attacks were launched during the military’s Deep Punch II counter-insurgency operations in the northeast.

He disclosed that over 700 captives were rescued in six-weeks in the Lake Chad region of Borno State.

Nicholas added that some of the civilians were rescued in the Sambisa fores before Camp Zairo, the spiritual stronghold of the Boko Haram, was captured.

According to him, 250 insurgents surrendered to the military in Diffa in Niger Republic, Mora in Cameroon, Maiduguri, Damboa and Monguno.

He added that the troops also destroyed 32 Hilux and pickup vehicles, 49 gun trucks, 14 VB-IEDs and recovered 15 AK-47 rifles from the 186 terrorists who were killed.

On Abubakar Shekau’s disguise to flee, he said: “Wherever Shekau is, we are going to get him, as 169 terrorists had been captured within six weeks.”

He urged the public to continue to support the troops, so that the insurgents could come out and surrender to the military.

“The media has a role to play on the implementation of safe corridors for these insurgents,” he said.

Thu, 15 Feb 2018
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has kicked off support and pilot prevention initiatives against the trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs that is increasingly becoming a problem in the West African community among the African youth. 

Thu, 15 Feb 2018
Labour unions under the auspices of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC ) and Joint Public Service Negotiation Council (JNC) have threatened... 

Thu, 15 Feb 2018
There was pandemonium at the National Industrial Court (NIC), Lagos yesterday when the tricycle operators who instituted suit before the court started fighting. 

Thu, 15 Feb 2018
Sunday Oliseh has been fired as manager of Fortuna Sittard, the Dutch team has announced yesterday. 

Thu, 15 Feb 2018
As part of its commitments to harness the underlying potential of the Nigerian youths, Coca-Cola has commenced the global management challenge (GMC) in Nigeria. 

Thu, 15 Feb 2018
After three days of hard training, the Nigerian skeleton athlete at the on-going 2018 Winter Olympics, Simidele Adeagbo, is set to face stiff challenges from other countries at the Sliding Centre... 

Thu, 15 Feb 2018
The Minister of State for Labour and employment, Prof. Stephen Ocheni has reiterated the determination of the Federal Government to give priority to workers welfare to cushion the effect of the recent economic recession. 

Thu, 15 Feb 2018
Croatia Coach, Zlatko Dalic believes his team's opening match against Nigeria, which he rates as the most important, will decide their fate at the Russia 2018 World Cup. 

Thu, 15 Feb 2018
Nigerians from all walks of life love to travel. Like folks elsewhere, they feel deeply emotional about travelling. Although they may chit-chat about banking, shopping and similar experiences... 
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