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Vatican suspends senior employees, clergy over police raid

Five Vatican employees, including the number two at the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority and a senior member of clergy, have been suspended following a police raid, the Italian magazine L’Espresso reports.

The scandal, affecting two departments at the heart of the Vatican, was the first after several years of relative calm in which reforms enacted by Pope Francis appeared to be taking root.

A Vatican spokesman said he had no immediate comment on the report.

On its website, L’Espresso published a picture of a police notice to guards at Vatican gates telling them not to allow in the five employees because they had been suspended.

The notice included photographs of the five, one of whom is a woman.

The people whose pictures were on the notice included Tommaso Di Ruzza, the director of the Financial Information Authority (AIF), and Monsignor Mauro Carlino, the head of documentation at the Secretariat of State.

The other three held minor roles in the Secretariat of State, the key department in the Vatican’s central administration.

Calls to Di Ruzza’s cell phone went unanswered. Reuters was not immediately able to contact the other officials.

A senior Vatican source said he was aware of the suspension of four employees from the Secretariat of State but not of Di Ruzza’s suspension.

Vatican police raided both offices on Tuesday and seized documents and electronic devices as part of an investigation of suspected financial irregularities.

Tuesday’s raid is believed to be the first time the two departments were searched for evidence involving alleged financial crimes.

The Secretariat of State, the most powerful department in the Vatican, is the nerve centre of its bureaucracy and diplomacy and the administrative heart of the worldwide Catholic Church.

The AIF, headed by Swiss lawyer Rene Bruelhart, Di Ruzza’s boss, is the financial controller, with authority over all Vatican departments.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Vatican said the operation was a follow-up to complaints filed in the summer by the Vatican bank and the Office of the Auditor General and were related to “financial operations carried out over the course of time”.

 

Keep borders closed until neighbours comply with ECOWAS protocols —Oshiomhole

The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Adams Oshiomole, has said that Nigerian borders with neighbouring countries should remain closed until they comply with ECOWAS protocols.

Oshiomole stated this when he paid a solidarity visit to the office of the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, retired Col. Hameed Ali on Thursday in Abuja.

He explained that his party is strongly in support of the border closure and all other reforms being carried out by the service.

He added that such action should be sustained for the economic growth of the country.

He said the APC under his leadership is impressed and has resolved to identify with the NCS on the feat recorded so far.

“The state must have control over the economy and Nigeria is absolutely right in taking the decision having been victims of expired rice brought in through the porous borders.

“It is a shame that after spending much to reposition agriculture, we still allow people to import expired rice into our country.

“We are lucky to have a president who told us to consume what we produce in the country in order to grow our economy.

“People are complaining that the prices of food commodities have gone up. Our farmers should make money from their sweat.

“Over the years, farmers got a good harvest, sometimes with right prices but smugglers often crash the prices,” he said.

The chairman urged Nigerians to go into farming and take advantage of the current good price of food produce.

He said the policy of the Buhari-led government would eradicate poverty and take prosperity to the rural people.

According to him, Nigeria as a country comes first, second and third before any other thing, there are rules of the game and the rules must be followed.

“NCS is a critical organisation to ensure we do not export prosperity abroad and import poverty to the country.

“Yes, Nigeria is a big brother to other African countries, but the big brother should not be poisoned through the importation of expired rice to the country.

“Buhari’s support base is the masses, the commoners and this policy is for them, that is why we are supporting it,” he added.

Ali while responding thanked the APC chairman for identifying with the service in the step taken to boost the economy of the country.

He said the border closure had boosted the nation’s revenue and also reduced the rate of insecurity in the country.

Ali stated that the borders would remain closed until neighbouring countries comply with the ECOWAS protocols on the transit of goods and services, which they have all signed

(NAN)

Six female students, two teachers kidnapped at Kaduna school

At least six female students and two teachers have been abducted at the Engraver’s College in Kakau Daji, Chikun local government area of Kaduna state.

One of the parents whose daughter was abducted said that he received a call from the abductors on Thursday morning.

“They told my daughter to give them a number to call, and that was when they called me, but I could’t understand if they were asking for ransom because they spoke in a language I could barely hear,” he said.

“I spoke with my daughter and then they collected the phone from her and terminated the call.”

Yakubu Sabo, police spokesman in the state, confirmed the abduction, saying the gunmen invaded the school through a porous fence.

He said immediately they entered the school, they went straight to the female hostel where the students were abducted.

He said the two teachers residing inside the school were also kidnapped and their whereabouts yet unknown.

“A combined team of police mobile force and anti-kidnapping squad have launched a manhunt of the kidnappers with a view to rescuing the victims and apprehending the culprits,” he said.

Sabo advised proprietors of private schools to beef up their premises with adequate security personnel in order not to expose their students to any form of attack.

Over the months, there have been a series of kidnap cases in the state, mostly on the Abuja-Kaduna expressway.

Senate proposes bill to tax SMS, data, voice calls…instead of VAT increase

The senate has introduced a bill which seeks to impose a tax on all communication services including electronic messaging and data usage.

The ‘Bill for an act to establish the communication service tax’ introduced for first reading during Wednesday’s plenary session, recommended a 9% charge for using the service

It specifically provides that such tax shall be levied on electronic communication services such as voice calls, SMS, MMS and internet data usage both from telecommunication services providers and internet service.

Ali Ndume who sponsored the bill said if passed, the levy will replace the 2.2% increase in value-added tax which the federal government recently proposed.

The federal executive council (FEC) had approved an increase in value-added tax (VAT) rate from 5% to 7.2%.

However, this is subject to an amendment of the VAT act of 1994 by the national assembly.

Briefing journalists after the plenary session, Ndume said rather than increasing VAT, the communication tax would distribute wealth more equitably.

“There shall be imposed, charged payable and collected, a monthly communication service tax to be levied on charges payable by a user of an electronic communication service other than private electronic communication services,” Guardian quoted Ndume as saying.

“The tax shall be levied on electronic communication services supplied by service providers.

“For the purpose of this clause, the supply of any form of recharges shall be considered as a charge for usage of electronic communication service.”

Nigeria does not need 109 senators and 360 reps, says Okorocha

Rochas Okorocha, senator representing Imo west, says Nigeria does not need 109 senators and 360 members of the house of representatives.

Speaking during senate plenary session on Thursday, Okorocha said the number of lawmakers from each state should be reduced to cut cost of governance.

He said the number of senators from each state should be reduced from three to one while each state will have only three members in the house of representatives.

“What (are) three senators doing that one senator cannot do?” Okorocha asked.

“Here, we have three senators per state. Over there,(house of representatives) over there, we have 360 eligible human beings. This country must begin to make sacrifices and cut down the cost of governance.”

Okorocha said he does not know what the current senate is doing different from the eight senate and previous ones.

“And if what we are doing today is similar to what we did in the 8th senate be rest assured the product will be the same,” he added.

He also told Senate President Ahmad Lawan that he pleaded with him “just two days ago to change your style”, adding: “If you change your style, you will get a new result.”

“Let’s proffer solutions and not create more problems for the executives. They are waiting for us. What do we have different to show?” the senator asked.

“The summary of what we have been talking about is money, we don’t have enough funds to support the needs of Nigerians, to create jobs and put food on the table of the common man.

“This problem arises from the fact that we depend on only one source of income which is crude oil, which consists of over 50% of our revenue and 90% of our foreign reserves, ad this oil is static.

“We should look inwards. Let us cut our clothes according our materials not our sizes. The budget of Nigeria is cut according to our size not the material available, and according to the solution.”

Customs lay seige to five-star hotel in Abuja, seize smuggled cars

Officers of the Nigeria Customs Service laid siege to Fraser Suites, a five-star hotel in Abuja, on Wednesday night in search of cars smuggled into the country.

It was gathered from various sources including two customs officials that some cars were seized during the operation which lasted for hours around midnight.

Eyewitnesses said some of those lodged at the hotel were asked to leave their room and present relevant documents for their vehicles.

“The customs officials asked people to come out of their rooms and identify their cars. They were checking duty papers and other documents,” a source privy to the operation told TheCable.

When TheCable visited the hotel on Thursday morning, three customs officials were seen standing by the agency’s vehicle parked at the hotel premises.

Custom officers in front of the hotel

Joseph Attah, spokesman for the service, said a total of ten smuggled cars were identified during the operation.

He said four of the cars have been seized while six were still parked at the hotel premises.

“Our men got wind that some cars were smuggled in and they were being taken to the hotel, in their car pack,” he told TheCable in a phone interview.

“So we went to the place and invited their managers. We left with four of the cars and six are still there.

“This morning the manager followed us to our office and he wrote an undertaken that if he can provide the papers, we will release the cars to them.

“There are smuggled vehicles still there. I told you that four were picked and six are still there. So it is not a raid and please disregard the rumours on social media.”

Both the hotel management and staff on ground denied the operation occurred.

”Nothing happened here; there was no such thing,” an official said when contacted.

Kidnap victim overpowers gunman, frees others

A brave motorist, Usamn Yusuf-Abubakar, reportedly engaged his abductor in fisticuffs, setting dozens of other captives free along Kaduna-Birnin Gwari road.

Narrating the incident, one of the freed victims, name withheld, said Mr Yusuf-Abubakar fought the kidnapper to a pulp and disarmed him using a stone

According to the victim, Mr Yusuf-Abubakar, after freeing the victims from the kidnappers, took away their gun and moved out of the forest.

The victim narrated: “We were blocked, robbed and kidnapped along Kaduna-Birnin Gwari road.

“We were led into the forest by one kidnapper holding AK47 riffle while others stayed back to cart away our properties.

“In my car alone, the kidnappers took over N400,000, laptop, handsets, etc.

“On our way into the forest, Usman attacked the kidnapper, disarmed him and set us free.

“He left the kidnapper down after he had beaten and injured him seriously with stone.

“He is later reported dead when negotiations were on to release a Pastor in their hand.

“They demanded that Usman should be handed over to them

“Usman took away the kidnapper’s gun and moved out of the forest.

“But on his way out, he dropped the gun somewhere in the forest for fear or been presumed kidnapper by the police or anybody.

“He met a police patrol vehicle immediately after coming out of the forest.

“He was taken to Kaduna and debriefed. He later led the police team to recover the gun he dropped, but I was nowhere to be found.

“In his bravery, Usman freed himself and many others. Sometimes, we need to display a little courage to set ourselves free from captivity since nobody would go to save anyone once taken.

“Some of these bandits and kidnappers are weak and malnourished. Their only power is the gun they are holding. May Allah continue to protect us. Amin,” the victim said.

No attempt to ‘whittle down’ Osinbajo’s influence – APC

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has debunked reports of an attempt to “whittle down” the roles of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.

The reports, mostly on social media, claimed that a cabal in the presidency was trying to render the office of the vice president ineffective and subject the incumbent’s person to humiliation.

President Buhari in his independence anniversary address to Nigerians on Tuesday announced plans to move the National Social Investment Programmes (N-SIPs) to the newly created Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

The programmes had been domiciled under the office of the vice president since they were created in 2016.

The programmes under the N-SIPs to be moved from the vice president’s office to the new ministry include N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfers, National Home-Grown School Feeding and Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programmes (GEEP).

However, in a statement by its spokesperson, Lanre Issa-Onilu, on Wednesday, APC dismissed the reports attributing the movement to a ‘rift’ between President Buhari and Mr Osinbajo as “one of the many fake news flying around in recent days.”

The party said the “fake news” began after the “setting up of the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) comprising some of Nigeria’s most independent-minded economists (some vocally critical of government’s fiscal policies) to advise the President on economic policy matters, including fiscal analysis, economic growth and a range of internal and global economic issues, working with the relevant cabinet members and heads of monetary and fiscal agencies.”

The vice president statutorily heads the National Economic Council with members including state governors, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service and Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.

“Constitutionally, while the power of the Vice President is derived from the President, the conspirators deliberately choose to ignore Section 141 of the Constitution, which spells out the Vice President’s statute membership in the National Security Council, the National Defence Council, Federal Executive Council, and the Chairman of National Economic Council,” the APC said in the statement.

The party said President Buhari’s decision to move the N-SIPs to the new ministry does not portend crisis at the presidency.

“The conspirators are desperately trying to link government decisions on the N-SIPs, which have been under the office of the Vice President since it started in 2016 to support the conspiracies, however mundane.

“In the same October 1 address, the President announced the recent redeployment of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF). Was this also to ‘whittle down’ the powers of the OSGF?”

Osinbajo’s ‘frontline role’

The party said the N-SIPs since 2016 has impacted “over 12 million direct beneficiaries and over 30 million indirect beneficiaries.

“The Vice President played a frontline role in the conceptualisation of these policies and programmes and the President, in demonstration of his trust for him, charged him with the responsibility of nurturing the programmes to the current stage.

“Tremendous successes have been recorded under the guardianship of the Vice President. In demonstrating the administration’s commitment to the cause of the poor, these interventionist programmes have been elevated to the Next Level with the creation of the new ministry.”

“The purveyors of the conspiracy theory about the imagined rift in the Presidency have missed the opportunity to see the commendable efforts of this government. Perhaps, if these policies were about the elites, they would have focussed on the positive imports rather than fishing for a crisis that only exists in their fatuous imagination,” he concluded.

“The SIPs are already gaining global and local acclaims across the globe on account of its nationwide social impact, particularly from endorsement by the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), World Bank, World Economic Forum, Action Aid (Nigeria), Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) among others.

“A question we should ask the conspirators and their partisan sponsors is how did they miss the import of the President’s decision to create a whole ministry to superintend the social investment programmes and humanitarian issues?

“How did they not realise that the President’s action is an indication of the importance he attaches to policies that are targeted at the poor?

“Why does it appear that the so-called analysts always do not see things from the point of view of the poor?”

The APC accused the opposition of not being critical enough in assessing government policies. It implored the media and critics of the government to be noble when reviewing public policies.

Efforts to speak with the PDP’s spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, for his party’s reaction were unsuccessful.

His known telephone lines were unreachable after several attempts. He also did not respond to text messages at the time of this report.

World Bank ranks Nigeria among ‘Top 20 Improvers’ in ease of doing business

Nigeria has been named among the “top 20 improvers” in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings for 2019.

Renowned Indian-American experts on strategy, globalisation, and entrepreneurship, Anil Gupta, disclosed this in Lagos on Tuesday.

The World Bank is expected to release the full report later this month. But Mr Gupta said a preliminary report showed Nigeria was ranked along with China and India among countries that recorded significant improvements in their systems towards ease of doing business.

Mr Gupta was one of the special guest speakers at the Platform, a biennial economic summit organised by the Covenant Christian Centre, Lagos to commemorate Nigeria’s 59th Independence anniversary celebrations.

He said the areas the World Bank report pointed out in which Nigeria has shown the most improvement in the last one year include creating new electronic platforms for taxes and corporate affairs for starting new businesses, registering property as well as the issuance of construction permits.

In 2018, Nigeria was ranked 146 out of 190 countries on the Ease of Doing Business globally. The country dropped by a spot from the 145th position in 2017 after moving 24 places from 169 in the previous year.

The philosopher ranked by Thinkers50 as one of the world’s “most influential living management thinkers” said Nigeria is making progress in economic development.

Apart from the official approval of the Bakassi Deep-seaport by the Federal Government, Mr Gupta also noted the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s push towards a cashless economy, describing it as a significant boost to the economy, particularly financial inclusion.

“Nigeria has come a long way. It has been a still democracy for many years. Today, it is Africa’s largest economy. It is the sixth in the world in terms of internet users, behind China, India, U.S., Brazil and Indonesia. Nigeria remains a role model for other countries in Africa,” he said.

He identified the gross domestic product (GDP) and the per capita income of the citizens as the most important economic measures that define the economic success or health of any society.

The GDP, which is the aggregate value of goods and services over a period, mirrors the employment levels of the economy, while the per capita income reflects the average income earned per person in an economy.

Tribunal upholds Ganduje’s election as Kano governor

The Kano State governorship election petition tribunal has upheld the election of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje.

Delivering the four-hour judgment on Wednesday, the chairman of the three-member panel, Halima Shamaki, announced the dismissal of the petition by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Abba Yusuf.

Yusuf and the PDP had filed the petition against Ganduje, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) challenging the governor’s victory in the March 23 supplementary election.

Justice Shamaki said INEC was right both in declaring the March 9 election as inconclusive and in declaring Mr Ganduje the winner of the re-run election.

She said the petitioners claiming the electoral rules and guidelines were not complied with in an election they claimed to have won the majority of lawful votes is a paradox. “It’s like trying to mix oil and water,” the judge said.

Shamaki added that the petitioners failed to prove the allegations of corrupt practices and non-compliance by the respondents beyond a reasonable doubt.

She said that declaring an election as inconclusive where there are lawful reasons is constitutional.

“The carbonised copies of documentary evidence tendered by the petitioners were mostly unstamped, some are unsigned, others contained re-written data, hence amounted to documentary hearsay and therefore inadmissible.

“We shall not go into details in the petition. He who asserts must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Respondents are not bound to prove. In civil cases, the burden to prove lies on the plaintiff. Where the plaintiff fails to prove his case, the case must fail. As such, the petition is hereby dismissed,” she declared.

Three judges on the tribunal unanimously adopted the judgment.

Why I carry AK-47 rifle when grazing —Arrested Fulani herdsman

 

Fulani herdsman arrested by the operatives of Bauchi State Police Command has justified why he carried AK-47 rifle when grazing.

He said he used it for self-defense.

The herdsman, Sadiq Mohammed, who spoke with newsmen while being paraded at the Police headquarters in Bauchi on Wednesday, said although he was arrested with two guns — an AK-47 and a pistol — he was not the original owner.

He said, “I’ve had these guns for 11 years this year. I got them since I was in Plateau State.

“The man who first bought this gun is dead. He was killed, so I took it.

“I have never killed any person with these guns, but I’ve been using them to protect myself and my cows from people who may want to attack me and steal my animals.”

The father of two added that “any time I take my cows to Plateau State, I use the guns to protect myself while I rear them (cows).”

Five key points of UK’s new Brexit proposals

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has written to European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, outlining proposals that could lead to a revised divorce deal between London and Brussels.

Here are five key points in Johnson’s plan, which revolves around arrangements on the border between Northern Ireland — part of the United Kingdom — and EU member the Republic of Ireland.

– Removing the backstop –

The existing divorce deal between Britain and the EU has been rejected three times by British MPs. The only split scenario supported by a majority involved removing the backstop fallback provisions concerning the Irish border.

The backstop would ensure the Irish border stays open by keeping the whole UK temporarily aligned to EU customs rules.

Johnson’s letter said the backstop was intended as bridge to a future partnership in which Britain remained closely integrated with EU customs arrangements and laws, but as that is not where his government wants to go, the backstop is a “bridge to nowhere”.

– NI to keep EU goods regulations –

The plan provides for the creation of an “all-island regulatory zone” on the island of Ireland covering all goods including agrifood. This means Northern Ireland sticking with EU goods regulations to ensure they are the same on both sides of the border.

The move would eliminate “all regulatory checks to trade in goods” across the border.

To support the province through the transition, London would launch a “new deal” for Northern Ireland, with commitments to help boost economic growth, competitiveness, and infrastructure projects.

– NI consent –

The plan would mean Northern Ireland having significant sectors of its economy governed by laws which it has no say in making.

The plan proposes that the Northern Ireland Assembly and its executive — the province’s devolved regional government — should have the chance to endorse the arrangements before they enter force.

They would do so during the transition period and for every four years afterwards, otherwise the arrangement lapses.

The arrangements, therefore, could not be maintained indefinitely if they were not wanted — a key problem British MPs had with the backstop.

The assembly collapsed in January 2017 due to a breakdown in trust between the main parties representing the British and Irish communities.

– NI fully in UK customs territory –

The letter says it is “fundamental” that the UK leaves the EU customs union “whole and entire” at the end of the transition period.

It said Britain had to have control of its trade policy in future.

– Electronic customs –

Both sides should commit never to conduct checks at the border. The UK says it will never impose a hard border on its only land frontier.

All customs processes needed to ensure compliance with the EU and UK customs regimes should take place “on a decentralised basis”, with paperwork conducted electronically as goods move between the UK and Ireland.

It said a very small number of physical checks would need to be conducted at traders’ premises and other points on the supply chain.

(AFP)

BREAKING: Boris Johnson set to suspend UK parliament again

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson intends to request that parliament be suspended from October 8 to 14, his Downing Street office said Wednesday, just weeks after a previous attempt was ruled unlawful.

“These timings would mean parliament is prorogued for the shortest time possible to enable all the necessary logistical preparations” for Queen Elizabeth II to outline the government’s new legislative programme, it said in a statement.

Tribunal upholds Tambuwal’s election

The Sokoto State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, on Wednesday, upheld the election of Governor Aminu Tambuwal of the Peoples Democratic Party.

In a unanimous judgment delivered in Abuja by its three-man panel, the tribunal dismissed the petition filed by the All Progressives Congress and its governorship candidate, Ahmed Aliyu, to challenge the governor’s victory at the March 9, 2019 poll.

The tribunal led by Justice Bawale Abdullahi held that the petitioners failed to adduce credible evidence to prove their case.

It held that the results declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission were presumed to be regular and could only be adjudged to be unreliable if the petitioners discharged the burden of proof placed on them by law.

It held that the petitioners failed to lead credible evidence to discharge the burden of proof, as it dismissed documentary evidence tendered by them on the grounds that the exhibits were not properly certified.

It held that the testimonies of most of the witnesses relied on by the petitioners were hearsay which were unreliable in law.

The tribunal chairman, Abdullahi, who delivered the lead judgment, noted that while some of the petitioners’ witnesses made their written statements in Hausa language, the petitioners blundered by only tendering the version of the statements translated in English language, as exhibits.

Other members of the panel, Justices E.N. Anyadike and Kadi M.A. Oniye, agreed with the lead judgment.

INEC had declared the Sokoto State governorship election held on March 9, 2019 as inconclusive.

A re-run poll that was conducted on March 23, which saw Tambuwal emerge victorious with a slim margin of 342 votes.

Dissatisfied with the outcome, Aliyu and his party, alleging irregularities in the conduct of the poll, filed their petition before the tribunal to challenge Tambuwal’s victory.

P&ID: FG asks lawyers to appeal $200m security payment

The Federal Government said it has directed its lawyers to seek the leave of the Court of Appeal to appeal against the ruling of Justice Christopher Butcher of the Commercial Court in London that asked Nigeria to pay $200m security payment into the court’s account while granting request to stay execution in the $9.6bn award in favour of Process and Industrial Development Limited.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who was part of the Federal Governmenrt’s delegation to London last week disclosed this to reporters in Abuja on Wednesday.

“On the $200m payment as a condition for the granting of the stay of execution, Nigeria has instructed its lawyers to seek the leave of the Court of Appeal to appeal against that payment,” Mohammed said.

The minister argued that contrary to claims in some quarters, the government delegation’s trip was a successful one as far as the case was concerned.

 

Police uncover another baby factory in Lagos, rescue pregnant girls

Barely two weeks after 19 girls were rescued from a baby factory in Lagos State, another set of pregnant girls have been found by policemen attached to the Isolo Police Division.

The seven victims had reportedly escaped from another baby factory in the Isolo area and were fleeing when the attention of the police was called to them, according to a report by The Punch.

It was learnt that the girls, aged between 13 and 27, had fled where they were camped after they discovered that their babies would be sold.

Stranded and lost, they loitered at Cele bus stop, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway around 1am on Wednesday.

Our correspondent learnt that the Isolo Divisional Police Officer led a team to area and took them into custody.

The pregnant girls reportedly had a two-year-old girl with them.

The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Bala Elkana, who confirmed the development, said the seven girls claimed that they were tricked to Lagos.

“They said they were about 20 in the facility and they were brought from different places, including Imo, Abia and Rivers states. Five of them came from Imo State.

“They were all brought under different guises, mostly employment. Some of them were promised help.

“The 13-year-old among them said she was raped in her village and she became pregnant. When she was confused on how to handle the situation, somebody offered to help her and that was how she was brought to Lagos, not knowing that she was deceived.

“When they all discovered that it was a baby factory and their babies would be sold, they wanted to go, but the madam held them hostage. However on their own, they ploted their escape and eventually fled last night,” he added.

Elkana appealed to Lagos residents to be on the lookout for the 13 other pregnant girls, saying they could be stranded and might be captured again by the owner of the baby factory.

The state command had on September 19 rescued 19 pregnant girls from four different locations in the state.

Two suspects were arrested as the principal suspect, identified as Madam Oluchi, escaped.

The police spokesman noted that since the style and mode of operation of the new case were similar to the earlier one, there could be a link between them.

Elkana said the suspects in custody would be interrogated to see if there was any link between them.

Arrest, prosecute foreigners engaged in illegal mining, Lawan urges security agencies

The President of the Senate, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, has called on security agencies to arrest and prosecute foreigners and anyone engaged in the illegal mining of the country’s mineral resources.

Lawan made the call on Wednesday in his remarks after the consideration of a motion titled “The need to check illegal mining activities in the country.”

The motion was sponsored by Senator Ya’u Sahabi Alhaji (PDP, Zamfara North) and co-sponsored by 32 other senators.

The Senate President, while speaking passionately on the motion, said “This Senate will look into the solid minerals sector seriously, and we will charge our Committee on Solid Minerals, Steel Development and Metallurgy to call for a public hearing on what the sector should be in this country.

“We know we have policies on solid minerals as well as legislation. The Federal Government gave N30 billion to the ministry just to revamp the sector in the last four years but I think as a parliament, we should be able to contribute very meaningfully to ensuring that this sector, which is so important to us, given the kind of situation the oil industry is going through, is given attention.”

Lawan called for proper revamping and protection of the mining sector, adding that illegal mining is unacceptable.

“We have to work to ensure that this particular sector is properly revamped and protected. The situation of illegal mining is unacceptable. We can’t tolerate it and allow that to happen.

“If there are any foreigners coming in their helicopters and on their feet to come and mine our resources without the necessary documentation, I think it is for us to ensure that our security agencies arrest them and prosecute them.

“I believe that this Assembly, particularly this Senate, must be at the vanguard of reviewing the situation in the mining sector and what we need to do if there are gaps in terms of legislation,” Lawan said.

Earlier, the sponsor of the motion, Senator Sahabi Alhaji, said “illegal mining sites not only breed criminality but also exacerbates into full scale terrorism and insurgency as witnessed in these states, particularly Zamfara State, where the state of insecurity can be traced to illegal mining sites.”

Maina’s son drew a pistol to resist father’s arrest – DSS

The Department of State Services (DSS) has confirmed arresting Abdulrasheed Maina, former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT).

Peter Afunanya, spokesman of the agency, confirmed the arrest in a statement issued on Wednesday.

He said Maina was arrested at a hotel in Abuja on September 30, 2019, saying his son attempted to open fire on the DSS operatives involved in the operation.

“The arrest which was effected at the Pennsylvania Avenue Hotel, Utako, Abuja followed a request by the EFCC to the Service to assist in the apprehension of the suspect,” the statement read.

“Maina was arrested in company of his 20 year old son, Faisal Abdulrasheed Maina, who unsuccessfully tried to resist the arrest.

“The lad even pulled a pistol against the security agents involved in the operation. He was, however, disarmed and arrested. He is a final year student at the Canadian University of Dubai where he is studying Telecoms Engineering.

“Items recovered from the suspects include a pistol with live ammunition, a bullet proof Range Rover SUV, a BMW Saloon car, foreign currencies, a phantom 7 drone and sensitive documents.

“The suspects and the recovered items will be handed over to the EFCC for further investigations and appropriate necessary actions.”
The federal civil service commission had dismissed Maina in 2013 for absconding from duty following recommendation by the office of the head of service.

He was accused of being involved in pension fraud running into over N100 billion. After an investigation by the senate joint committee on public service establishment, a warrant of arrest was issued against him.

Subsequently, the police declared him wanted and he went into hiding.

However, in 2017, he returned to the country under controversial circumstances and was reinstated as a director in the ministry of interior.

But President Muhammadu Buhari ordered his dismissal and demanded a probe into his recall.

Abaribe: Soldiers once stopped kidnappers — now they help them

Enyinnaya Abaribe, senator representing Abia south, have accused soldiers of “helping kidnappers” in the country.

Abaribe made the accusation while contributing on a motion on insecurity along Abuja-Lokoja road during senate plenary session on Wednesday.

He also decried the cases of insecurity in parts of the country, saying Nigeria is in a “very big and difficult situation.”

The senator recalled an instance when soldiers were deployed to help fight kidnapping in Abia state, and said the reverse is now the case where the victims cannot be handed over to soldiers for safety.

Abaribe said: “What else do we do asides getting up and making this presentation? As I stand before you, I do not know but I can only say what is that abnormal thing we will do?

“I know on this floor when I was on the other side, sometime in 2008, we raised a motion on Abia state and the president agreed and sent soldiers. They helped reduce the kidnapping.

“But all of a sudden, we now see that some soldiers are helping kidnappers which we can’t even say let us handover to them. We are in a very big and difficult situation. We sympathise with the people killed.”

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senator further said many lawmakers have abandoned the Abuja-Kaduna road because of insecurity, adding: “This means we have yielded to the bandits. Some state governments have even gone to negotiate with the bandits.”

Dino Melaye, lawmaker representing Kogi west, who sponsored the motion, said the Abuja-Kaduna road has been plagued with various cases of kidnapping and complained adequate attention has not been paid to the road.

He called on the upper legislative chamber to enforce “citizen diplomacy” to ensure the lives of citizens are well protected.

 

FG to reintroduce toll gates scrapped by Obasanjo

Fifteen years after the administration of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo scrapped toll gates across the country, the federal government is making plans to reintroduce them.

Babatunde Fashola, minister of works and housing, disclosed this while briefing state house correspondents at the end of the federal executive council meeting.

Fashola, who was joined by Lai Mohammed, his information counterpart, said there is no law against toll plazas in the country.

He added that some of the logistics being worked out before the reintroduction include acquiring more lands that will provide up to 10-lane plazas.

“Where are we in PPP and toll gate, let me just clarify this impression about toll gates. There is no reason why we cannot toll, there is no reason. There was a policy of government to abolish tolls or as it were, dismantle toll plazas but there is no law that prohibits tolling in Nigeria today,” he said.

“We expect to return toll plazas, we have concluded their designs of what they will look like, what material they will be rebuilt with, what new considerations must go into them. What we are looking out now and trying to conclude is how the backend runs. And that is important because we want to limit significantly if not totally eliminate cash at the plazas while ensuring that electronic devices that are being used do not impede rapid movement.

“We are also now faced with the need to acquire more land to establish the width of the toll plazas because I believe we are looking at 10-lane plazas so that there can be more outlets. So we need to acquire more land, that is the work that is currently being done now.

“But let me also say that the expectation that collection of tolls will then produce the replacement cost of the road is perhaps not accurate because the traffic toll count that we have done on major highways does not suggest that there is enough vehicular traffic across all roads.”

He also spoke on measures being considered in order to avoid situation where the tollgates would compound traffic woes.

“The two or three heavy routes are the Lagos/Ibadan, Abuja/Kano, Abuja/Lokoja. Now, Lagos /Ibadan the heaviest traffic you will find is between Lagos and Shagamu, it is about 40 thousand vehicles. After Shagamu, heading to Ibadan drops to about 20 thousand. So most of it has gone eastward going towards Ondo and Ore and by the time you get Benin, the number significantly drops,” he said.

“It goes up again at the confluence where they are heading towards the Niger. So, you can see that it is not a static 50,000 all the way. Same thing with Abuja, Kano, Zaria. After Kaduna, the traffic significantly drops. It is about 40,000 there too but after Kaduna it begins to drop by the time you get to Zaria. If you have driven to that road before, by the time you are driving between Zaria and Kaduna you see how thin the recurring number of vehicles you meet is and as you begin to head closer between Kaduna and Abuja, the number of vehicles begin to increase.

“So I think it is important to have that at the back of your mind, not all roads have those traffic counts.

“I also want to let you know that what we are doing is not accidental, we are being deliberate and methodical. So collecting information to know what to do with, which place and what.

“Going to PPP, I say that in the context of people arrogate PPPs to the right to toll, no, government can also toll. That is the point and that will happen without taking private sector fund.”

The minister also disclosed that the council had approved additional N15.765 billion for two roads in the country.

The roads are Suleja-Minna-Lambata road and Ibadan-Lagere-Ilesa bypass.

He said the two roads contracts approved on Wednesday were upward review from initially approved rates.

On the 101km Suleja-Minna-Lambata road, he said FEC also approved additional N12.6 billion, while additional N3.165 billion was approved for the Ibadan-Lagere-Ilesa bypass.