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Olawale Abdul-Fatah

Gunmen kill 40, abducts children, women during attacks in South Sudan

By Olawale Abdul-Fatah with agency report

At least 40 people have been confirmed dead and 19 others wounded during an attacks on rural villages in Jonglei, South Sudan.

Aside the victims, dozens of children and women were abducted during the attack which lasted 48 hours in the country.

The attack came barely six months after the tribal leaders from the oil-rich region signed a peace deal aimed at ending a deadly cycle of inter-ethnic violence.

Jonglei State Information Minister, Jacob Akech Dengdit, told newsmen on Tuesday that armed men allegedly from neighboring Boma state attacked two villages in Duk county.

“They first attacked the villages of Duk Panyang and Duk Payuel on Monday and took several cattle. Then this morning, the attackers killed over 40 people and wounded 19 others. They also took all cattle and abducted children and women,” Dengdit said.

Dengdit urged the central government in Juba to intervene before the latest violence escalated to full scale confrontation between the two communities.

“Hundreds of people have been displaced and nothing is currently functioning. Wounded people are still there helpless because all the houses and health centers have been burnt down. The government should intervene to calm down the situation,” Dengdit added.

The pact brokered by the country’s First Vice President, Taban Deng Gai, recently restored peace to the region which has experienced several tribal conflicts, largely caused by rivalry over livestock and grazing land for decades.

It would be recalled that in 2016, atleast 50 persons died and scores injured during several clashes.

Egypt Army kills 14 terrorists, arrests 14 after mosque attack

By Olawale Abdul-Fatah with agency report

Apparently worried by increase in casualty to 309 after an attack on a mosque in Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, the country’s military has launched another attack on the terrorist, killing no fewer than 14 and arrested 14 others.

They were arrested by the Egyptian police and military during raids inside and near North Sinai province

A statement from the Interior Ministry on Tuesday said that a raid on a farm in Ismailia province north-east of Cairo and western North Sinai province, killed 11 terrorists who exchanged fire with the police during the raid.

The farm was used by the terrorists for shelter, training and storage of weapons and explosives to prepare for their aggressive operations against the state, said the statement.

Other raids in the provinces of Ismailia, Sharqiya and North Sinai arrested nine terrorist suspects with a large number of wireless devices and bike spare parts to be smuggled and handed to terrorists in North Sinai.

Also, the Army, in another statement hinted that during the raids in central Sinai, the southern part of North Sinai, atleast three extremists were killed and five others arrested.

The statement added that a truck loaded with a large amount of explosive material was impounded and destroyed eight hideouts used by the terrorists to launch their attack in the country.

It would be recalled that North Sinai Health Directorate disclosed that the new victims, which increased the casualty to 309, include children.

The directorate added that over 27 children were among the victims while 128 worshipers sustaining severe injury during the attack.

Previously, the authorities had initially put the death toll at 305, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in Egypt’s modern history.

Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which had been widely blamed on Daesh’s affiliate in Sinai.

Court upheld 285 soldiers death sentence, life imprisonment in Bangladesh

By Olawale Abdul-Fatah with agency report

The Bangladesh High Court has upheld the judgement of the country’s lower court on 285 soldiers following their role in a deadly 2009 mutiny which claimed over 70 lives.

Of the 285, the court sentenced 139 soldiers to death sentences while 146 soldiers were slammed with life imprisonment.

The verdict comes four years after a lower court in capital Dhaka handed down capital punishments to 152 and life terms to 158 soldiers for their involvement in the killing of 74 people, including 57 army officials in 2009.

Speaking after the court verdict, Attorney-General, Mahbubey Alam, said that four soldiers were acquitted.

The mutiny at the Bangladesh Rifles’ (BDR) headquarters erupted when a group of the paramilitary forces staged a revolt during an annual meeting of soldiers with the top brass alleging “deprivation”. The revolt turned into clashes and spread at the regional units of the BDR forces across the country.

It would be recalled that the government later renamed the BDR as the Border Guard Bangladesh changing the border force’s law, uniform flag and monogram.

Racism, Islamophobia top human right challenges in Netherlands

By Olawale Abdul-Fatah with agency report

There has been an increase in number of Racism and Islamophobia attacks in Netherlands, targeting mosques, according to a report released by a Turkish university.

In the report issued by Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University, Racism and Islamophobia has continue to be an important human rights issue in the country.

The 2016 Netherlands Human Rights Report disclosed that within the year under review, there were 72 attacks on mosques in the Netherlands compared to 28 attacks the year before.

It also highlighted another report released in 2017, which said that migrants in the country felt less safe compared with the Dutch, and the group which felt least safe was the Surinamese, followed by the Turks.

According to the report, there are 475 mosques in the Netherlands.

Kenya to launch $20bn social housing project

By Olawale Abdul-Fatah with agency report

The Kenya Government has concluded plans to launch a $20 billion social housing project to ease the housing deficit in the country.

Under the project, the east African nation plans to construct one million low-cost houses at a cost of $20,000 each, over the next five years, to reduce current housing deficit which stood at 1.85 million.

The cabinet secretary, Ministry of Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development, James Macharia, told newsmen during a press briefing in Nairobi, that a request for interest has been issued to international and domestic firms to undertake the mass low-cost housing venture.

Macharia, who disclosed the government plans during the Stakeholders Forum on Validation of Kenya Building Research Centers Strategic Plan 2017 to 2022, hinted that about 60 firms, that have previously embarked on such project, have indicated interest.

“We will soon award the contract after completion of the tender process. Though, we are going to borrow heavily from nations such as China that have been able to construct high-rise apartments which are safe for human occupation at an affordable cost in order to roll out a high number of quality houses,” he said.

While attributing increase in housing deficit to rapid urbanization, Macharia noted that the shortage was responsible for proliferation of slums.

The cabinet secretary said that the social houses will be built through a public-private partnership as government resources are not sufficient to construct the houses.

According to him, the private sector will be offered a number of incentives and subsidies in order to ensure the houses are affordable to ordinary citizens.

The ministry of infrastructure, housing and urban development is fast tracking the enactment of the Kenya Building Research Institute bill that will create a research organization to spearhead innovation of the latest technology to lower the cost of construction in the country.

Sierra Leone rejects ECOWAS court verdict on sacked VP

By Olawale Abdul-Fatah with agency report

The Sierra Leone government has rejected the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court verdict on the case between the sacked Vice President, Samuel Sam-Sumana and the state.

According to the government, the West African court lack moral standing to hear or make any verdict on the case.

The country’s reaction came barely hours after the Abuja-based judicial organ of ECOWAS ruled that Sam-Sumana’s sack in 2015 was illegal.

Also, the court ordered that sacked VP be paid all his outstanding salary and emoluments since his dismissal by President Ernest Bai Koroma.

In response, Sierra Leone’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, expressed the country’s stand on the case, stressing that the government could not be compelled by the court since it lacked competence and jurisdiction on the case.

In a statement issued to reject ECOWAS court verdict, the minister affirmed that Supreme Court of Sierra Leone’s judgement remain sacrosanct.

“While we await the full correspondence from the ECOWAS court on the verdict, our office wishes to reiterate its legal position that the ECOWAS court lacks competence and jurisdiction over the aforementioned matter,” the statement said.

“The Supreme Court of Sierra Leone did rule on the above matter and therefore no other court is competent to overrule it except by itself. Therefore, the Government of Sierra Leone refused to participate in the proceedings and does not accept nor recognize the ECOWAS court in respect of the said judgment,” it added.

Just after the verdict was announced, the former vice president said his victory meant a lot for the people of Sierra Leone who elected him.

“I will continue to follow the legal procedures and will contest the next presidential elections under a new party,” he told journalists outside the court.

Samuel Sam-Sumana was sacked by Koroma in 2015 for allegedly creating political violence in his home district of Kono in the east, and abandoning his duties as VP.

His dismissal came a day after he sought asylum at the U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown.

It would be recalled that in 2016, the country’s Supreme Court ruled that the president had the supreme authority to sack the vice president, who then took the matter to the ECOWAS Court of Justice.

This is the third time Sierra Leone is facing the ECOWAS court. The current government paid Lebanese businessman Mohamed Wanza $25 million after he sued the government for failing to pay for a gunboat he supplied for the military junta during the war in the 90s.

A police officer also sued the government for $250,000 in damages after he was dismissed.

Death toll hits 309 after Egypt mosque attack

By Olawale Abdul-Fatah with agency report

Egyptian authorities have said that death toll after an attack on a mosque in Sinai Peninsula has risen to 309.

According to North Sinai Health Directorate, the victims, who increased the death toll include children.

It added that over 27 children were among the victims while 128 worshipers sustaining severe injury during the attack.

It would be recalled that the attackers bombed a mosque in the town of Bir al-Abed in North Sinai before opening fire on fleeing worshippers.

The authorities had initially put the death toll at 305, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in Egypt’s modern history.

Although no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, it has been widely blamed on Daesh’s affiliate in Sinai.

Following the attack, Turkey held a day of national mourning with Flags flew at half-mast over buildings across the country to mourn victims of the attack.

Equatorial Guinea earmarks $2bn for refinery construction

By Olawale Abdul-Fatah with agency report

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) newest member, Equatorial Guinea has earmarked $2 billion to construct it oil-refining complex that may be operated by Venezuela’s state-run crude producer, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A (PDVSA).

According to the government, the refinery is one of three major oil investments that Equatorial Guinea aimed to announce in January, though he declined to provide details on the other two.

A refining deal with Venezuela stands to strengthen political ties between the two countries. It would allow for Equatorial Guinea’s light crude to be blended with Venezuela’s heavier grades, producing an oil supply that could make the planned refinery more competitive than others.

Minister of Mines, Industry and Energy, Gabriel Obiang, who disclosed the funds in an interview with newsmen while attending a natural gas-exporting summit in Bolivia, said that the complex is expected be announced in January and would be completed in two years.

“We are studying the project and we have the financing — we just need an operator. PDVSA has a large number of trained workers, and a shared language is very important. We can bring their people here to work in one of the plants.”

Equatorial Guinea would supply 100 percent of the financing for the refining project. The plan comes as Venezuela is said to be seeking partners to finance its own ailing refineries, three of which are offline amid shortages of crude and a lack of investment, PDVSA union head Ivan Freites said Thursday.

According to him, the refinery would allow Venezuela to send its crude to an African country like it already does to China or the U.S.

He noted that the partnership would assist both countries to create greater political ties to sell crude and have other political benefits.

The refinery could eventually produce as much as 1 million barrels a day, Obiang said. Equatorial Guinea is also seeking to build a crude-storage complex.

Equatorial Guinea’s crude production is falling 10 percent on average annually as investment has stalled, he said. The West African country has made a discovery at one of its wells that could be developed further next year.

Obiang said Equatorial Guinea is in favor of extending the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ agreement to cut production, which is due to expire at the end of March.

He was among a number of ministers from top crude-exporting countries including Qatar, Venezuela and Algeria gathered at the gas summit in Bolivia before meeting next week in Vienna to discuss extending oil output cuts.

Zambian troops arrive Lesotho as standby force

By Olawale Abdul-Fatah with agency report

The first contingent of Zambian troops has arrived Lesotho as part of a standby force of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), meant to assist the security crisis in the country.

SADC, a bloc of 15 southern African countries, approved in September the deployment of a standby force consisting of the military, intelligence and civilian experts to assist the Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) in managing the security crisis in the country.

A senior Lesotho government spokesman, Ramakhula Ramakhula, told newsmen that the personnel arrived at Maseru Bridge (the capital) at 22:30 Local time on Saturday.

The approval followed the murder of the LDF commander, Lieutenant-General Khoantle Motšomotšo by subordinates Brigadier Bulane Sechele and Colonel Tefo Hashatsi.

Initially SADC had approved 1200 forces for the mission but has reduced the number to 258 due to budget constraints. Some of the contributing countries will include Namibia, Angola, Zambia and South Africa.

Lesotho, which went to the polls in June, has had a history of political instability, military coups and attempted coups.

Three years ago, the incumbent Prime Minister, Thomas Thabane, fled Lesotho to South Africa seeking protection over planned assassination.

The SADC has sent several mediators to Lesotho including South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and regional ministerial fact finding missions to pacify the kingdom.

Presidency to swear-in 30-man minimum wage committee

By Olawale Abdul-Fatah

The Presidency has disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari would swear-in 30-member tripartite National Minimum Wage Committee on Monday, the team which was said to have been formed to look into and negotiate pathway for a new pay package.

Assurance from the presidency came barely three days after Ministry of Labour and Employment disclosed that the the president has approved appointment of the members.

It would be recalled that the committee appointment was Federal Government’s response to yearning of trader unions, Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), for review of current N18, 000

Confirming the planned swearing in ceremony, Personal Assistance to the President on New Media, Bashir Ahmad, in a statement on Sunday on one of its social media, assured Nigerians that Buhari is more passionate about workers welfare.

“President Muhammadu Buhari takes this issue of new minimum wage very very serious, the 30-member National Minimum Wage Committee will be inaugurated by him this week.”

The committee, to be swear in, would be chaired by former Head of Service of the Federation, Ama Pepple.

The private sector groups include the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), and Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME).

From the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) are Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State (South-west); Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State (South-east); Governor Hassan Dankwambo of Gombe State (North-east); Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State (South-south); Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State (North-central); Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State (North-west) and A. B. Okauru, Director-General NGF as an observer.

On the trade union side are: President, NLC, Ayuba Wabba; Peters Adeyemi, NLC; Kiri Mohammed, NLC; Amechi Asugwuni, NLC; Peter Ozo-Eson, NLC; Bobboi Bala Kaigama, President, Trade Union Congress (TUC); Sunday Olusoji Salako, TUC; Alade Bashir Lawa, TUC; and Igwe Achese, President, Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG).

Also, on the employers’ side are: Olusegun Oshinowo, Director General, NECA; Timothy Olawale, NECA; Chuma Nwankwo, NECA; Olubunmi Adekoje, Director General, Federation of Construction Industry (FOCI); Ahmed Ladan Gobir, Chairman, Kaduna East branch, MAN; Francis Oluwagbenro, MAN; Muheeba Dankaka, President, Kano branch, NACCIMA; and Degun Agboade, President, NASME.